Webinar presenter Dr. Kimberly Miller answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Leadership and the Art of the Sale. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Dr. Miller, a couple of people are asking about the acronym ACEPS, specifically, what do the A and the C stands for?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: So, A is authentic. Be yourself, don’t be something you’re not. The C is consistent. So not only proactively being consistent in how you show up in the world and your reputation and all that but make sure when you’re presenting, you don’t undermine yourself or contradict yourself. And then, for the other people who might want to know about the other ones, the E and the P are engaged and passionate, and the S is the story.
Audience Question: At what point does a middle manager have a moral obligation to abandon the “company one?”
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Oh, that’s interesting. So, I would probably need to know a little bit more so I’m going to hypothesize and assume what you’re saying but I probably would need a little bit more information to fully answer that. Anytime people or an organization is asking you to do something unethical, inappropriate, or illegal, I think you have a moral obligation, ethical obligation, a legal obligation to not do that. But also, if that is occurring, I also might encourage you to ask yourself why you stay in that organization if they’re asking you to compromise your integrity on any level. Why would you want to stay? So, I think if people are asking you to do something outside of your values or morals, that you have to stand by your values and tell people that you’re not going to do that. I actually quit a job many, many years ago, that I absolutely love, I loved it, I was fulfilled every day, I love the clients I served but there is so much unethical stuff happening on the back end. I could not in good conscience continue to work with that company. And that is when it’s probably the hardest thing I ever have done professionally is to quit that job. I couldn’t tell my clients the truth. I couldn’t say, well, I’m quitting because everybody here is super unethical and doing illegal things. Like, I couldn’t say that but I quit. I told people, I’m not going to stay here and work if you’re asking me to do this stuff that’s unethical and inappropriate and whatever. So, I think you have to go with your own conscience and be able to stand on your own integrity. I wouldn’t compromise that for anybody, another human, an organization because all you really have is your integrity and your character.
Audience Question: How do we recognize a snake oil salesman?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Well for me, it’s pretty easy because they’re sleazy and they don’t listen to you often. They just keep trying to tell you how it’s going to work. Oh, you got to try this. This is going to work. They ignore your push backs. They immediately have a fast response. Instead of saying, well, it seems like you’re hesitant. Tell me more about what you’re hesitant about. They go oh, no, no since you just came in, because a great deal today. They’re super-fast. They’re not listening to you. When you say that feels uncomfortable, oh no, you’re just afraid, and so they’re judging you. They’re attacking you. They’re trying to work you. Another thing is the high pressure. You got to do it today. It’s only today. No, you don’t have time to think. I’ll give you 10 minutes to think about it but I’m not going to give you a week? It’s high pressure, it’s sleazy, it’s manipulation. They might give you compliments that are not authentic. Like, they might say, oh, you know, I can already tell you’re an amazing leader and they don’t even know you. Or I bet, you know, everybody loves you or something and they don’t know you. To me, it’s pretty easy but that’s the kind of stuff I look for and I can just feel it and most of us have a really good connection with our gut. You can just go, yeah, this person is full of you know what. So, trust your gut but look out for stuff like that.
Audience Question: How do we balance being vulnerable while selling without oversharing?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Oh, that’s a super question because vulnerability, and you know it’s interesting, a lot of people don’t really understand what that means. So, I am so glad you brought it up because vulnerability is also a part of that ACEPS acronym. It’s about being authentic. It’s about saying I care, even saying, “I care about this or I’m passionate,” that is vulnerable because you are telling people, you are in this. And therefore, you’re saying, if you reject this, that can hurt me? So, even talking positively, it’s showing your vulnerability. People think vulnerability is you’re crying on the floor or something and that’s not what that means at all. I think if the reason that you’re selling something is that you’ve gone through something, let’s say, negative in the organization or something. You could say, well, you know why I’m recommending now, as a supervisor, a supervisor training program? It’s because you know what, my first five years here were horrific in terms of supervision. I wasn’t treated well. My supervisor had no clue what they were doing. They were leading from rank and power and not influence. So, yeah. I am bought-in in making sure that we train our supervisors proactively and we teach them how to do this because I don’t want another employee to have to go through what I went through. So, to me, that’s a reason in a way you can show vulnerability that makes total sense, without digging up all the past and talking about how you cried and you were upset. And they always hurt your feelings. You could just say I’ve gone through stuff like this and it’s not good and that’s why I’m here and I want to make it better. I think you balance that. I would make sure to not get emotional when you sell something, crying or yelling or any of that. I think you can share effective emotions without that heightened intensity of it. So, I would say, you know, and here’s another great test. Practice in front of other people, in a wide variety and not just your best friend. Practice in front of people and say, how did that story land on you? How did this statement land? Does that seem authentic and appropriately vulnerable or am I oversharing? So, I would get people who know the people you’re selling to and get their feedback about how that’s coming across because that can help you too.
Audience Question: When preparing for the sale you mentioned anticipating what the pushback might be. So, do you immediately bring up those anticipated negative points and address them? Do you wait for someone else to bring them up?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: I very much believe in being proactive. So, I would bring up, after you are talking about, here’s the thing I want to change, here’s why I want to change it, and here’s what life is going to look like on the other side? So, what is the result? What is the outcome? What would be the value and the benefit of doing that? Then you would say, “I have come up with reasons that people would push back against this?” or, “I have thought about objections ahead of time. So, one thing is, y’all are going to ask what the cost is. What I’ve actually figured out, it’s only going to cost about $300 to buy some materials. I’ve already talked with 10 other people in our organization and they can do some small parts to help out, that doesn’t take away from their regular job. We need to just buy some supplies and get some stuff going but other than $300, it’s not going to cost any more.” You could say, “And we’ve done this time audit with people’s schedules. I’ve cleared it with all their supervisors that they can give us three hours a week. Each person can give us three hours a week for the next six months to help with the project?” So, you’ve thought through time, you’ve already checked with supervisors. You’ve thought about cost issues. If you need a new space or a new team or a new division or a new group, “Hey, I’ve already talked to people over in the facilities and they said, we have these sort of junk storage rooms that, they said, we can actually combine some of the storage and put it all in one room and it frees up two different offices. Unless you all want to do something different with the offices, the facility says nobody else has asked about the space, so we could use that.” I would definitely bring up that stuff proactively. I would check with other people in the organization and say, what are the other potential push backs or questions or concerns and proactively address those, and then say what other questions you have or concerns do you have?
Audience Question: How do we sell something down that you don’t necessarily believe in? If the change is happening with no input from the line level and if it’s difficult to find the good for the individual, how do we sell that to the people that work for us?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yeah, So that’s always hard and sadly, many organizations make often big changes with no input. So, I’ll go back to what I said before. Number one, have that patience and compassion and empathy and let your people know honestly what the situation is. I wouldn’t, when you do that, throw your bosses under the bus. I would say, you know what, the executive group has made this decision, they didn’t choose to engage the entire organization in asking for feedback, so that was their decision. Here is what we are now being tasked with. I know that y’all are going to say, this isn’t right, and this isn’t fair, and that they should have asked you. I get all of that. So, I’m going to give you 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever to push back and to complain and to vent about it and let people do that then whatever you can do to help people? If there’s a big change that’s coming, and you as a supervisor, have the ability to give more people practice time or have a weekly complaint session for 20 minutes about it or you can treat your people, as they’re learning the new software program that you can buy them all pizza once a week. Ask yourself, what can I do to make their life better even if I just give them a place to complain every week? But then, and this is the part about resiliency and modeling resiliency and modeling leadership in character is you go to your people and say, “You know what, I get it. I understand why you think it is not fair and not right and you should have been consulted. I get it. I totally see it and feel that.” And we’re at a decision point. We fundamentally have to choose for our own mental health and the mental health of our team how we’re going to move forward. Here are the choices: we can stay stuck in negativity and complain and be angry and resist and fight the inevitable. But all that’s going to do is keep us all in a bad place and make us angry and unhappy every day and life’s too short. Or we could say, I don’t like this. We’re going to have our weekly 20-minute complaint session and then, the rest of the time, we’re going to show up with a good character. We’re going to be the best example of how that can happen because the reality is this is a character test. And, you know what? Most character tests are not right. They’re not fair and you didn’t deserve it but that’s what character is. So, I would talk to your people about the character. I would talk to your people about how the way that they respond to things that they don’t like tells everybody, what they are about. It’s selling them to the organization like every time something doesn’t go your way, do you have a victim mindset? Do you complain or you obstinate? Are you the biggest problem? Do you say, you know what? I don’t like it, but I’m going to let that go. I can’t control it, I’m going to figure out how I can be part of the solution. People like that. They don’t think it’s fair and they don’t think they should have to have a good attitude. That’s a test. And if your people want things for the future, whether they are individuals who want a promotion, something that your team is going to ask for in the future one of the best things you can do is demonstrate you consistently have a good attitude when bad things happen because people are not going to listen to sales from your team if they’re negative and have a bad attitude. So, I would also tell them that this is potentially setting y’all up because how we respond to this might dictate how we are treated and how we are perceived in this whole organization. Say to them, I expect that we do show good character even if no one in the whole organization is showing good character. My expectation is we show character on our team and we are the best example.
Audience Question: Do you have any suggestions on how to bridge the age gap when trying to sell the expansion of the scope of the program to supervisors that are on average, 30 years older than me?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yeah, well, that’s tough, so, God bless you. Again, this is about knowing people. The older we all get, the more set in the ways we get? So, that’s tough, but probably the best thing you can do is before you sell and I’m assuming you know these people but do you really know them? Like go have conversations about what they care about. What they’re afraid of? I wouldn’t just go in and say what are you afraid of? Ask what do you care about in this organization? What do you care about in terms of being a leader in this department? What are you afraid of in the future? What do you worry about? In terms of organizational change or whatever. I’m sure you could bring up an example of a different change. What did you not like about the last change we did? And you sort of figure it out. But, again, with supervisors that are more senior than you, you want to sell what’s in it for them. How is it going to have them be perceived? How will it help their influence or their reputation? How might it help them lead their people better? Especially if you’re going to ask them to have some level of discomfort, because they have to change something, you have to make it worth their while. Because, the older that you get, especially if you’re getting closer to retirement, often, the less open you are to changing a lot of stuff. Some people say, well, if you are going to do that, I’m just going to quit, which is a fine choice. That’s an option for people but you don’t want to just push people out the door or getting a conflict situation. So, I would go talk to them. What do they like and not like about other change efforts? You might even ask them if you especially know one of them, what would it take for you to be on board with this? Run it by them if you trust them. What do you think about this? Get a sense from them because people will tell you what they think and what might be in their way or whatever. I would encourage you to go have conversations and if you don’t feel like you can do that maybe ask other people who know them. What is their pushback? What are their concerns? What should I know about selling to these people? So those would be some quick tips.
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