The 6 most important fundamentals great leaders demonstrate

Many people talk about the characteristics that leaders must have to be considered great leaders.  Words such as vision, character, empathy, charisma, outgoing, sympathetic, fair, ability to communicate, persuasive, etc. are just some the words most people use. I agree that all of these are important.  But there are things that leaders must do that are even more important.

Most of the lists people have created describe what leaders must be.  Meaning they must possess these characteristics and skills to be a great leader.  What I am describing in this article is what leaders must do.  There is a big GAP in what people do and what they say they do.

This list provides leaders a great outline on how to lead in todays workforce and get people to buy in to their vision.  Vision, charisma, persuasive, and all of the other traits are important, but doing these six things are more important.

Time:  Time is the one of our most precious commodities.  No matter who you are and what you do, you don’t have any more than anyone else.  And in this hyper busy and noisy world, it seems like we all have less of it than ever before. So when a leader spends some of their time with the people they lead, it demonstrates and communicates to the person or persons, that they are important enough that the leader is willing to take some of their precious time and spend some of it with them.

I know spending time with the people seems like a simple thing to do.   However, as I work with leaders around the country, I find that most leaders are spending less time with their team. Instead they are going from meeting to meeting, running reports, and putting out fires and not actually spending enough time with the people they lead.

If you want to become a better leader and get engagement from your team, you have to make time for the people on your team.  This must be a priority.

Recognition: Being recognized is probably one of the most inherent qualities that we as humans have.  We love to stand out or be pointed out in a crowd as someone who is doing something different.  I have worked with thousands of individuals in my training sessions and I have yet to find a person that says they don’t like to be recognized.  Great leaders find ways to recognize employees in everyday interactions.

Appreciation: Being a trainer for many years now, one of my favorite sessions in my training classes is something we do called “strength centered comments”. A strength centered comment is where the people in the training recognize each other for the strengths they have observed while they have been in the training together. Most of the training I do is spending a day with a group, many days with a group, or many sessions with a group.  The group has the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the other participants in the training.  At the end of the training, they have to get in to group of three-five and write out strengths they have witnessed in the other participants in their group throughout the training.

The way it sounds is like this “Laura, one of the strengths I have observed and appreciate about you, is your willingness to ask very thought-provoking questions.  This tells me that you are really listening to the other person and really care about what they are saying.  I watched you do this throughout the training in all of the interactions you have been a part of.

Everyone loves this session in my training courses. Leaders have the opportunity to do this every single day.  They can show appreciation for their teams strengths daily, and good leaders do this consistently.

Forgiveness: You and I both have done things that we wanted forgiveness for. It is just a part of life.  If you aren’t doing things that require forgiveness from time to time, then the chances are you aren’t taking any risks, especially in the work environment. Forgiveness is something that we all want when we do something that we shouldn’t have done.  It may not have been maliciously done, but it was done nonetheless.  And we as humans want affirmation that the person impacted by whatever we did, has forgiven us and put it to the past.

In leadership, you want employees taking risks, you want employees pushing the boundaries to ensure success.  You don’t want them to do anything that is unethical, illegal, or unmoral, however, you do want them to be creative and look for new ways to solve problems that impact business.

If a person feels like a leader is resenting them or holding a grudge on a decision they made.  This creates animosity and lack of engagement on the part of the employee. A leader must communicate to this person that it wasn’t a big deal, that is was okay, and it is in the past.  Now I know this seems like an easy thing to do, and it may be a little overstated.  However, I have been the person that needed forgiveness and affirmation from a leader that what I did was in the past and it wasn’t impacting any thing going forward.  We all seek this in our personal lives, so leaders must also give this to people in the business environment.

Attention:  Spending time with someone is very important, but when you spend that time with someone giving them your full attention and being fully present is just as important. They way you show that you are fully attentive and present is by engaging with the individual to show that you are hearing what they want you to hear. Leaders today may be willing to give some time to their team, but they may not be fully attentive.  Great leaders clear off the desk and put their phones down and give their employees all of their attention and not part of it.

Credit:  I don’t care who you are and what you say, my experience tells me that all of us want credit for anything and everything that has a positive outcome.  Whether it is an opinion on a football game, a thought on a project, or we guess on the right directions on a road trip, all of us love to get credit for something.  My guess is some of the mostly used words together in the human language are “I told you”, “That is what I said”, or the passive aggressive way to say this is “Didn’t I say that?”.   All of these statements are examples of all of us wanting to get credit for are efforts and being right.

As a leader, especially a good leader, you should be listening more than talking. Which means most of the good ideas that solve problems in your organization are coming from the people on your team. Most of us have had leaders take credit for our ideas.  You know they did.  This is one of the most demoralizing and infuriating things you can do to someone on your team.  If you are a leader, you have to give public credit to people on your team for their contributions.  I would say that you have to go out of your way to ensure the people on your team know that in the board room and in other meetings, that their leader is giving the proper credit.

Here is your challenge:  Write these six words down on a piece of paper. Next to the words also write down the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.  Now circle the number you feel like represents how well you do these six things. 10 being you do it really well. 1 meaning you don’t do it well at all. After you rank yourself in each of these areas. Write down a specific goal you would like to work on accomplishing in this area?

Is it giving more public credit? Is it recognizing people more?  Whatever it is, you have to commit to a goal and then implement ways to accomplish the goal.

To your success and your future.

Don’t be an incompetent

My goal in my Sales Class courses is really two-fold:  First and foremost is to teach the class participants how professionals use a process to make sales.  Amateurs wing it and professionals have a process and they know why they win the sale, when they win the sale.  Meaning they follow a sound process.  The second goal in my class: to provide tools and resources that the class participants can apply to their life.  Real leadership is first leading yourself.  Meaning you do what you ask others to do.  Secondly, creating inspiration for others to see that they can become more and have more.

Throughout my class I start with the core of the curriculum and then weave in personal and self-development resources that the class participants can apply to their business, their profession, and their life.

All of my class participants start in 1 of the 4 competencies outlined below.  In their sales knowledge and skill as well as their personal development, they all start in 1 of the 4 areas.  By the end of the course my goal is to have them at least to the 3rd competency.

They can be: 

1.  Unconsciously / Incompetent:  They don’t know they don’t know.  We have all been here before.  They have never been trained on a sales process, they have never been coached for improved performance, so they don’t know that this stuff exists.

They then become…

2.  Consciously / Incompetent:  Meaning they know that they don’t know.  The people who fall into this category are a lot of fun, because if they are aware enough to know that they don’t know, they usually really want to be in my course.  This applies to life as well.  When you can admit that you don’t know something it is usually a great first step in the right direction.

Through the course they become…

3.  Consciously / Competent: Meaning they have now learned a process and they are applying it and are aware of what they are doing and have applied some of the skills learned. This is a really good place to be.  See most people are not aware of where they are and they don’t even know it.  So in my course when a person becomes consciously/competent about the sales process and where their buyer is in the buying decision, it allows them to know what to do next, and by being consciously aware of that you can have more success than you normally would have if you didn’t know what you were doing.

A great example of this is when I play golf.  I have to really focus on are my arms straight, is my head down, and my swinging through the ball.  As you will see below, the golf professionals are not in this category all of the time, they get to the next level of competency even though we all bounce back and forth between the last two competencies.

When you get here during this process on any new skill or trade it is good place to be, because you now have a foundation and you can build off of it, if you continue to focus on it.


4.  Unconsciously / Competent: At this stage you become so good at something that you just do it.  You don’t even have to think about.  It’s like driving a car.  When you get into your car, you just put the key in the ignition and go.  But watch a new driver.  What do they do?  They are a little slower usually aren’t they?  They check the mirrors, they adjust the seat, they are just a little slower than those of us who are more seasoned aren’t they. Another good example is this.  When Kobe Bryant is dribbling the ball down the lane going for a lay-up and the defender steps in his way.  He unconsciously knows he has to crossover the ball to his other hand so the defender doesn’t steal the ball.  He doesn’t even have to think about it, he just does it.  Its like the professional golfers.  They don’t have to think about the little things like I do when they are playing golf. They are unconsciously/competent on those things.  They are more worried about other things.

So where are you in your life, your skills, your career.  Do you not know what you don’t know?  Do you know you don’t know?  So what are you going to do about it?  Or are you aware and you’re applying the training you have received and maybe you need more.  Or are you just so good that you “just do it”.  Be aware of where you are, that is always the best first step and then create some goals to get where you want to be. If you don’t know where you are going you just might end up there.

Brian Willett

Why Greg Popovich is the definition of leadership!

Greg Popovich just won his fifth NBA Championship as the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs.  Did you see him on the stage getting the trophy?  Nope, he was in the background, he appeared to be posted up against the scorers table while his team was interviewed by Stuart Scott of ESPN.  I actually think if Pop could have went back to the locker room he would have.

We all know he is a great coach, and he gets joked on a lot about his short interviews at half-time and in between quarters, but this guy is the true definition of a leader.

What makes “Pop” so great?

  • I don’t think I have ever heard him use the pronouns I or me. It is always them, the players, the team, the (INPUT Players names).
  • He makes sure his team gets the credit when they win
  • He takes the blame when they lose.
  • He never talks about his career or his legacy.
  • He loves his players.
  • His players get better each year.
  • He leads by example.
  • He has a system and sticks to it.
  • He has created a winning culture
  • The team is always having fun.
  • He doesn’t want credit, he wants to give credit.
  • He is loyal and the team knows it.
  • He never talks about what he did or how he did it. It’s always about the players.

I know there are a lot of other reasons why Greg Popovich is a great leader.  But last night as I watched the San Antonio Spurs win their fifth NBA Championship under Greg Popovich, I was in awe of how he handled it all.  He is the true definition of great leadership and a great example for all aspiring leaders or current leaders to emulate.

Brian Willett


Why do we struggle to think differently

Thinking differently for people is such a struggle.  I am not sure why!  Is it that we don’t know how?  We can’t stop thinking about what we already know.  Are we so tied emotionally to what we already know.  Do we allow our own insecurities and biases that we might lose our power if something changes.  Steve Jobs has said on many occasions that his hallucinations on some of the drugs he did, allowed him to think differently.  I don’t want to go down that road.

Yesterday, I was in an all day meeting with some very smart people.  Most of them have earned their masters degrees (not that it alone makes them smarter, but it doesn’t hurt).  Also, many of them have years of experiences around the business that they are in.

My goal for our meeting was really a few things:  A) To listen well.  Facilitate a conversation on what they (the people doing the work every day) can tell me about our business. B) See what they think about our current processes. C) Ask them for input on any way we can tweak what we are doing to make it better. D) Lastly, I wanted introduce thought-provoking ideas that challenge them to think differently than what they already know.  I feel like we accomplished A-C well, but I failed miserably on D.  So as I reflect on it this morning I said since I failed (in my opinion), I must figure out a way to do this better next time and luckily I have this opportunity tomorrow.

My thinking habits, patterns, and style was greatly altered three years ago when I started reading more, thats what the books are for.  They get you thinking differently. So in my preparation for tomorrows meeting, that has the same objectives as outlined above.  I said I will not fail on objective D.  I pulled out a few of the books that I have read over the last few years to see if I can draw on that wisdom and see if I can accomplish what I would like to accomplish.

A classic book on man and his/her thoughts is the famed “As A Man Thinketh”, author James Allen.  This is more of theory book, not really a process book on “How To” think differently.  So in the last year I read a book titled “How Successful People Think.”  It was written by one of may favorite authors/mentors of mine John Maxwell.  And I read “Thinking for A Change” by John Maxwell.

In his book “How Successful people think” he hits on six key ideas:  1) finding good input to start thinking process, 2) spending time with good thinkers, 3) thinking good thoughts, 4) acting on good thoughts, 5) allowing emotions to create another good thought, and 6) repeating the process.

In his book “Thinking for a Change” he really puts together a solid format on how to think differently.  Below are the titles of his 11 Chapters.

  • #1: Acquire the Wisdom of Big-Picture Thinking
  • #2: Unleash the Potential of Focused Thinking
  • #3: Discover the Joy of Creative Thinking
  • #4: Recognize the Importance of Realistic Thinking
  • #5: Realize the Power of Strategic Thinking
  • #6: Feel the Energy of Possibility Thinking
  • #7: Embrace the Lessons of Reflective Thinking
  • #8: Question the Acceptance of Popular Thinking
  • #9: Encourage the Participation of Shared Thinking
  • #10: Experience the Satisfaction of Unselfish thinking
  • #11: Enjoy the Return of Bottom-Line Thinking


Thinking for a Change.Maxwell.EBS

As I read back on some of the above chapters and read through the book, I plan on drawing on some of Maxwell’s ideas and see if I can get objective D accomplished the way I had hoped to.

I have found that I have two passions.  I like to get people thinking differently. Typically I can do that in a one on one meeting with a smaller subject such as goals, career progression, time management, money.  Secondly, I like discussing ideas.  I get to do both of these on a daily basis, now I just have to think differently and figure out how to monetize it all.

Brian Willett





The Daily Miracle

“Philosophers have explained space. They have not explained time. It is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself!

For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.

Talk about an ideal democracy! In the realm of time there is no aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. No mysterious power will say:—”This man is a fool, if not a knave. He does not deserve time; he shall be cut off at the meter.” It is more certain than consols, and payment of income is not affected by Sundays. Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

I said the affair was a miracle. Is it not?

You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness—the elusive prize that you are all clutching for, my friends!—depends on that. Strange that the newspapers, so enterprising and up-to-date as they are, are not full of “How to live on a given income of time,” instead of “How to live on a given income of money”! Money is far commoner than time. When one reflects, one perceives that money is just about the commonest thing there is. It encumbers the earth in gross heaps.

If one can’t contrive to live on a certain income of money, one earns a little more—or steals it, or advertises for it. One doesn’t necessarily muddle one’s life because one can’t quite manage on a thousand pounds a year; one braces the muscles and makes it guineas, and balances the budget. But if one cannot arrange that an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one’s life definitely. The supply of time, though gloriously regular, is cruelly restricted.

Which of us lives on twenty-four hours a day? And when I say “lives,” I do not mean exists, nor “muddles through.” Which of us is free from that uneasy feeling that the “great spending departments” of his daily life are not managed as they ought to be? Which of us is quite sure that his fine suit is not surmounted by a shameful hat, or that in attending to the crockery he has forgotten the quality of the food? Which of us is not saying to himself—which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: “I shall alter that when I have a little more time”?

We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is. It is the realisation of this profound and neglected truth (which, by the way, I have not discovered) that has led me to the minute practical examination of daily time-expenditure.”

This one chapter sums up the miracle of life that we all, who are able to read this, possess.

This is the first chapter of a book titled: How to Live on 24 hours a day; Author: Arnold Bennet.

Born: May 27, 1867, Hanley, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Died: March 27, 1931, London, United Kingdom

Taking the Temperature

Another chapter from my book that I have been working on for eight years.  My goal is to have a working e-book by June.

We all have cooked a burger, a piece of chicken, a cake, or something that requires you to constantly check it and see if it is cooked they way you like it, or cooked so it won’t make you sick, one or the other. I prefer to cook things the way I like them.  For example: I like my brownies a little undercooked. Most of you are better cooks than me and probably use a thermometer, I am just not that kind of cook.  I prefer to constantly check the in on it and see how it is coming along.  This is also my leadership style when leading a team.  I take the temperature quite often to see where it is.  As a leader you are constantly acting like a thermostat and a thermometer.  Taking the temperature and regulating the temperature.

I have always been the type of leader that keeps his finger on the pulse and have always had a good gage on where the team is and how they are mentally. During times of change and unfortunately during times where turnover has occurred and even layoffs, checking the temperature of the team is critical so you know where you need to give more attention and where to turn up the heat.

In leadership you are typically the last one to know what is going on, and if you are not constantly doing a temperature check you will definitely be the last one to know.  So it is vital for you to have a few key people who are in the trenches that you can rely on to give you the scoop on what is going on with the team.  They can let you know how the team is feeling and what the true temperature is.

I have found that using this key person is even more critical when rolling out new policies and procedures, especially the ones that you know will cause the most fear or concern.  Running things past a key person that can give you some input before you roll it out to the rest of the team can be invaluable.  Again, this person must be very trustworthy and you know will not break confidence.  If they ever do, they will never have that opportunity again.  For me usually this person is the person I have targeted for growth opportunities in the future, this is usually their first test with me on their trustworthiness.

Lastly, the key to knowing the temperature is being involved.  Every leadership book or analysis will tell you this.  But what does involved mean?

To me, it means meeting with the people daily and listening to what is going on.  Whether you have three people who you lead or you lead an entire company, being involved in the areas you should be involved in so valuable.  You can’t and won’t know what the temperature is if you are living in box.  Many leaders that have leaders underneath them, I encourage you to go to the people, unfortunately you have managers at times that are more concerned about looking good than actually being honest about what is going on.  So you have to go to the people and ask really great questions to find out where the issues are and see what is really going on in the business.

As a young leader, I attributed much of my success to always knowing what the temperature of the team was.  I did this through being heavily involved, setting the pace, and relying on a few keep people to help me manage the team with the right things in the right way at the right time.  However, the one thing a leader must always remember, regardless of the temperature of the team, they must make decisions quickly and do what is best for the business at that time, regardless of where the team is mentally.  In a later chapter, I will discuss how leadership is not a Popularity Contest, if your goal is to be liked, don’t get into leadership.

Brian Willett

My last 5 book summaries twitter style

Title: The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie as told to Napoleon Hill; author Napoleon Hill

  • Having a definite purpose in life and pursuing that purpose with self-discipline and hardwork.  The best BOOK for Success I have ever read

Title: Early Rising; author Benjamin Franklin

  • Early to bed, early to rise, will make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. The habit of getting up early leads to more habits for success.

Title: Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success (Connect with customers to get results); author Colleen Stanley

  • Sale organizations should define who their customers are and only pursue those customers with the approach to serve first and sale second

Title: The Victorious Attitude; author Orison Swett Marden

  • You are what you think about, you think you can’t win, you won’t win. You think you can accomplish anything you will accomplish a lot.

Title: The Sales Advantage (How to Get it, Keep It, and sell more than ever); authors J Oliver Crom and Michael Crom (DC Associates)

  • Rapport, Interest, Solution, Motive, Commitment is the 5 step sales process for Sales Success. Processed selling is for sales professionals

These are all great reads and I have many notes, but the summaries are the gist of what I got from the books.

Brian Willett

10 Ideas on finding time for your Self-Development

John C. Maxwell suggested to me 5 years ago, that I should have an intentional plan for my growth and development.  Up until then, my development consisted of a lot of formal education and intermittent personal development.  I took his suggestion to heart. Since then I have had an intentional plan for my growth and self-development that has paid off time and time again. There is a time and place for focused and committed time for this development, but I have tried to find places and times that are not so conventional to increase my growth and development wherever I can.

Below is a list of everyday activities that I have weaved in personal education and self-development in my life. The tools I use to accomplish this can be books, audio books, purchased seminars, apps, church sermons, cd clubs, blogs, etc.

1.  Mixing physical activity/health and fitness: They are a match made in heaven. Why not listen to a book or a seminar while working out. I feel that this is the ultimate time management activity in my life.  Killing two birds with one stone.

2.  In the shower:  Yes I said in the shower.  Why not, there have been many studies that show a HOT shower does something to stimulate the brain, and many people (myself included) have had great epiphanies in the shower.  Why not encourage that by listening to something of value.  My mentor Jim Rohn would disagree with me on this, he would say, wherever you are be there, but I am looking to maximize my time and my learning.

3.  The Car:  We all have heard turning your car into a mobile classroom.  One hour a day on any subject you can become an expert on this subject within five years.  How much do you drive?

4.  Lunch break:  Many people have an hour for lunch, but even if you don’t.  Why wouldn’t you invest in yourself why you have a sandwich.  Again, that 30 minutes or 1 hour, you may listen or read one great idea, that could change your life.

5.  Cleaning the house:  Yes.  Instead of jamming to Prince.  Listen to an audio book or something that could be motivational, inspirational, or educational.

6.  Yard work:  I hate yard work.  However, when I do yard work it does present me with a set amount of time that I can invest in my own personal development.

7.  Even though I have cut my cable off.  I still watch a few games that are on regular television.  Instead of listing to the commentators though, I turn on YouTube, or pop in one of my cd subscriptions that I have.  I don’t need the commentator telling me what is going on with the game, my eyes can tell me that.

8.  Shopping: If I am on a mission to go purchase something and I go alone.  I will attempt to listen to something that can add value to me.  I won’t be anti social, but if you are in a mall, or even worse at Wal-Mart or something, why wouldn’t you want to drown out the noise in these places (lol).

9.  On the computer:  Some of us probably spend a certain amount of time at our computers throughout the day.  Depending on what you have to do and how much thought you must put into it, have something on in the background.

10. When I am early: This may not make sense to some of you, because you are never early to anything, that is another blog for another day.  Anytime I am early to any kind of appointment or meeting which is most of the time, I squeeze it in.

Some are saying, you are crazy Brian you are ate up with personal development.  Yep, I guess you are right.  But I have a busy lifestyle as well, and I have to be intentional about my growth.  I am not suggesting that I do the above things all of the time, however, I do it wherever I can.  I just know I must be intentional about everything I do and personal development and growth are critical to my success and my career, so I must find a time and a place for it.

Brian Willett

Definiteness of Purpose

I have read the famed “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  I am currently reading “The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie as Told To Napoleon Hill.”  The 17 principles outlined in this masterpiece is actually the original conversation that Dr. Hill and Mr. Carnegie had, prior to the 20 years of research that Dr. Hill did to create the book “Think and Grow Rich.” The first principle Mr. Carnegie discusses and states must be first on the road to success is “Definiteness of Purpose.”

To be successful in any area of life we all must have a “Definiteness of Purpose”.  We all know this, but it is seldom practiced and I am no different.  Definiteness of Purpose means we must have a clear understanding of what we want and it must be a burning desire and passion for us.  When you have a definiteness of purpose you will not be distracted by anything that takes you away from pursuing this purpose.  It makes me think of Steve Jobs.  Steve Jobs and Apple’s definite purpose was to create products that revolutionized the industry and we as consumers didn’t even know we wanted or needed them.  He and Apple did this with the original MAC and how they changed the music industry and cell phone industry up until his death, his legacy lives on with the Apple brand still today.

At times I am pursuing what I think my purpose is, but then I get distracted.  I find myself going down rabbit holes that are not directed to my major purpose.  Is this you?  Maybe it is my own fault?  Yes it is my fault.  I feel like I have clearly defined my major purpose, but maybe it is not clear enough? If it is clear, am I on the right path to fulfilling it?  Not sure, I guess these are all great questions.  Here is what I do know, I am having fun and enjoying life and I have an attitude of gratitude for what I do have, I am truly blessed.

Brian Willett

Can’t, Won’t, Don’t know how…

Throughout my life I have seen this and witnessed it time and time again.  But I didn’t fully understand it until I became a sales manager.  You have heard the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, this principle gives you a checklist to determine that.

Cant, Wont, Don’t know how, sounds better than teaching an old dog new tricks or teaching someone any tricks that doesn’t want to learn them. I am not sure exactly where my first exposure to this set of rules came from, but it is an adopted practice that I use almost daily to assess and re-assess poor performers. When things change, who can adapt to the changes, as we all know people have trouble with change. Let’s start with don’t know how.

Don’t Know How:  In all areas of management especially as a younger leader you are going to inherit sales people who have been in your line of business for many years, and in some cases many decades.   These people have a process that they like, they know, and aren’t willing to change it for anything.  Now you come along and try to change the game on them. For example:  My company purchased a new database information system that required our sales people to now get rid of the paper and sticky notes, and required everyone to start using the new system to track all of their contacts, activities they conducted, and all the other things related to the sales process.

So this new system was a fundamental change that everyone must adhere to, there was no compromising on this subject.  This is a core business change that is not up for discussion.

I had an employee (well several of them) that were not using the system at all when I inherited them.  I could not hold someone accountable to something they did not understand.  I scheduled several hours of training to be conducted with this group, and especially made sure the one employee was included.  After the initial training, I made sure everyone understood what the expectations were going forward with the new system, and how they would be held accountable to managing this system effectively.  I soon found out that the one employee still did not understand.  So I scheduled some daily accountability goals for this person that included me calling them and walking them through some of the procedures.  As this went on for several months, I learned that the employee was not retaining anything from the training sessions, and they thought that their results on the sales side of things (they were mediocre) would be sufficient.

I gave the benefit of the doubt and said that this person was a Don’t Know How.  So I provided training ( a lot of it) but after all of the effort and training they received they eventually became a CANT (CAN NOT).  So the individual was terminated, due to the in-ability to do their job.

CAN’T (CAN NOT) Can’t is the contraction of cannot: which means cannot do something, can’t complete it due to physical, mental, or other difficulties that prevent them from accomplishing the desired task.  We have all seen this and most likely have some of these limitations in our own personal life.  For example:  I can’t become a Kentucky Derby Winning Jockey, because of my height and weight.  I have physical features that would prevent me from being successful in this arena.

The individual I used to describe the DON’T KNOW HOW theory, eventually became a CAN’T (CAN NOT), they had limitations that prevented them from successfully carrying out the necessary job requirements in their position as sales person for our company.  Now this person was successful in this position prior to some of the changes that had taken place, but the job changed when the new system was adopted , and these changes were necessary and mandatory to be carried out in that role.

As a sales manager when you inherit people or hire people your job is to determine pretty quickly if they fall into the category of DON’T KNOW HOW.  All new employees are going to be some version of a DON’T KNOW HOW, but during the interview process you will learn how willing they are to learn and if they can learn, or at least you should be able to determine this.  If they don’t learn the job, then they may become a CANT (CAN NOT).  Once you decide this, you have another decision to make and that is can they do the job you are asking them to do effectively even though they can’t complete a certain task for you.  With a new employee, I believe you cut and run, at least in that position for that person, but with an inherited successful employee you need to determine is this a critical thing to your business process and requirements of the job.  If so, you will have to determine what to do with that employee.

So by now you should understand the DON’T KNOW HOW, and CAN’T (CAN NOT) theories pretty well, so this brings me to the last part of the checklist, which is WON’T.

I won’t spend much time on this one (pardon the pun).  Won’t is the contraction of WILL NOT.  Meaning will not do something.  If you inherit a sales associate and they have this attitude, then they leave you very few options.  Now I assume whatever you are asking them to do is supported by your company, and fits the rule of thumb of legal, moral, and ethically the correct thing.  During the first weeks of my tenure as a young leader on this same team going through the changes, I had a person that just refused to listen and do the things that were asked of them.  Again, this was a person who had many years with the company and had been successful in that position.  However, I do not compromise my core beliefs and when a person is unwilling to do something, they give you no choice but to do each of you a favor and cut ties.

Can’t, Won’t, Don’t know How this is a basic checklist that all sales managers can adopt when you inherit a team.  You are going to make a lot of changes most likely and when you are implementing these changes ask yourself these things when analyzing the performances of your team.

Cant:  They can’t do it because they just don’t have the mental or physical abilities to carry out the task.

Won’t:  They just refuse to do it, cut your losses on this one.

Don’t Know how:  With all employees give them the benefit of the doubt.  Provide them training and follow-up, to see if they can do their job.

Brian Willett