The Art and the Science

In this episode, Wendy Kane, Director of Sales Leadership Development at Ricoh Americas Corporation, shares here criteria for selecting leadership development facilitators.

Episode Transcript


Welcome to Leadership Quick Takes from The Center for Leadership Studies. In this episode, Wendy Kane, Director of Sales Leadership Development at Rico Americas Corporation, shares her criteria for selecting leadership development facilitators. For The Center for Leadership Studies, here’s your host, Sam Shriver.

Sam Shriver

So, how exactly does one get to be a facilitator on your internal training team?

Wendy Kane

For my team, specifically, management experience is the very first criteria that I look for, and not necessarily sales management, not necessarily experience managing at Rico, but management experience. What my team does for a large portion of our time is coach sales leaders. And because we’re doing so much coaching of sales leaders, this is art and science, right? The science I can teach you, I can give you books on leadership until your ears bleed. The reality is that when we start having that conversation, it’s art. Now, you’ve got to look at the gray areas.

Now you’ve got to be able to pull out of the wealth of your experience and understand why and how something might work and give good advice to that sales leader so that leadership experience and somebody that really knows what they’re doing, leading and managing a team effectively is first and foremost for me. Outside of that, the sales are nice because sales experience and sales leadership, of course, is what we teach. I’ve hired people who haven’t sold before, and for them, there’s a little bit more of a steep learning curve. But I’ve had very good success with folks that have the management background, and they can extrapolate that we’re product agnostic. So it doesn’t matter what you sell. It doesn’t matter what your work is. It matters that you know how to build a cohesive team and help them execute the team goal set.

That’s what matters. So that’s what I’m building. To hire someone in order to really find that skill and to assess that, I’m looking at some nuances. So when you talk about competencies, there are things like coaching and how do I build rapport, how do I connect with an individual, and how well do I listen? What’s my ability to understand what somebody is really asking versus what words might be coming out of their mouth? And be able to both empathize, but also in some cases, take them out to the woodshed when necessary because there’s a balancing act. So I got to have those tough conversations.

I’ve got to be able to be straight and direct with somebody in a way that’s not threatening or judgmental but is constructive and productive for where both the individual wants to be, but also from an organizational standpoint that we’re taking them to that point where we need them to be. I do a role play as my final interview, and it’s about a two-hour role play. And what I do to build it is I pull all of the data from a sales manager, and we’re data intense just like every other organization out there, so I could find you a spreadsheet that documents anything that you could ever want, including what color is the sky, right? So, I’ll pull all the different data points. What’s the turnover, what’s the performance, what’s the business plan, everything that you could possibly imagine, and I dump it into a file.

And then what I say to my candidate is, okay, here’s the scenario: VPs Called you. They want you to work with this sales manager. Here’s what you did. You did a little pre-call planning. You pulled some information from the system about their turnover, their team, and their business plans. This is what you know. So, your role is to figure out what your priorities are. Figure out what you think might be going on. Introduce yourself. Build rapport. Handle any defensiveness that might be coming up because my boss made me talk to you and help get me directed on the right path and the first priority

What I want to see is, are you coming in with the right balance between candor and support? Are you able to build that rapport so that you’re not putting somebody on the defensive? How hard is it to sit and listen to somebody and say everybody else’s life is always easier to live than yours, and that judgment hat has to stay off because otherwise, you find yourself getting angry and telling yourself the nasty story about why this person isn’t performing rather than really getting into the detail and recognizing that everybody wants to perform. And if I’m not performing, it’s probably not intentional. I need your help, and that’s why you’re here. So those are the kinds of things that I’m gauging. Those are the things I’m measuring when I do my role play.

Those are the ways that I weed out and make decisions about who we invite to join the team because we’re hiring somebody who represents our entire team. And when we put somebody in that role, the responsibility is not just, hey, you’re representing me, and you’re representing the leadership team. It’s you’re impacting people that have a ripple effect on lives, lots of them. We put a manager in place, and it’s not just the people that report to the manager. It’s their families. We’ve got a responsibility to all of these people. So I’ve got to make sure I’m putting the right person into that coaching role. I don’t want to lead somebody astray, and I want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for the person and for the company together.


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