Improving leadership

Jeremy Boudinet is the Director of Marketing at Ambition, a Harvard Business Review and AA-ISP-endorsed sales performance management platform tailored towards today’s millennial-driven front office teams. We recently spoke with Jeremy about boosting productivity, engaging millennials, and improving leadership within an organization.

In a Nutshell, how Does Ambition Help Companies Improve Their Productivity?

Ambition drives productivity in three ways

  1. By bringing real-time clarity and transparency to individual and team performance
  2. By personalizing and contextualizing performance goals for individual team members
  3. By giving managers and team members broader insights into team performance, with healthy doses of recognition, competition, and peer accountability thrown in for good measure

If someone were to say to you, “I don’t need to focus on productivity, as long as our sales and revenue numbers remain high,” how would you respond? You’d be hard-pressed to find a CFO, CRO, VP of Sales, or Sales Operations Manager out there who can say with a straight face, “We’ve reached perfect efficiency. There’s not a person in our organization who’s overwhelmed because of some inefficiency in how we operate.” Productivity is about optimizing your talent, time, and technology to help keep reps motivated, focused, and accountable to their goals.

Since your website has a section entitled #SaveTheMillennials, could you tell us how business leaders and managers should approach millennials differently than generations of the past? There are a lot of misnomers about managing millennials. Forget participation trophies and office perks.

There are three things that transcend every major study, every real-world experience, and every data set we’ve ever come across

  1. Millennials crave feedback, in stark contrast to their predecessor generations. Divvy out praise, constructive criticism, and tough-love coaching as much as possible.
  2. Lead by example and show a genuine interest in developing your direct reports. It’s very simple. If you’re great at what you do and passionate about your work, find direct reports with a genuine mutual interest and take them under your wing.
  3. Teach millennials how to be creative problem solvers – while also operating within the confines or your protocol.

For Managers, how Important is Goal Setting and Tracking if the Objective is to Maximize Productivity in the Workplace?

It’s the most important thing. For those unfamiliar with The Progress Principle, it’s a highly-acclaimed book published in 2014 that found that a sense of progress impacts employee motivation and productivity more powerfully than anything, including compensation and recognition. The findings were based on a massive study that analyzed 12,000 daily journal entries from employees at a number of organizations.

Since the “command and control” model of business leadership is becoming less effective these days, what type of leadership style works best for successfully getting employees to work harder and be more productive? Again, lead by example. Get out of the ivory tower. Give people clear goals. Provide consistent coaching, feedback, and tools to help people attain them. Tie individual goals to team and company goals. It’s about instilling a mentality of autonomous self-management amongst your workers.

What are Some Suggestions for Business Leaders and Managers to Help Them get Their Employees to buy in to the Concept of Gamification of Tasks, Duties, and Results?

First, it’s important to understand that gamification is just another word for “keeping score.” Nomenclature aside, anyone who’s ever run a sales contest or kept track of employee progress towards a quota on a whiteboard has bought into gamification. We merely amp up the visibility and automation aspect of it. For example, we had a Fortune 500 client, West Corp, do a major internal case study on us, using six months of data and a second office as a control. They saw massive growth in activity levels and record revenue growth – and they never ran a single contest or TV leaderboard. They just made it easier for employees to keep score of themselves and see how they were doing compared to their peers.

If a leader or manager analyzes data and discovers that a particular employee or group is lagging in productivity, what should he or she do (or not do) to address this issue? Managers should assess whether the lack of productivity is a matter of engagement or effectiveness. Do the employees need motivation, or do they need coaching? Have a private (not public) honest conversation with the employee(s) where the message is, “How can I help?” But if it’s a recurring problem, then know when it’s time to cut ties.

In the future, what will be the traits and components of companies who are able to consistently maximize productivity?

Foremost, they will be in sync. Marketing will know what sales is doing. Account executives will know what account managers are doing. Personalized S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic, Time-constrained) will be in front of each employee, as will real-time, visualized progress and processes towards those goals.

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