Fred Smith (Capt Marine corps) CEO of Federal Express. He wrote a paper in college laying out the business plan for FedEx, which he got laughed at by professors
“The greatest leadership principle I learned in the Marine Corp was the necessity to take care of the troops in high-performance based organizations. The Marine Corps strong emphasis on the overriding leadership requirement has been of inestimable importance to me in developing FedEx over the years. In the beginning people want to be committed to the organization and do a good job. The leadership principles taught by the US Marine Corps, and based on 2 centuries of experience will produce outstanding organizational results in any setting if those principles are studiously followed. In short, FedEx owes it’s success to this simple truth.”
This is the foundation behind today’s discussion. Consider the responsibility a Marine general carries on his shoulder. If he doesn’t make good decisions and lead his troops people could die. I’m not suggesting that a canvass manager carries a burden of life or death in respect of his canvassers; however, he or she is responsible for the lively-hood of their troops. It’s still a responsibility no manager should take lightly.
A general has been groomed by years of training in the Marines to be able to direct, lead and make decisions, but so too is a canvass manager. It is through his or her experiences and development as a leader that make the canvass manager skilled to perform the job. Their skills can be developed and at the core of any great system, including mine, the skills often are emulation of the great people that preceded them in that position. It’s a training from within and reliance on those that have come before and successfully demonstrated their ability to perform, lead and train.
The success, within the Marines and a canvassing department starts with the attitude; the attitude laid down by management. In the Marines the ‘top brass’ say there is no higher calling for a person than to become a Marine. The same is true within the canvassing department, unless the upper management recognizes, believes and articulates the importance and value of the canvasser’s role in the company the canvasser will never believe it.
I get blunt with owners and VP’s and ask, “Why do you treat the canvassing department like second class citizens?” Often they’re surprised when I ask that and I’ll usually hear, “we brought you out here to train them so it is important.” They’re correct, but I often see that the universal message, spoken or unspoken, throughout the company is that canvassing is a second line marketing activity. The truth of the matter is that it’s still a lead generation mechanism within the company and the last time I looked, every lead counts. So you have to communicate in all ways that canvassing is extremely important to the company. Don’t let your communication and actions remain incongruent with one another. Celebrate what they do. One of the things I mention in my 5 Reasons Why Companies Fail in Canvassing DVD, there isn’t a leadership on this from the top down.
No Frills Culture
Morale is not directly linked to the amount of amenities and perks available to the department. For example, the pay isn’t the most important emphasis on the job. Today’s culture is that people get the benefit of the perks before they ever work for it. I teach that we flip the culture to when you work for it the spoils will come.
Create confidence throughout the organization. Confidence within the organization is an extremely important factor in keeping canvassers motivated and focused on the vision. You’ve heard me say it before canvassing is a profession where you can’t hide behind a desk. Morale is an intangible emotion and nearly impossible to create directly, however, confidence leads to good morale and lack of confidence leads to no morale at all. There are several ways you can boost morale amongst your troops.
Displays of power
Not power within the company rather the power of the company’s strength in the industry. No one can lead or produce without being proud of the company they serve. You should be proud of the company you work for, that you care for people (employees and customers).
Core Values Card (morale & ethical training), every Marine carries a credit card sized card that on one-side states the key concepts of what the core was founded upon and what their objective is within the military system. On the other side are the rules of conduct how a Marine is to conduct him or herself on and off duty. This hip pocket reminder keeps the soldier on track for their mission as an important component of the group.
You can adapt this same tool and list your corporate vision and company’s expectations spelled out to reinforce your company core values. This is a powerful, yet silent, management tool you can use to continually lead your troops. It doesn’t have to be made out of plastic, but the important part is that you implement it.
Loyalty should never be demanded it should be created. Like respect, loyalty has to be earned and nurtured between the canvasser and managers from the moment a team member is recruited. Transparency is a fundamental path to establishing trust. Don’t shy away from the tough messages. For example, don’t hide the hard work and rejection aspects of the job.
It’s also about going the extra mile to help managers and canvassers to succeed. Quite simply, the easiest and fastest way to trust is through the mirror-effect. As a leader you exhibit and practice loyalty and trust. Your people will mirror your behaviors. You’re in the service business and you should be servicing your people so they can serve you back. What you get is what you’re giving. If you don’t like what you’re getting then it’s time to change your approach.
How do you handle the tough stuff?
It should be clear by now that my philosophy is not to hide from the tough stuff. I coach that when recruiting canvassers you should tell them the job’s going to be hard, they’re going to experience failures and I think you should take the same approach when you run into scandals that may arise within the department or company. Get out in front of it because sweeping it under the carpet only projects a weakness. Handling every situation with dignity demonstrates your commitment to the core values of the department.
Stick with your expertise
The Marine Corps has mastered and written the book on the amphibious marine-born assault. They make the way for other military branches to perform their specialty and the Marines never venture where they aren’t experts. Marine Generals protect the corps from being assigned duties or missions where they are not highly trained and prepared for. On the other hand, those same Generals will vigorously battle for missions where their troops are best suited.
This should remind you that your canvassing team is trained and prepared for a very specific mission, generate leads and set appointments. I’ve stated it before that when canvassers, especially those who have been trained or have experience in sales, tend to stumble when they try and apply that training rather than my specific canvass training. Canvassing is a specialized skill and a well-trained and motivated canvasser will be deadly in getting leads for you, but like any weapon, it has a specific purpose and application. There are other skills they posses, but they are natural extensions of their ability, like shows and events, but keep focused on what your people are best suited to accomplish.
Get to the front lines
As an upper manager it’s easy to lose sight of what the troops are experiencing in the field. You rely on your lower level managers to report to you, but it’s a natural tendency for managers to tell you what you want to hear rather than the unfettered truth. You should get out for yourself occasionally and experience what’s really going on. Walk with canvassers as they knock on doors, sit in on training sessions, get out to the shows and see what’s being asked. Doing so will give you a better perspective in order to make important directional decisions. It’ll also communicate an important message to everyone that you care and that you want the real truth. It’ll convey credibility to the core values and mission to the canvasser and to managers.
Of course, in doing so you cannot undermine your manager’s ability and/or authority. Your reasons for doing this is to objectively observe to find out what’s working and where there’s opportunity for improvement. One of the greatest management styles is M.B.W.A. (management by walking around). It’s your ability to share your confidence and wisdom. It puts you in the position of the ultimate mentorship and allows you to pass on an important legacy to those that work for you at every level.
Continued Inspiration and Direction
On every Marine base there is a general store area there is a strategic library of additional reading material. It ranges from the history of the military (not just of the Marines) to a wide range of subjects. There is also is a recommended reading list at each level of Marine’s ascension through the ranks; commissioned and non-commissioned officers. It is recommended that a Marine continue to develop their knowledge and get inspired from other resources beyond their direct training.
You should consider additional materials, even outside training you can provide to your canvassers and managers that can allow their skills to develop. It may mean providing a list of suggested reading or sending them to a training program. Additional perspective will allow them to develop beyond the scope of your core training and coaching. They should support your philosophies and values.
It’s a major reason private clients bring me to their locations to work directly with canvassers and managers. It’s a significant reason I’m developing and offering small group boot camp trainings you can send your troops to learn from myself and others just like them.
What will your legacy be?
What will you be leaving behind or giving your people that they will take with them in future endeavors or careers beyond your company. You’re giving every person you recruit as a canvasser very useful life skills they’ll carry with them for the rest of their life. Additionally, it’s my goal when I work with clients privately that in the time I spend with them and they’re better for it. It’s a reason I do what I do. It takes a lot of time and money to prepare the calls, the newsletters and broadcasts to you each month. There’s a staff of people behind it all in order to bring it to you. So I’ll close this article asking you to give thought to what your legacy will be once you leave or they leave you.
If you have any questions you can forward them to me at www.AskTheCanvassKing.com. I receive and answer every email, either directly or on an upcoming Telecoaching call.