“Diya” is do-yah or do-you said rapidly so that it comes out “Diya,” or perhaps even “Dya.” It means, “Do you understand me?” or “Do you follow me?” The expression is typically used by some exceptionally bright people who fear that the dummies they are talking to may not be keeping up. Having been a manager in several large companies, among them IBM and Westinghouse, I’ve hired many salespeople. Most of the best have been bright, but not overly so.
In IBM, we used as part of the salesperson recruitment process, among other evaluation tools, the Thurstone Test of Mental Alertness. It’s a short-form IQ measure scored using business-executive norms. Candidates ranking under the 50th percentile and those scoring above the 90th percentile were suspect as applicants for sales positions. We found that lower-scoring individuals were often under-equipped for handling the presentation of complex materials.
Close Early and Close Often Higher-scoring candidates often over-thought the products and were unable to make a persuasive linear presentation. Put differently, they were Hamlet-like with too much mind to make up. People scoring above the 95th percentile often posed risks in closing a sale. They thought of too much peripheral information, didn’t hammer the main selling points* and failed to close. Before I told them to knock it off, a few brains that I managed used the “Diya” expression which was sure to strike customers as condescending.
*”Repetition is insistence.” Gertrude Stein
In some positions, and particularly in sales, a person can be too smart for their own and the company’s good. Very bright people are often not good listeners and believe that the person they are talking to is there for the express purpose of reminding them of what they want to say. You know, glazed eyes and lips moving while you’re talking. Being bright is fine, but you also must be effective.
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”
-Bernard Baruch, Financier
Assuming they possessed the other personal assets required of a good salesperson, successful candidates scored around the 70th percentile on the IQ test using business-executive norms, which meant that they were bright, but not overly so. The above-cited statistics represent estimations and generalizations. I’ve hired salespeople who scored at the 99th percentile and performed very well. The best salesperson I ever recruited scored at the 45th percentile. This individual had good instincts, set priorities well and had superb interpersonal skills. He was, I decided, someone who didn’t test well. Go figure.
“No generality is worth a damn, including this one.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Business Insights, Quality Intent, Discussion Topics: As said in an earlier business article, very bright and gifted people, in sales or in other positions, are often difficult to manage because these individuals share a universal belief: They know what to do, and they are the ones to do it. But in most cases the big brains are worth the trouble and make estimable contributions. And if they can’t be good salespeople, put the ultra-smart in another role. They’re often creative, and you need that because creativity leads to innovation and these elements are the marrow of the new economy.
Creativity is priceless Once, in a new job, I inherited a brilliant Ivy League grad who couldn’t make change. He came into my office for a meeting without a pad or pencil. I was busy, so rather than send him out to get them I let him borrow extras that I had in a drawer. This was after he reached across my desk to take mine and got his hand slapped away. At meeting’s end, he walked out with the pad and pencil I lent him. He again came empty-handed to the next meeting. I sent him away to get the tools. He came back with a cup of coffee, a doughnut and a pencil claiming that he couldn’t find a pad but explained that he had a napkin upon which he would write notes, which he did. While exiting the meeting, he wiped his mouth, crumpled the napkin and tossed it into my wastebasket.
Fire him? No way. The guy had an idea, maybe five, a minute, mostly impractical, but there were strong signals imbedded in the noise. Several of his brainstorms produced revenue-generating product gems. Recognizing this, I took the notes from then on.
Whatever it is, I’m Against It Deleting the example immediately above from the equation, and given the choice of hiring a man or a woman, assuming that they brought equally strong credentials, I would hire the woman. That judgment is based on personal experiences where the top three people I’ve managed were all women. Each of them was smarter than me, and all were tenacious handfuls who loved to buck me for whatever reason they could think of. Like in the NHL, there was blood on the ice, metaphorically speaking. And most of it was mine.
One of these women, probably the most talented of the three, was also a perfectionist who had difficulty shaking loose from the planning stage and getting into the implementation. Every project, despite its complexities, was like formulating the invasion of Normandy. It took a lot of convincing to change that mindset. Once the quality piece is in statistical control and being continuously improved, most of the rest tends to fall into place.
“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” -Gen. George S. Patton
I said to one of the superstars in utmost frustration, “The only thing I can think of that would be worse than working for you would be being married to you.” I’m sure the building in which she slammed the door is still shaking. We had a beer and laughed about it later. She told her husband about the argument. He said, she reported with a smile, “I’ve got to meet this guy. He thinks like I do.”
Trust, but Verify It ‘s important to give these born leaders, male or female, lots of leeway. As I wrote in the story Education Service in America, they are the ones who pull along the less gifted. The vital few are good at leading naturally formed business groups and out of these come innovation and competitive advantage. The pathfinders are also adept at consolidating power and want to run things their way. Some go out of the way to cut out the person they report to.
It takes a deft touch to give pioneers enough management space while not letting them operate too far afield from the agreed-upon mission. Burn down the silos and smash the barriers that obstruct close communication between individuals and business groups. Delegate, but you must keep in touch because the failures will be on you and not on those who report to you.
Statistical Thinkers Make Better Business Leaders Many middle-management business leaders are weak on the numbers. They just want to charge ahead and to hell with the costs. Train them on the numbers. Gin up a P & L on every project, product or service, and chart it regularly. Write a statistics-based operational definition for each program and constantly refer to it. It keeps everyone better focused, and is invaluable in facilitating project management. Train your direct reports to think statistically.
Use PDCA, Plan-Do-Check-Act, also known as the Deming Cycle, to facilitate process improvement. Adopt control charts and other quality tools to define and monitor acceptable product-and-service quality levels and reduce variation. And remember, service is a product. “Diya?”
“You cannot manage what you cannot measure. What gets measured gets done.”
– Bill Hewlett, Hewlett-Packard Co-Founder