Ask The Experts … with Juliette Dennett

Respected by her peers and clients, loved by her team, Juliette Dennett has learnt a lot in her 40 year career as a salesperson, trainer and eventually business owner.

As she retires from being a Dale Carnegie franchisee we sat down with her to learn her insights on leadership, culture and developing a high performing team.

What is your leadership philosophy? 

Understand and care about what motivates the people in your team in terms of their lifestyles and families. Be on their side and part of them achieving what they want – then they see the work they do as part of them achieving those goals. This buy-in from you results in buy-in from them making them want to contribute more and do a good job.

Tell me about the culture you created and how you went about it?

In the early days, I’m not even sure I could have articulated what we wanted it to be, it was a feeling rather than something written down in black and white. These days it’s a good idea to be clear and communicate.

We showed our team that we wanted them to be happy and successful, that everyone, no matter their role was important and that their contribution was valued and an integral part of us being able to succeed. Embedded within it was the Dale Carnegie principles and that created a feeling of belonging, everyone understanding the value of every individual contribution to the overall goal, a supportive and determined attitude when we struggled and sharing the glory when we succeeded.

Then to embed this culture as leaders we consistently role modelled the culture  and behaviours you want to see and then recognise, and reward when people meet them.

 How did you foster an environment of psychological safety to help your team succeed?

This is so important and it’s not always easy to realise when someone is not feeling psychologically safe.  That’s why monthly 1-2-1s with everyone in your team are crucial, creating a time where they get your undivided attention, showing that you want to invest in their development and build their trust, so that when there is a problem or they want to share a new idea they feel comfortable to speak up.

How did you develop such a high performing team?

Team meetings were vital, be it online or in-person. Something that was really strong in our business was the overall commitment to the team goal almost ahead of individual goals; someone may have smashed individual targets but if the team hadn’t got theirs, they would be even more motivated to get to the team goal. The culture we created meant that people were emotionally connected to the goals and when new people joined it was like osmosis, they could feel it from the other team members and just got on board with it.

How did you ensure your team was continuously learning and growing individually and as a group?

To an extent there is an element of that being inevitable working in a Dale Carnegie business partly because it’s a training business. There is an underlying drive that everyone is learning. I remember when I first joined Dale Carnegie wishing I could have a day back in my comfort zone because I was being pushed all the time. It’s fair to say that is part of the culture we create, people must be up for that. I’m a great believer that to be a Dale Carnegie trainer for example you must constantly want to get better. At the point you are not bothered about improving and don’t want it, that the time to get out.

What was your approach to providing feedback?

I think feedback is a personal thing. It’s great to celebrate achievements and give team recognition. Feedback for growth though must be done one-on-one and it can’t be saved up for 1-2-1s. There needs to be an environment of trust so that when something happens, we can have appropriate conversations to get someone back on track. And it must happen in the moment. I think one of the worst things in a 1-2-1 is that surprises crop up e.g. something from 3 months ago. The here-and-now is for constructive feedback, that way it is perceived as positive, and they can stay accountable for their goals.

The majority of the team you built has been with you for over 10 years – what’s the secret to them staying?

It’s partly to do with work that is fulfilling, making a difference to others. I do think people are most fulfilled successful, and powerful when they are serving a purpose greater than themselves. In professional sports, for example, only looking to further your own agenda will only get you so far, a collective of talented people looking to build something is much more powerful. People could be tempted by more money and so on but is it more fulfilling? Is there a strong sense of belonging? It’s worth working on those things, the sense of belonging, and contributing to something bigger than my own aims.

And where do you typically hire from? 

When we’ve advertised ourselves it’s rarely brought results. So, there are 2 reliable sources that we use – recruitment agencies and personal recommendations.

The roles we recruit for mostly are in sales, and we’ve been provided with some of the best people via a sales specialist recruiter.

Personal recommendation has been great for us too  – 2/3 of the team came through someone’s friend or sister, because our people know who will fit and what it takes to succeed in our business.

Why is humble leadership so important in this day and age? 

Being a leader is not about a job title, leadership is actually all about followship. If people don’t choose to follow you, are you really a leader?

If people are compelled to follow, then you will achieve the most in serving other people.

Humble leadership is committing to people’s commitment and going out of your way to serve other people and understand what is important. Transparency and authenticity bring results.

What is the value of being a people-centric organisation? 

In a market where people can pick or choose where they work it’s important to create an environment that is welcoming & inclusive, focused on the needs and wants of the people in your team. Care about the people in your team as individuals, this allows them to flourish and shine and that creates a desirable, attractive place to work.

Click here to read Juliette’s Top Ten Tips