Market Dominance Guys

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A Talent for Managing Talent

August 4, 2021


On Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall continues his two-part conversation with his fiancée, Helen Fanucci, Microsoft’s Strategic Accounts Global Sales Leader. Today, they’re talking about how work-from-home experiences have resulted in a shift in employees’ attitudes about where and when they are willing to work. This is Helen’s area of expertise: She’s been managing employees remotely for 15 years, helping them grapple with their work-from-home issues. Additionally, she understands the challenges of attracting and retaining the best people, especially in today’s job market. Microsoft’s customers demand great service and support, and, Helen says, “That’s why we have to win the war to get talent. We have to keep serving our customers with amazing talent, or they’ll find somebody else who will.” And once you’ve hired talented people, how do you keep them? “Through servant leadership,” Helen explains. Describing her role as a manager at Microsoft, she says, “I am expected to model and coach, be inclusive, take accountability. I remove the blocks and barriers so that my team can achieve.”

Chris plays devil’s advocate with his question, “If you’re all touchy-feely with your employees, where does their drive to achieve come from?” Helen is ready with the answer: “When we hire the best people,” she explains, “they come with an inborn drive to achieve. Part of a manager’s job is to make sure those people feel respected. [At Microsoft], we really bend over backward to be accommodating and help employees be successful. But make no mistake about it,” she assures Chris, “We’re about being competitive and winning in the marketplace, and our results show that.” Learn all about hiring and retaining the best people on this Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “A Talent for Managing Talent.”


About Our Guest

Helen Fanucci has been a valued employee at Microsoft for 13 years and is currently their Strategic Accounts Global Sales Leader, heading up an incredible global team of seasoned sales professionals who are working with some of Microsoft's most strategic accounts.


Here is the full transcript from this episode:

Chris Beall (02:35):

Well, one of the things I hear you saying is that we need companies to kind of give us places to go. But there aren't places anymore that give us some boundary within which we can organize and work together and be a team. This does actually remind me of the first 88 episodes or whatever, of Market Dominance Guys, which are about, Hey, your company's job is to dominate markets, which provides a stable foundation for doing more, for servicing those customers.

Chris Beall (03:07):

And maybe that's one of the things that we do, as companies. Your company has done an extraordinary job, although I'm sure that there is nobody there who likes to talk about dominating markets, because when you're big and you don't need to talk about it, why talk about it? Right? But the fact of the matter is, there are markets where Microsoft does extraordinarily well. And in a way, that's what makes the home, that's the house in which employees can come. But then we better make sure that they have a good time while they're there, but it's not enough to have a good time. It's a bigger deal.

Chris Beall (03:41):

This is the hardest part for me. Sales management, traditionally, I'll be crude, used to consist of throwing somebody into a territory and seeing if they worked out. So, that was kind of it. And if they didn't work out, then you put somebody else in the territory. I mean, I know there's a lot more to sales management, but traditionally, I think that a lot of what folks call, sales management, has really been, checking to see if people are working out. And then, yes, there're improvement programs and all sorts of stuff and there's training and this and that, all sorts of wonderful things. But that's been kind of the theory, over time.

Chris Beall (04:14):

I've observed how you manage, and you actually get ultra high performance from individuals and from the team, as a result. And yet doing it with these principles, these cultural principles, things that people would say, "Oh, that's a bunch of touchy, feely. Aren't your employees just going to hang out? Aren't they just going to go for long, barefoot runs down to the beach? Why is it they bothered to work at all and do anything useful, if you're just going to make it so delightful and easy for them, and you're just trying to attract them?"

Chris Beall (04:46):

So, how do you achieve that balance? Because that seems to be the key to this whole thing. And I bet a lot of our listeners are going, "Yeah. Okay, great. Attract, attract, attract. Retain, retain, retain. But what about achieve, achieve, achieve?" How do we get all that to go together?

Helen Fanucci (05:02):

Have high expectations of achievement, but do it in a kind way, and do it in a way that helps the employees learn and grow. So first and foremost, I check in with my team and I have one-on-ones with them or team meetings. How are folks doing? But I have very high expectations and there are specific goals and objectives, including revenue performance. I do monthly forecast calls, I deliver revenue, I have quarterly revenue goals. I'm no different than any other sales leader, sales manager.

Helen Fanucci (05:36):

However, at the same time, I am expected, through our cultural expectations, to model, coach, and care my team. That's part of the expectation of manager. So in some cases, I'm modeling for my team, what it means to be inclusive, take accountability. I view my job as, removing the blockers and barriers for my team to achieve. And so, for example, when my team is presenting in an important customer meeting, or it might be an internal meeting where we're actually going to the board of directors, if you will. Not literally the board of Microsoft, but the discount review board, shall we say, to get a request for special pricing for our customer, my seller has been prepping for that, reviewing it with me ahead of time, getting feedback, also with a broader team. And so, is on the hot seat, delivering and presenting and answering questions.

Helen Fanucci (06:40):

What I do is, I listen, and sometimes I'll chime in, if there's something that I can add value on. But I'm in the background taking notes for them, so that they don't have to think about what the actions are or what the conversation was. I'm basically being their admin, if you will, or their note taker while they're on the hot seat. And then I send them the notes and we'll do a debrief of the call.

Helen Fanucci (07:07):

So I do have, at times, performance related challenges with folks on my team. And I think it's really important to be super specific, because it's not an all or nothing thing. I have team members that are seasoned and excellent at what they do, but they're not excellent at everything all the time. So there can be slices of things that require coaching, or as we change role expectations, because we evolve to meet up with the demands of our business so that we can maintain our competitiveness. Or as you say, "dominate a market." Although, I am sensitive to the term, dominant, because I have been at Microsoft during the consent decree period. And while we're past that, it's not a term that we use.

Helen Fanucci (08:04):

But I coach my team and I will do it in specific ways. So for example, "Please, next time we meet, can you review with me your strategy related to data for your customer, so that we can talk about, how are we going to really help the customer with their data backbone. Review for me, your strategy related to executive engagement so that we can get higher in the organization or more with the business leaders." Or it might be a conversation of, "Hey, I'm getting feedback that you are not listening very well in your team calls. And we need to really work on kind of, cultural expectations."

Helen Fanucci (08:50):

So there're things like that, but it's not a, people are either making it or not making it. It's usually more nuanced. And at some point, either the employee or myself will go, "Hey, I don't think this is working out. Let's find another role for you that would be a better fit." And that may be another role within Microsoft. It might be helping the employee to leave Microsoft.

Helen Fanucci (09:18):

And so, I absolutely am all about performing. And in fact, we just must. It just comes.... It's the anti-table stakes, it's the table stakes to make quota, to keep pipelines up to date, to do forecast. And it's complex. And if an employee misses their sales target for a year or two years, we've got to look at, what are they contributing? Are they doing the right things? Do they have the right impact? And at a company as large as Microsoft, sometimes we get quotas wrong. Sometimes people's quotas have a baseline in it that doesn't make sense because the customer divested a big part of our business.

Helen Fanucci (10:06):

So we've got a look at the bigger picture. It's not just a binary, yes or no. It's just, we're going to look at a bigger picture and it's more nuanced. And so when I interact with my team as a manager, I try to be nuanced and helpful to them so that they can excel and succeed, not only in the job today, but in their career at Microsoft. And help them build skills and abilities so that they can achieve what success looks like on their terms.

Chris Beall (10:40):

I think that's what's fascinating. You told me a story about somebody a little while ago, at a company that I think we should not name. And this person ultimately, as the source of their dissatisfaction, that caused them to go and become, today, an entrepreneur. Went through a couple of changes along the way, but they left that company a super talent, not just kind of good talent, but I always talk about the top 20%. This is somebody way, way above the top 20%.

Chris Beall (11:11):

And the way the company failed to be attractive was, they basically said, Look, you're kind of here in this job because we need a person like you in this job, because we're getting some credit for that." And this individual, she said, "I want to go do something valuable." And then they said, "Well, but if you go do something valuable for some other part of the organization, we don't get credits. So, you have to stay here and do nothing."

Chris Beall (11:38):

And I think a lot of people think, "Oh, that'd be fine. I'm going to hang out. I'm going to be on a weird-ass vacation, right? Where I'm just hanging." And yet, maybe part of the secret of your opening up here is, "Hey, when we hire the best people, they come with an inborn drive to achieve." And as you said, "If we can get the blockers out of the way, reduce the friction, and also make sure that they feel respected along the way..." That's another thing that I've seen. It's like that switch that, when you flip the disrespect, the switch once with an employee, you're pretty much toast. Coming back from that, where they feel like they aren't respected, or it might've been actual disrespect. It may have just been neglect or whatever. That's a tough one to recover from. And I think again, it's like, it's actually almost a format disrespect to say, "I don't expect you to perform.", because people expect themselves to perform and they want to be challenged.

Chris Beall (12:34):

You don't have to elaborate on that story, but I was really impressed with it. I was like, "Wow." Because I know a lot of people say, "Hey, if you go all touchy, feely, and it's all about being nice to people and empathetic, and all this stuff, where is that drive to perform? Where is the drive to achieve?" And I think that comes out of the selection of people who have a drive to achieve, and kind of nothing else, except giving them the opportunity.

Helen Fanucci (12:58):

Yeah. Well, delivering results is one of our values. We have three leadership principles. Deliver results, is one of them, and so that's absolutely key, and you've got to hire for that. Create clarity and generate energy are the three leadership principles.

Helen Fanucci (13:13):

But for sure, we hire people that have a big motor and want to get things done. And some times the latitude that we have to make changes, isn't fast enough for that employee. So in that example, yes, the person was unhappy because they were basically being used by upper management to help achieve some goals or metrics upper management had. But without having a job that was satisfying to them because things got changed in the organization, so they left.

Helen Fanucci (13:50):

I've recently had a situation where I had to have an employee with a big motor, big drive to succeed. And through some circumstances, she ended up moving into another team because we couldn't adapt quickly enough to keep her on my team and open up another role that would be a stronger fit for her. And so, this is where kind of the larger company situation and the lack of agility that comes into play sometimes, can hurt, I think. So then, people leave. And so, that happens.

Helen Fanucci (14:27):

But in the balance, I think we really, really try to bend over backwards to be accommodating and help employees be successful. But make no mistake about it, we're about being competitive and winning in the marketplace. And our results show that, if you look at the growth of our business.

Helen Fanucci (14:47):

And the Microsoft U.S. president just announced that she was leaving Microsoft. And in her four years at Microsoft, she almost doubled our revenue in business in Microsoft U.S. And that was on a huge base of business. And so, yeah, we're about winning and being competitive and valuable to our customers. And I think our leadership has done a great job. We're not perfect, but it's a way better place to work now, than it was 10 years ago.

Chris Beall (16:01):

But it's fascinating. And that is going to be the foundation for Microsoft's competitiveness, going forward. Right? It's a much better place to work, so you get great talent. And great talent is what your customers demand. But if you just kind of think of it that way, the company can create the marketplace, at some point. Right? There it is. We're dominating this market. We're important in this market. We have these customers. But the customers demand in a way that they can't really say. They can't come out and say, "We demand you give us the best talent." But directly and indirectly, they're demanding that, and they'll walk. Customers will walk, if you don't provide them with the people to interact with, that they feel like are people that are worthy of their importance as a customer, so to speak.

Chris Beall (16:47):

And I think to us, that's a really big deal. As you know, we've won this award from the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, that I connect and sell seven years in a row. And what are those customers saying? They're saying, "Your people are people we really get a lot of value out of interacting with." That's actually what they're saying. It's called, Service Provider of the Year award.

Chris Beall (17:07):

I think our customers vote every day about our people, maybe more than our products. And I think that's really interesting, as a grounds for these two competitive forces come together. If we don't compete with everybody for the people, and then give them that latitude to be great within a structure that allows it to work for the customers, then the customers are going to go, "Well. I'll go to somebody who does compete and gets better people."

Helen Fanucci (17:33):

Yeah, you've got to have... It starts with great people, no doubt about it. It starts with great people. And that's why you've got to win the war on talent and be the destination organization, or the destination manager, that the talent wants to work for.

Helen Fanucci (17:51):

You're exactly right. Every customer is grappling with technology and every customer must be a digital company and transform and monetize their data. And they're looking for Microsoft and our partners because we have a big partner ecosystem we work with. But they're looking for us to really guide them and help them along the way.

Helen Fanucci (18:13):

And actually, we do have customers that call up Satya or send him an email and say, "I need your A-team on this." So, that just happened. A few months ago, one of my customers did that, and they were kind of in a tight spot. And we were stepping up to help them. And they sent Satya an email and said, "I need your A-team. I need your best people on this." And he assured him that we were doing that, and we rose to the occasion. And so, that is an expectation of our customers. And we've got to keep serving our customers and serving them with amazing talent, or they'll find somebody else who will.

Chris Beall (18:52):

Yeah. It seems like there's a virtuous cycle that has always been there. But one element has flipped, which is, the locust of competition has moved. We can't assume that the employees that we have, or the employees in our local area or candidates, are just going to come on board because we're the only game in town. And that's an easy thing to do. Maybe that's what Apple is doing by saying, "The employees have all got to come to the campus." Is they're saying, "We're the only game in town." But I suspect, one in town, doesn't really mean very much anymore. There's talent all over the place. And two, only game? Not quite so sure anybody's ever the only game. Right? These things come and go.

Chris Beall (19:34):

I'd make this contention. I don't know if you agree with me or not. But if you're looking to invest in companies, and everybody's looking to get a return on their money that exceeds certainly the pathetically low interest rates out there, but exceeds the market as a whole... Is this a dimension along which the analysts, who are going to look at companies and advise us to invest or not invest in this company versus that, that they should be looking at?

Chris Beall (20:03):

Because I've never heard an analyst, a stock market analyst say, "You know what? That Microsoft over there, they have got the handle on this cultural issue and this way of looking at things where their flexibility and their commitment to culture, and their willingness and ability to train on empathy. And do all of these things you're talking about, that is going to take them from whatever it is, their stock price of whatever number it is today, to two X, three X, four X that in the future. So don't you worry because they're competing with folks who, frankly, don't get this war on talent."

Chris Beall (20:42):

And so ding, ding, dang, we have a winner over here. Put your money here. Do you think that's going to become something that the analysts from whatever they are, the Morgan Stanley's of the world and so forth, are going to start talking about?

Helen Fanucci (20:55):

That's a really good question. In some ways, I think Microsoft's stock is reflective of our culture. And the reason I say that is because, Satya made it a top priority when he took over, to address culture. You can't transform, you can't have digital transformation without cultural transformation. The data is really clear on that. I used to do a keynote on that topic and it just doesn't work.

Helen Fanucci (21:24):

And so our ability to change as a company, which has been credited to Satya and the great work he's done, the underpinnings of that are our cultural transformation. So while it may not be deliberately noted by analysts, I think it is baked into our stock price because we've been able to achieve those results. Those results are only possible by our cultural transformation.

Helen Fanucci (21:54):

And Microsoft's mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. And Satya consistently says, "We can't achieve our mission without addressing our culture and having a great culture." It is our culture that achieves our mission and achieves the return on investment. And it achieves the stock price.

Chris Beall (22:21):

Yeah. It's fascinating stuff. I know that there's an apocryphal or maybe true Chinese curse that says, "May you live in interesting times." And that's supposed to mean, you don't want interesting times. You just want everything to kind of go along so you can go along with everything that's going along. Right?

Chris Beall (22:36):

I have a feeling you really like interesting times. That this is energizing for you, that this big change is going to be what carries you forward in your career and gives you things to focus on that are going to be fun and productive for you and for other people. Are you feeling that? Are you feeling... You talk about energy, and how energy is... bringing energy as part of the game. Is this craziness? Where some people feel like it's depressing and some people feel like it is scary, too complex, makes them want to retire tomorrow, and get out of the world of helping companies and helping people do things, you don't seem to have that response to it. It seems to me like you like going toward this sort of thing and grappling with it.

Helen Fanucci (23:18):

Oh, yeah. I love it. I am like, "Game on. Let's figure this out." I'm really excited about the opportunities and what the future brings. So I've been managing employees remotely for over 15 years. And I'm really comfortable with it, I'm good at it, and I think I have a lot to offer. And I also help colleagues grapple with issues, particularly as it pertains to remote work or managing remote employees. And I think it's super interesting. And I love it, and I love what I do. And I think we're just at the start of this. And I'm really excited about what the future holds.

Chris Beall (23:59):

Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, Helen, thank you so much. Finally, an issue of Market Dominance Guys that doesn't go on and on and on about winning sales. I know you know how to win sales. You win deals all the time. You beat your numbers, you do all that kind of stuff. But I feel that this is a pretty special episode or two. I don't know what this will become.

Chris Beall (24:19):

I'm sorry Corey wasn't here. Corey, dude, whatever it is that you're doing, wherever it is you're doing it, I know you're going to pronounce people's names correctly. So, that's fantastic. But Helen's here with us today. Helen Fanucci, thank you so much for being on Market Dominance Guys. We could not be more blessed.

Helen Fanucci (24:36):

Thank you, Chris. I am so delighted to be invited and I'm just glad that you got around to inviting me. I thought, "Yeah..." I don't know. I wasn't sure what I needed to do to earn an invitation. So, thank you for being so astute and inviting me.

Chris Beall (24:52):

All right. Lucky me.