4 principles for creating better empowerment

Look. It is REALLY hard to keep your best sales people happy.

When things are good, they are ecstatic.  But when things get tough (or complex or slowed down or ineffective), they become your biggest critics.

But have you noticed that the attitudes of your sales people are often one of the best indicators of how healthy your business is?

Their attitudes will tell you if things are on- or off-track long before your sales results come in.

This is because they live at the closest point of your revenue health. And they experience the health of your sales engine daily.

Your sales team will know if your marketing is good. Or not.

Your sales team will know if your technology is working as intended. Or not.

Your sales team will know if your management is healthy. Or not.

I this blog, I want to focus on one of the best ways to drive a positive attitude among your sales team: empowerment.

Specifically, if your sales team is empowered correctly, they will drive through walls to succeed. And if you don’t empower them, they will shut off. They will de-motivate. They will not bring in any substantive revenue.

Here are four principles that I believe will help any organization create and increase empowerment.

Principle one: Buy-in. In other words, are people bought in to what you are empowering them to do? This is not as simple as it sounds because you must answer two important questions to get buy-in.

First, is this the right thing to do for the company? People need to know that the direction we want them to go is going to make the company – and our customers – successful. Unfortunately, many well-intended leaders stop there. They ignore the second most important question: Is that the right thing for me to do? People need to believe that their personal effort (and often sacrifice) will provide a significant reward for them.

This is why I strongly believe in the power of purpose, both organizationally and personally. It provides the fuel for these discussions. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t keep purpose at the forefront of their day-to-day reality. Guess what they are doing to their overall empowerment? Yep. They are choking it off.

Great leaders always attach purpose to buy-in.

Principle two: Outcomes. In other words, what are you empowering people to deliver? There are three kinds of outcomes (side note: these are also what we actually sell):

  • Ongoing impacts – the core responsibilities produced by the overall strategy (think profitability, customer loyalty, etc.)
  • One-time results – the success milestones that support ongoing impacts (think sales numbers, quality metrics, etc.)
  • Fulfilled tasks – the basic activities we do to achieve results (think prospecting, negotiating, etc.)

The challenge is that many leaders only empower their people to complete tasks. This severely limits empowerment because it takes away the ability to be creative, to be spontaneous, to be problem-solvers.

At the minimum, people need to be empowered to deliver results so that they can bring all of their gifts and abilities to the equation.

Great leaders empower their people to achieve results – and beyond.

Principle three: Assets. In other words, how do you supply people for their empowerment? There are four assets that you must consider:

  • People – Supply more people, better people, and even solid examples of successful people
  • Time – Supply time to get it done and done well enough
  • Energy – Supply motivation, pace, confidence, and clarity
  • Resources – Supply money, space, and equipment to succeed

The difficulty is when you, as the leader, have limited assets to share. If you have tackled buy-in and outcomes properly, this is a much easier discussion with your team. But if you haven’t… well, you get the picture.

Great leaders manage their assets strategically to ensure empowerment.

Principle four: Metrics. In other words, how are you measuring whether not empowerment is happening? The key is to measure both perception AND reality.

To measure perception, simply ask your team what they think and feel. But get specific about what you explore. Look at their perception of buy-in, outcomes, and assets. Does it align to what you are trying to do?

To measure reality, it’s basically the same approach, but uses objective data instead.

Too many leaders only assess the perception of empowerment. As long as no one is complaining (too much), they think they are in good shape.

Great leaders do the work to define and track metrics that indicate where empowerment is happening – both perception and reality.

I almost added a fifth principle, but it really is just a great tool that I use to check on how well I am doing as a leader. The tool is a simple question: Can I turn my back?

In other words, can I walk away and trust that the team will do the right work in the right way? If the answer is no, I have work to do.

And so will you.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

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