Category Archives for "Leadership effectiveness"

Sales enablement best practices, #3 – How to NOT prioritize

This week, I am tackling one of the absolute best leadership principles that I know – which also happens to apply to sales enablement QUITE nicely.

The topic is prioritization.

And – wow – talk about a hot mess.

Sales enablement, as a whole, will always have a gigantic list of “to do’s” waiting to be worked on. But, as with ANY strategic endeavor, there is a very short list of what should actually be done now.

Why is this?

Let me give you three very important reasons.

First, consider the Pareto Principle – 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, on that gigantic list of “to do’s” (like update the CRM, fix onboarding, get new marketing automation, train the team on new skills, get managers to coach more, etc.), there are only a few things that will actually drive the bulk of the outcome you are looking for. Yes, it may “all be important” – but the reality is that it is not all equally important.

And yet, this is the trap that we have all experienced in our hyper-busy, non-stop, do-it-all lives. We deceive ourselves (and our team mates) into believing that everything should stay on the “priority” list until we can get to it. Sure, we tell ourselves that some priorities are more important than others, but we are often only giving lip service.

As a result, we overcommit our people/time/energy/resources to do things that will only contribute to the bottom 20% of results. And take away from the strength of the top 80% of results. This kind of thinking both creates waste and limits the potential of what we could actually do.

(Truth be told, the Pareto Principle has evolved for today’s digital age. It’s called 5/67 Thinking – but that’s another post.)

Second, consider wicked problems. Yes, that is an actual term (read about it here). The key principle that I want to focus on is this: there are problems that are so complex that introducing a solution will make the problem’s complexity WORSE.

Go back and reread that last sentence.

In our well-intentioned efforts to lead and drive execution, we accidentally inject complexity into our hyper-busy, non-stop, do-it-all lives. Think over the last couple of years and how often “other priorities” made success harder to attain. Sure, it’s easy to blame other groups/functions, but the reality is that we often don’t truly understand the complexity that we are trying to navigate ourselves and struggle to explain that well enough to our team mates. Without this insight, prioritization suffers. We attempt one step forward and wind up taking three steps backward. Our “doing too much” becomes a self-inflicted wound.

Third, consider the actual outcome we are driving toward. In a client conversation that I had today (and had the exact same discussion with a client last week, and another client the week before…), we often prioritize based on “success.” Frankly, that is a poor definition of the actual outcome.

If I want to optimize my business, I will prioritize VERY differently than if I want to transform my business. The paths are different. The disruptions are different. The use of people/time/energy/resources is different.

Unfortunately, most leaders lose track of what outcome they are actually pursuing (admit it – it’s easy for all of us to do). They simply want “success.” But when the disruption of a transformational initiative (like fundamentally changing customer interactions) starts to create disruption for an optimization initiative (like sales forecasting), we get a conflict in priorities. The resulting confusion, complaints, and turf wars end up generating local mini-strategies. Just to get around the bigger business strategy that is suddenly unclear.

And if you live in a siloed organization… look out.

Now, are there other ways to define the actual outcome? Sure. But I find that getting clarity on optimization versus transformation is the fastest, most efficient way to create clarity and build alignment – and get everyone prioritizing better.

With all of that said, here is the bottom line. I hope you can see the title of this blog explained – how to NOT prioritize.

  • Don’t treat every priority as valuable. They all have different impacts – and if they don’t fit in the small percentage of what really matters…
  • Don’t ignore the complexity of the problem(s) you are trying to solve. Instead of trying to fix the whole problem, just make it better than it was yesterday.
  • Don’t leave the prime outcome(s) open to interpretation. Give very clear definition to the overall impact you want: to optimize or to transform.

Let’s close with a mirror moment: How well do you prioritize? What do you do well, what do you do poorly, and what could you do to get better?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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The danger of “good enough”

There’s a saying out here in Silicon Valley (though I’m sure it’s more international than that). It goes like this:

Ideas are worth a dollar. All the money is in the execution.

In other words, the true money is found in how the idea is brought to life.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that one of the tenets of the startup mentality is to get the idea going, to get a minimum viable product out the door.

And if this is where you are as a startup or innovator, then good enough sits squarely in your sweet spot.

But I have seen a nasty habit form from this mindset – in more than just tech companies.

I call it “good enough” thinking.

As in the revenue coming in is good enough. And the service going out the door is good enough. And the people, resources, and processes are good enough.

This isn’t necessarily bad/wrong, but it often leads to a problem that will actually stall the company – or worse.

You see, when “good enough” is the target, people get sloppy. They get complacent. They don’t invest in their own continuous improvement. Because people are – well – people. It’s in our nature to tune out the fringes and just focus on what is right in front of us. Our brains are literally wired to think this way, unless we force it to behave differently.

Consequently, we don’t truly invest in what it takes to reach the next level.

And once “good enough” thinking settles in as the norm, the entire organization is at risk.


Because people won’t know what they need to know. They will become so hyper-focused on what is in front of them that they will exclude paying attention to what they need to learn next. They will literally build a business engine that cannot scale or evolve.

And this is particularly painful when it comes to the Sales function.

As long as sales results are “good enough,” the risk of people not keeping their own continuous improvement up to date increases. People will not stay on top of how to reach the next level – because everyone is operating with “good enough” as the target. They simply aren’t looking at how to take things to the next level. They are not seeking new resources nor learning the skills that go with those resources. They are not challenging processes that limit performance. They are literally creating their own blind spots.

Mirror moment: Has your team been lulled into a state of “good enough”? Have you looked at how well your sales content, tools, and behaviors can scale?

If you see tension in cross-functional alignment, you have a “good enough” problem.

If you have a massive goal to reach and you have zero confidence that your current team can get there, you have a “good enough” problem.

Take time now, as the year wraps up, to do some proper evaluation of your sales health. Look to see where “good enough” thinking has created weakness. I recommend that you look at the following areas:

  • How do we recruit – do we hire well?
  • How do we onboard and develop – do we get people up to speed quickly and effectively?
  • How do we sell – do we ensure that our sellers are relevant to the customers they serve?
  • How do we manage – do we build high-performing teams with genuine bench strength?

Every one of these workstreams can stall your sales engine.

And when you see something that you know is broken, call it out. Do it now – before your customers evolve or your competitors surge or the market tanks or… You get the picture.

Because, as the old saying goes, what got you here won’t get you there.

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.

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.