Category Archives for "Leadership effectiveness"

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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.

Why?

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.

The most critical part of your business is…

Last week, the city of San Francisco was overwhelmed with Dreamforce. Not in a bad way, mind you. But any time that well over 100,000 people show up for something, it has a tendency to create its own gravitational field.

I went for just one day, and had a great time at a conference within the conference – Ops Stars. It had a full line-up of sales operations leaders and practitioners (which reflect a big part of my customer base). The big theme there was ABM (account-based marketing/engagement), but there were plenty of other things to talk about and explore.

All around me, everybody was trying to figure out technology stacks, process improvements, and revenue-generating business rules. Even the Dreamforce agenda was locked into ethics, artificial intelligence, and equality.

And it hit me – the centerpiece of everything we were really talking about is the most critical part of business.

People.

I don’t care what your business is, it relies on people.

But that’s the funny thing. Everything looks great on paper, until people get involved…

People are the hardest part of business. And the best part of business.

But do we really pause and invest in understanding them better?

I just finished building a sales playbook for a small start-up business. The business has inspired leadership and a great value proposition. They have high quality mentors and solid operations. But they were struggling to turn their revenue engine on.

Now, it would be easy to simply white-label something that I had already made for someone else and just give them a new playbook. But that’s not how any of us should approach our clients, right?

Instead, we had to work together to get into the minds and hearts of the people involved. We started with their targeted customers, to truly understand how those customers made decisions. Then we paused to understand how their team approached sales conversations with those customers, to truly understand what they did well, what they didn’t, and why.

Only then could we build the content, tools, and behaviors that would harness all of that psychology.

It was very much like finding a current in the ocean and harnessing it. It’s not as easy as you think, but when you are successful, it generates its own sustainable energy.

Sadly, that is not how I see many businesses making decisions. Instead, they define a targeted result (like acquire X new customers or reduce employee churn by Y) and start seeking solutions that other folks have used to deliver those same results. Without considering context. Without considering motivation. Without considering competing priorities/activities/leadership.

Without considering the “people” part of the equation.

It’s the equivalent of buying a beautiful boat and not giving it an experienced crew.

So what exactly am I saying?

I’m saying that if your business involves people – real human beings – you HAVE to understand them before you can affect anything in a significant way. You HAVE to bring them to the forefront of your thinking before you start making decisions.

  • If you are going to affect customers, do you truly understand where they are today and where they are going? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?
  • If you are going to affect employees, do you truly understand how clearly they are aligned to what you need them to do and how motivated they are to do it? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?
  • And if you are going to affect your leadership, do you truly understand their passions and dreams and what is getting in the way of achieving that? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?

In other words, pause long enough to get the kind of clarity that only people can define. Ask them questions. Study what makes them tick. Learn how human behavior affects the way that we work together. Or don’t work together.

It will accelerate your thinking and drive decisions toward harnessing your people to achieve great things.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – That small start-up business that I helped has already gotten a tremendous lift in sales results. 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.