This Tool Works! Using Effective Sales Meetings to Create Massive Momentum

How’s your sales team performing? Are they generating the high-quality leads you need on a regular basis?

If you want your sales team to be engaged and intrinsically motivated to succeed, you need to provide the incentives and structure to support success – and those incentives and structures need to be communicated clearly and regularly.

That’s why when clients come to us for help with sales and marketing effectiveness, one of the first things we often do is to streamline the sales meeting.

Your sales meetings provide key opportunities for you to deeply connect with your team and make sure they’re on track with what you need. But these meetings are only effective if you’re running them the right way.

Here are three things you must have in place for sales meetings to be effective: 

  1. An easy, clear, and concise reporting structure. Reporting should be as easy as possible for the salesperson and not include anything unnecessary.
  2. Clear deadlines for when reports need to be filled out so that status can be covered in meetings.
  3. Exciting, personalized incentives for reaching goals!

When your meetings are more streamlined and effective, and your team members know clearly what’s expected of them and how they’ll be rewarded, they’ll feel more engaged, empowered, and motivated to succeed!

After that, the sky’s the limit! Here’s what one of our clients had to say after going through this process and the steps that followed:

“When my boss said he wanted me to increase our top line sales by 30% fast I was wondering how I’d do it. We’re a huge company, and growth like this doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve been in sales for decades and increased quotas are nothing new to me. I thought I knew the ropes. Then I met the team at STI.  

STI helped us to use the latest neuroscience techniques to shift the state of our sales team to a more positive and empowered state, to streamline our sales process, to develop rapid rapport with our prospects and partners, to more deeply engage with our sales and service teams. They’re also helping us to propel innovation to new heights via an Innovation Incubator, Innovation contests, and an Innovation Advisory Board—all of which are getting our sales and engineering teams super excited. 

The result is that we now have massive momentum… we have a clear and rapid path to our increased sales, we’re getting more meetings, we’re closing faster, we’re having a lot more fun and lot less stress. I have new tools to develop my sales team faster and keep them on track. Sure wish I knew this stuff a decade ago. Thanks STI for helping us sell at the level I always knew we could.” 

~Tom Moore, Director of Sales and Marketing, Baxter Manufacturing

This tool works! Ready to put Effective Sales Meetings to work in your organization?

Start by downloading our done-for-you Effective Sales Meetings Guide to get our personal recommendations for reporting structures, meeting topics, meaningful incentives, and more. 

And then let us know how it goes! Comment on this post or send us an email. We love hearing your success stories!

Don’t Be Blindsided By Change

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Change blindness = when we miss a huge change because we were focused elsewhere.

Have you experienced change blindness?

Perhaps a key employee became disengaged and you could have prevented it. Or a high-potential employee kept asking for greater challenge, and before you noticed the flight risk, they left.

We’ve all experienced change blindness. It’s often a result of not being present because we are pulled in too many directions.

Heck, you likely would’ve really liked to see the change you missed, maybe you would have even benefited from it, but your brain deleted it. Why?

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Because while what you look at matters, what you see matters even more.

Let’s unpack change blindness. Here are the players:

  • Cortisol = a hormone released in response to stress
  • Dopamine = a neurotransmitter with many roles, including signaling cells when the anticipation of reward is present and driving reward-motivated behavior
  • Oxytocin = a hormone that contributes to feeling connected to others
  • Your Sensory Cortices (SCs) = the parts of your brain responsible for “bottom-up” attention: responding to things that grab your attention and cause you to react (alarms, email alerts, or other outside stimuli that you react to compulsively and often without choice). Generally Low-Value Activities and reactive or even menial brain work occur here.
  • Your Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) = the part of your brain responsible for “top-down” attention: decision-making, planning, envisioning outcomes, where you choose to focus, and how you choose to respond to things outside of you and inside of you. Generally High-Value Activities and strategic brain work occur here.

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Your Brain On Change

Why do we have so much trouble seeing change when it’s right before our eyes? Because we’re still trying to cope with the changes that happened yesterday, last week, or last month. Let’s take a look at our brain on change.

Whenever change happens, your brain releases stress hormones, like cortisol, which then fire up cell-signaling cytokines that alter your body. Suddenly your ability to regulate your behavior and emotions is compromised. Your ability to pay attention is compromised. Your memory, learning, peace, and happiness are all compromised.

When you’re overloaded on stress, you also tend to feel isolated, which decreases oxytocin. Then it’s all too easy to find yourself on a downward spiral of disconnection: from yourself, others, your world, your purpose, and even your place in the grand scheme of things. Today, we see increasing chaos, distrust, aggressiveness, and many other behavioral challenges in our world due to disconnection.

Being in a state of stress or fear also overstimulates our sensory cortices (SCs) and inhibits our prefrontal cortex (PFC). Increased sensory stimulation and decreased cognitive stimulation results in more irrational risk taking, obesity, aggression, addiction, and even schizophrenic behavior. It’s a big deal.

At the same time, we’re constantly checking email, texts, and other alerts to make sure we’re safe, creating excess dopamine. Remember, dopamine is the neurotransmitter fired when we anticipate reward or receive an unexpected reward, pleasure, or praise. But excess dopamine is a problem: it also inhibits our PFC, further affecting our ability to make good decisions, focus, and regulate our emotions and behavior.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it often causes us to addictively check our messages, emails, and social media feeds. However, what’s beneath it is the desire to connect. The desire for warmth. The desire to be seen, to be safe, to belong, and to matter. Instead of dopamine, what we really want is oxytocin, the bonding hormone, to help us know we’re not alone.

It’s Time To Reconnect

When you feel blindsided by change, the solution is simple: it’s time to connect again. To trust again. When oxytocin levels are up, cortisol levels are down. When we feel connected, we know we’re safe, we belong, we matter.

So how do we connect in this stress-heavy era? First, remember that people are essentially good. We all just have a greater or lesser ability to connect with ourselves and others. When you meet people who are angry or distant, perhaps they simply haven’t learned or cultivated the ability to connect with others due to the past pain or hurt. At times like this, it’s essential for us to have compassion and do what we can on our side to reconnect with them.

There’s no point judging someone who can’t reach out to others. Better to reach out and give them as much of an experience of “same as” as possible to help them re-establish their ability to connect and give them a sense of safety, belonging, and mattering. It just might help them reconnect in every other area of their life.

Tribes are primal. Being together with other humans is how we have survived for centuries. And yet technology, in an attempt to bring us together, has actually brought us apart. We all want to be in the “in crowd,” yet we are seeing more and more separation. This makes change even harder, because when times are uncertain, we need one another more than ever.

So while change blindness may be prevalent, change presence can be, too.

Think about the change you’re going through right now. In the midst of it, how can you connect with your tribe today?

Three Keys To Effectively Managing Remote Workers [Infographic]

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

In a mere 3 years the mobile workforce is projected to comprise roughly three-quarters of U.S. employees.

Is your organization ready?

According to Gallup, remote working has been on the rise since 2012: from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2016. The desire to work remotely is here to stay and it isn’t limited to a few select industries. Gallup found that the finance, insurance and real estate industries experienced the greatest surge in time spent working remotely, followed by transportation, manufacturing or construction, and retail industries.

We love this infographic from HR Magazine which shows the latest statistics and trends:

Society for Human Resource Management

While remote work may not make sense for all organizations or for all roles within an organization, it is important to take a closer look. Whether you have a remote workforce or are thinking it may be a good idea to implement in your organization, there are ways to make sure your team stays engaged. Let’s dive into the three keys to optimizing your remote workers’ experience.

Explicit Communication:  We want to ensure that we are giving someone Safety, Belonging, Mattering via our words and written communications. When we communicate often (results, requests, info updates) we include people—and we foster a sense of us all belonging together. We want to engage everyone during meetings and if possible, have those meetings via video conferencing. Remember, only 7% of communication is the actual content, so seeing each other is essential. When relying on other methods of communication, such as text or email, you can use my coding system to optimize email communication to get optimal results. This will save time, clear up confusion, manage feedback and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Effective Delegation:  There is effective delegation, and there is “rubber band” delegation: when we delegate something and it snaps back to us incomplete. Here’s our 5-Step Effective Delegation Process that our clients find helps them to end rubber band delegation, and increase ownership and accountability. With remote workers effective delegation is even more essential as the “walking by your cubicle” conversations are non-existent. This fosters ownership and reduces the likelihood of the “order giver-order taker” dynamic, which crushes the spirit of ownership, innovation, and a feeling of empowerment.

Perceptual Positions: These make the difference! Perceptual is your perception in relation to immediate sensory experience. Position is the physical location of your body. This is an exercise that my clients and their teams have found to be extremely helpful when conflict arises in their organizations—or prior to a potentially challenging conversation taking place. This tool is ideal for remote workers because if we can gain clarity into what the other person is experiencing, even when we aren’t in the same office space as they are, we can communicate more effectively as well as understand their potential struggles. The result? Productivity rises and outcomes are achieved faster. You can try out Perceptual Positions here. The key is to get on another person’s “map”—to get a feeling for what it means to be them. Taking the time to meet a person where they are the greatest way to establish rapport, connection, trust.

Remote workers are on the rise. Are you ready?

The Surprising Link Between Customer Experience And Employee Engagement

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

How would your customers describe their experience with your firm?

Please take a moment and rate the Customer Experience (CX) that you believe you deliver:

  • Better than all companies in any industry
  • The best in our industry
  • Considerably above average in our industry
  • Slightly above average in our industry
  • Average for our industry
  • Slightly below average in our industry
  • Considerably below average in our industry

Now, what CX would you like to deliver within 3 years?

Credit: Temkin Group Q1 2017 CX Management Survey

Data: Q1 2017 CX Management Survey of 180 organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenues

According to Aimee Lucas, Customer Experience Transformist and VP at Temkin Group, 55% of all the companies surveyed want to be best in their industry or better than all companies in any industry when it comes to the level of CX they deliver they deliver within three years. That’s a big crowd wanting to get into a small, small slot.

As Aimee and I caught up at the recent North American Employee Engagement Awards it became crystal clear: it’s time to stress the connection between Employee Engagement (EE) and CX. Now.

Customers today have a louder voice (think Yelp and other rating sites), have access to more information on you and your competitors, and as a result expect an increasingly awesome experience. And they should.

Meanwhile your competitors are launching new products and services faster than ever before, and are consistently raising the bar on CX. And they should.

So what’s an organization to do?

Arm yourself with these 3 CX-Boosting Strategies!

3 CX-Boosting Strategies

1) Become A CX Leader — By Focusing First On Employees

CX leaders (companies whose CX is significantly better than their competitors) have more engaged employees. Here’s what Temkin Group found:

Credit: Temkin Group Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, 2017

Base:   5,552 U.S. consumers employed in for-profit organizations

How exactly does engagement work? What happens in the brain when we are engaged?

Engagement comes from feeling good, from passion for the company, from meaningful work, from attaching part of one’s identity with their job. And this comes down to some neurotransmitters and a hormone. As leaders when we intentionally help the brains of our employees to generate dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin we create good feelings for the organization. Dopamine (anticipation of reward) and serotonin (feeling good, well-being) and oxytocin (bonding, feeling connected to others) can be created via a number of programs in your Cultural GAME Plan.

So how do you become a CX leader and get engaged employees? This is where HR comes in…

2) Get HR To Connect EE And CX

HR owns the cultural programs, so it’s key that they are first looped into Employee Engagement (EE) so they can help support CX. First a strong mission, vision, values sets the tone for your tribal purpose and code of conduct (oxytocin). Next, acknowledging employees for being models of your values creates social validation (dopamine and serotonin). There are many more ways that you can read about in my many blogs on employee engagement and in #3 below.

Next, when HR runs regular SBM Indexes, you can easily diagnose and cure and engagement dis-eases so you can continuously raise your engagement bar.

 It matters, it’s a reflection of them and what they believe in, who they are, how they show up in the world.

According to Temkin Group’s research when HR is significantly involved in CX the organization is 50% more likely to be a CX leader. Wow.

Is HR involved in CX at your organization?

Credit: Temkin Group 2016 HR Professionals Survey

Which brings us to the next item to check on our list, specifics for creating EE and CX.

3) Clarify Exactly How/Where HR Can Support EE And CX

Here are some ways that HR can forge the EE-CX link…

All of the above examples and blogs will help you keep the brains of your employees in their Smart State, which will in turn help your customers spend more time there too! Smart State = Engaged, Aligned, Tribal, Together.

Competitive Advantage: The Power of Embracing Neurodiversity

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

“Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind.”

Harvey Blume, Journalist & Autism Advocate

We all know diverse teams perform better. It’s been well documented since Carnegie-Mellon’s Collective Intelligence work was released years ago.

And now a recent article in Harvard Business Review has explained how the next level of diversity–neurodiversity–provides competitive advantage.

Neurodiversity includes conditions such as autism (including Asperger’s syndrome), dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and ADHD. The goal of the term’s creation was to shift the focus from the negative connotation of these conditions toward the positive. Neurodiversity is an idea which: asserts that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological development is a normal human difference that is to be recognized and respected as any other human variation.

According to Robert D. Austin and Gary P. Pisano’s article in HBR, “Most managers are familiar with the advantages organizations can gain from diversity in the backgrounds, disciplinary training, gender, culture, and other individual qualities of employees. Benefits from neurodiversity are similar but more direct. Because neurodiverse people are wired differently from ‘neurotypical’ people, they may bring new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognize value.” I agree.

Neurodiversity Talent Opportunities

A report by Drexel University found that 58% of young adults (early 20s) with autism are unemployed. This is a huge pool of Generation Zers! We’ve done a deep dive into what is compelling to Generation Z in the workplace. How can we adapt this to those that fall in the spectrum of neurodiversity?

First, let’s look at a few of the skill sets that can benefit your organization.

  • Autism Spectrum: gift for detail, enhanced perceptual functioning, high levels of concentration, reliability, technical ability
  • Dyslexia: often strong in spatial intelligence, many are 3-D thinkers, holistic thinkers, mechanical aptitude, and have entrepreneurial proclivities
  • ADHD: hyperfocused, creative, inventive, spontaneous, energetic

All of those skills are qualities and traits that we want within different divisions of our organizations.

An individual who falls in the neurodiversity spectrum often finds getting in the front door a challenge. How can we, as organizations, make this first step easier for this untapped workforce?

Keys To Hiring & Onboarding Success

The hiring and onboarding process for individuals on the spectrum isn’t that different from the status quo. A few simple adaptations in the following areas are needed.

  • Impact Descriptions: Include a space for applicants to highlight any support adjustments they may need at the interview.
  • Interview: While the interview is the rock star moment for the candidate, it can be challenging for those on the neurodiversity spectrum. They may have challenges making eye contact, starting or maintaining the conversation or thinking in abstract ways. You can adjust by asking closed questions, asking questions based on their real life experiences, and prompting the candidate in order to obtain all of the information that you need.
  • Successful onboarding follows a similar path to what we’ve discussed previously. One of the adaptations can be made during training. Northwestern University in Chicago found that when using virtual training, 8 out of the 15 people who received virtual training found a job or volunteer position within six months, compared with 2 of the 8 who were not trained. According to Paul Wehman, professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, even people with severe autism who might not seem like good candidates for the workplace can do well if given enough initial support. Virtual training may be something that your organization wants to consider for your new team member.

After the onboarding period, the path to successful new employee engagement is:

  • Clear Communication: explicit communication about expectations (written and unwritten). Be concise, specific, supported and honored.
  • Performance Reviews: on a regular basis and keep them brief
  • Feedback: sensitive but direct and provide reassurance in stressful situations
  • Office Accommodations: These may include accommodating sensory needs, keeping office doors closed or moving their office to low traffic areas.

It’s amazing how when we explore our differences, we usually learn something about ourselves. When we can value and accept our own brain, we will more easily accept and value the unique brains of our team. Diversity is always achieved by inclusion.

Success Stories

Hewlett-Packard Australia, SAP, Microsoft all have initiatives to hire more people on the neurodiversity spectrum. One of the coolest stories I came across was that of ULTRA. ULTRA has roughly 32 employees and three-quarters of them have autism. They found that tapping into this overlooked talent pool is hugely successful. They have little turnover and they feel their testers outperform those at other companies.

EY (formally Ernst & Young) started a pilot program in 2016 with the goal of employing people with autism in order to explore the benefits of having workers of different cognitive abilities, such as greater productivity and building a more talented workforce. They recruited candidates and adjusted their training and onboarding processes. Then a really cool thing happened: the company’s managers started to reflect more deeply and stretch to make sure they were communicating in a more effective manner. 

3 Common Mistakes That May Be Killing Your Sales

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We all want better sales results—so what’s the secret?

It lies in the brain, and knowing how to guide our sales people out of their Critter State, where they are overwhelmed, stressed, in fight/flight/freeze, and into their Smart State where they have fresh insights, are ready to tackle the day, are motivated and psyched to succeed.

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1-You Aren’t Asking the Right Questions

Some of these are harder than others. But you need to ask them. Often, like quarterly at a minimum.

  • What percentage of your sales people are performing at quota?
  • How many stages are in the sales process? What happens at each stage? In which stage(s) do sales get stuck/slow down?
  • What’s your current sales cycle? How long would you like it to be and by when?
  • What percentage of your pipeline do you close? What percentage would you like to and by when?
  • What percentage of sales do you lose to competitors? What are the most common reasons? What percentage would you be willing to tolerate and by when?
  • What are your clients’ and prospective clients’ 5 greatest pain points?
  • What’s your current client retention rate? What would we like it to be and by when?
  • What are your current margins? What would you like them to be and by when?
  • How many qualified leads are generated each month? Through what channels? How many would you like and when?
  • What marketing channels are you currently using (trade shows, direct mail, social, webinars, blogs, infographics, Slide Shares, ads, etc)? Which are most effective?
  • What is the profile of your clients (SBM Trigger, MP Profile, Customer Journey, VAK preference)? How many profiles do we have?

2-You Don’t Have Visibility On Progress and Performance

Many clients ask me for help in streamlining their weekly sales meetings. Here are some effective methods.

Weekly Salesperson Status Report – Set a specific date/time that weekly status is due so the Flash Report below is complete. Make it super easy for the salesperson to submit their weekly status, like by editing a Google Doc or some such, and also ensure it is clear that to be on the sales team this is what you require weekly:

  • # new client orders and details ($ amount, product/services, etc.)
  • # new existing client orders and details ($ amount, product/services, etc.)
  • # new prospects and details (expected $ amount, sales stage, next steps)
  • [whatever else you require to track performance and uncover potential problems]

Weekly Sales Flash Report – Here’s what to cover each week with the sales team during a group huddle. Be sure to recap on email post-meeting so everyone remembers what was covered.

  • Summary sales activity per salesperson: how many orders at what stage of sales process, total $ per salesperson per stage, total velocity (movement from one stage to the next each week)
  • Winners for the weekly contest (whatever behavior you are currently incenting: new orders, upsells/down sells/cross-sells, specific product/service sales, fastest to report sales status in the CRM, etc.)

Weekly CRM Update – Make sure all salespeople know what data needs to be entered in the CRM after each sales call. For example: sales stage movement for the week, notes per call/communication with prospect, proposal info and all sales activity info above. Some clients have their customer service reps do CRM data entry for salespeople as a reward once a certain sales performance level is achieved.

Some of our clients like to set up a Google doc or other repository to help celebrate sales people (as well as all other team members). On the doc each employee fills in their section listing what treats (under $200) they’d like to receive for terrific performance. Make this public so all can see and use, and you’ll find leaders have a much easier time providing fun and meaningful incentive gifts.

3-Your Compensation System Isn’t Working

The below plan is a super simple way to compensate sales people to incent them to:

  • Sell more new business
  • Hand off recurring business to account management
  • Team-sell where appropriate and know they’ll be compensated

Edit this, make it your own, and see how well it works for you.

Base Commission

  • New sales from new clients at x% (see “Levels of sales people” below)
  • Repeat sales from existing clients at y% (shared between sales person and CSR/account manager)
    1. Year 2 commission at ½ of y%
    2. Year 3 commission at 1/3 of y%
    3. Year 4 commission at ¼ of y% (sales person should be out of commission sharing here or sooner)
  • Gross margin expectation at z% — see “Accelerators” section below
  • Levels of sales people:
    1. Entry level person and entry level quota of $ __________. Base: $ _____ Model salesperson: [name here]
    2. Mid-level person (reaches quota 75%+ of time), has quota of $_________. Base: $ _____ Model salesperson: [name here]
    3. Senior level person (reaches quota all the time), has quota of $_________. Base: $ _____ Model salesperson: [name here]
  • Levels of CSRs/Account Managers:
    1. Entry level and entry level quota of $__________. Model: [name here]
    2. Mid-level (reaches quota 75%+ of time), has quota of $_________. Model: [name here]
    3. Senior level (reaches quota all the time), has quota of $_________. Model: [name here]

Accelerators

  • 2 accelerators on increases in gross sales above quota – at ­­__% over quota gets __% commission, __% over quota gets __% commission
  • 2 accelerators on increases in gross margin – at ­­__% over quota gets __% commission, __% over quota gets __% commission

Team Selling – per sale

  • Effort Allocation must be defined clearly in CRM and entered formally:
  • Partner (shares ½ of all selling work) = 50-50% commission split?
  • Consultant (advisor, stops by client if in town, answers occasional client questions and encourages future communication to be with sales person– gets far less commission but still helpful) = 10-30% ??? of total commission (varies based on specific consultant levels)

Doing the above will help get and keep your sales team in their Smart State—which means greater performance, happier people, less stress for you!”

Right Person, Wrong Role? Or Wrong Person, Period?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

People get into the wrong roles for a number of reasons.

Perhaps there was a reorganization and the company didn’t want to lose them, so they were reallocated without consultation or training. Maybe they were promoted beyond their capability without a training plan. Or maybe they were hired to do a project that’s now irrelevant and they’ve not been redeployed to produce meaningful results elsewhere. And then there’s our all-time favorite, the Untouchables.

Do you have Untouchables? Also known as Sacred Cows? These are people who were hired because they are related to (or friends with) the CEO or other powerful team members. Even though their performance is sub-par, they get promoted or allowed to stay on for emotional reasons.

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Case Study: Company X

Company X was a tech consulting firm with a $37 million in annual revenue and approximately 270 employees, about two-thirds of whom were consultants. They were tracking at $137,000 in revenue per employee… ouch! The company was run by a married couple, John and Sarah, who initially contacted us about perfecting their sales process. They felt that their salespeople could be performing much better. What we found was a much bigger issue.

Assess: What We Found

The findings were grim: a fear-driven culture with 53% employee turnover each year. Company X did an exceptional job of technical training for new hires, only to see them leave for higher pay within a year.

The two owners of the company had virtually opposite Meta Programs, and this was causing chaos. Sarah (Active, Toward, Options, Difference) would proactively start an initiative, rally the troops to move toward the new goal, then jump to the next option/project. John (Reflective, Away, Procedures, Sameness) would want to analyze before launching the new initiative, so he would kill it or block it, minimize exposure, and set up a procedure to handle the proposal through testing, no matter how much or little the cost associated risk. The resulting chaos was confusing to the team and sending them deep into Critter State.

The glaring gap in the consultant’s training curriculum was in sales. Even though their role was heavily client-facing, the consultants weren’t trained in the basic selling skills and had no incentive to do anything but fix technical problems. They also had no interaction with the sales team — which was sequestered in a different area of the building. The consultants were the right people in the right role — but with no support to perform their best.

Harry, the new sales manager, had been with the firm for three months. Shortly after hiring Harry, the company had reorganized to close a failing business unit. Sarah and John had moved their niece, Toni, the VP of the failed unit, into a new role as the VP of sales and marketing — wait a sec! What? Did we read that right? Yep, the niece was given one of the most important roles in the firm after killing an entire business unit. Sounds like a sacred cow to me.

There were three problems with this scenario:

  • Harry (who now was sales manager) had no sales expertise — his entire background was in Internet marketing)
  • Toni was an experienced sales manager but wasn’t strategic and had no marketing expertise
  • The two disliked each other — Toni was threatened by Harry and Harry thought Toni should have been fired for her lackluster leadership of the failed business unit

To make matters even more fun, Toni’s boyfriend, Taylor, had been hired as director of client care. He had solid experience, but a perpetual mocking smirk when interacting with anyone but Toni.

Act: What They Did

The first thing we had John and Sarah do was to create clear and compelling mission, vision and value statements. This would help everyone know why they were coming to work, and where they were going together, and how they agreed to behave. They posted these statements in the lobby, and the managers worked with smaller teams until everyone was on board.

Next we established Needle Movers together (first for the executive team and later for everyone) in line with the new mission, vision, and values, and radically increased accountability using weekly reporting and the Accountability Equation. We created a reporting process for the sales pipeline and marketing effectiveness metrics and set up an incentive plan for the consultants to source future sales.

We also redefined the roles and responsibilities throughout sales and marketing to get the right people in the right roles. Some people were reallocated, and one or two were let go respectfully. Since the company had a history of high employee turnover it was key to minimize Critter State via thoughtful communication.

John, Sarah, Toni and Harry worked on their on key challenges. Toni got the tools to turn her department around. Harry was moved out of sales management and into the right role — marketing — where he is brilliant and a perpetual learner. He still reports to Toni, who now manages the sales team directly. Harry’s initiatives have made Company X top of mind in their target market. Now that John and Sarah communicate more explicitly, they are no longer creating chaos, and Toni and Harry have developed mutual respect for each other. Taylor had to be let go. He didn’t want to uphold the company values, and had burned too many bridges to be salvageable.

ROI: What They Got

About six months into the change process, things got pretty scary. The consultants became resistant and didn’t want to work on internal projects for which they had no billable hours, and John and Sarah almost pulled the plug and reverted to chaos. Instead they applied energy management tools, worked through their own resistance, recommitted, and held their team accountable to the direction they had chosen together. The results were not all immediate — patterns occasionally resurfaced and to be readdressed — but overall the results have been phenomenal. They zoomed through the $50 million inflection point and are preparing for $100 million. Their employee retention is now normal for their industry, and employee surveys show that engagement and satisfaction continue to improve.

Two Myths About Strategy — And Two Tools To Make Yours Work

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We all know that setting a strategy matters. It’s one of the first steps to steer your company to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. So why do strategies so often fail?

Because making strategies work requires execution.

Why Strategies Fail

Strategies fail when the average bear doesn’t know how to execute, and they aren’t empowered to adjust to meet the goals. When strategies stay in the clouds, employees get lost in the woods. Meanwhile, back on Earth, they’re trying to figure out exactly what to do to execute the strategy.

When organizations chunk down their strategic plans into tangible, measurable, specific quarterly goals, their teams know what to do. They can keep moving and course-correct if they get off track.

Two Myths About Effective Execution

In a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes, and Charles Sull report on their effective strategy execution research. They interviewed 7600 managers in 262 companies across 30 industries to gather their data. Organizations studied in their sample were typically large (6000 employees on average, with median sales of $430 million), and across volatile sectors including financial services, IT, telecommunications, and oil and gas.

The research busted several myths about effective strategy execution. Two of which I find essential to discuss in the context of why strategies fail. I’ll also share two simple tools that will help you put your strategies to work!

Myth # 1: Execution Means Sticking to the Plan

No strategic plan can accurately predict the future. Even if a plan includes detailed roadmaps that specify who should do what, when it should be done by, and what resources are needed. In practice, unforeseen crises or unexpected opportunities can throw plans off.

Leaders must make it safe to adapt to address obstacles and capitalize on opportunities. Because sometimes sticking too rigidly to the plan can run counter to the strategic objectives.

That’s why I find one of the most important activities any organization can undertake is to create the right decision-making spaces when setting accountabilities.

TOOL #1

Decision spaces cover what someone fully owns, and can make autonomous decisions about. So when something unexpected happens, they are empowered to make decisions swiftly, effectively, and in accordance with their competency. Put simply, they don’t need to call on anyone to make the call!

Compiling a list of answers to the following will help you when setting decision spaces:

  • What you can make decisions about
  • What you can’t make decisions about
  • Who to escalate a decision to that is outside of your space

Myth #2: Communication Equals Understanding

It is true that people in the organization need to know exactly what the goal is, why they are doing it, how their department is going to achieve it, how each team member is going to contribute, and what the success metrics are.

However, many executives believe that communications (e.g. emails sent, presentations delivered, etc.) are automatically understood. Not so! Sending out communication pieces does not guarantee they are understood. Just like sharing a lot of words with someone doesn’t guarantee they are heard properly, nor does it mean it will inspire the right actions.

TOOL #2

One of the simplest tools you can use to help staff understand and connect to a strategy is the Outcome Frame (OF). The OF simply helps chunk your strategy down — it brings great clarity as to the “why” and “how” of it, and then you can distribute this clarity to the relevant areas of your organization.

In addition to helping people understand their accountabilities, the OF also emotionally engages the team in the outcome that we hope to achieve from the strategy. This is helps them have their own insights around it — which is key.

Employees must feel connected to the strategy. Human beings make decisions based on emotion, and they will default to activities that lead to the best-feeling. No emotional connection, no engagement. Period. 

This doesn’t mean work must be all about joy, happiness, or inspiration.

Here are some of the OF questions I recommend using to elicit detailed responses from people. I’ve provided sample responses for clarity’s sake:

1. What would you like? “I want to double our client retention rates.”

2. What will having that do for you? “I will feel happy, fulfilled, and excited about the work I do — and the team I have! It will also give me more commissions to send my kids to the best colleges, making me a proud parent!”

3. How will you know when you have it (specifically)? “50% of the existing client base I oversee will agree to renewing and extending their contracts with our company for at least another 2 years.”

4. Where, when, with whom do you want this? “At this main office which is responsible for 2 major global markets (U.S. and U.K.), by the mid-year, with my team of four.”

5. What of value might you risk or lose to ensure you achieve this outcome? “I would be willing to let go of clients who are no longer aligned with our mission, vision, and values — so we can focus on those who are. I will overcome my disagreements with Sales and collaborate with them to help identify and secure new client accounts that are better aligned with us. I’d also have to spend more time cultivating my team, so I’d likely lose a few hours of strategic time each week for the first 3 months of this change.

6. What will likely happen if you don’t solve this the way you want? What will be the impact on your business and life? “Not achieving this outcome would delay funds available for reinvesting in product development. If we don’t fund innovation, we might lose market share to our competitors. Personally, this places financial stress on me as a parent providing for three children at home. Since part of my commission is based on retention metrics.”

7. What are your next steps? “Schedule a meeting with the sales team to define the optimal client profile, meet with marketing on retention programs and outreach to new prospects, set up recurring meetings with my team to mentor them on our new approach, set monthly targets and celebrations as we approach our goal.”

Try these tools to boost the success of your strategies. Then let me know your results!

Ready To End Silos, Sabotage And System Dysfunction In Your Organization?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Got silos?

How about sabotage?

System dysfunctions like these are generally symptoms of low cultural alignment.

The two founders of Company Z were at war. The CEO was aggressive, the CTO often sabotaged the CEO, and the company was divided into two camps. In addition to their personal strife, there had been recent technological breakthroughs that were changing the way customers worked and put their product at risk of becoming obsolete.

Productivity across the organization was plummeting, and the executives didn’t trust one another and didn’t cooperate either. All the CTO wanted was to work on strategy, but he was afraid he’d lose whatever power he had if he shifted to a new role and let go of his direct reports. Further, because the culture was low on communication and high on fear, the COO had set up her own camp, and the CRO repeatedly said all the executives except the CEO were “impossible” to work with. The silos were spreading.

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Assess: What We Found

Team members were dispirited. The feud at the top had not gone unnoticed and translated into turf wars, mixed loyalties, internal competition, and low motivation. When client projects were specified, the CTO’s team and the COO’s team didn’t talk, so the CRO was often livid when client deadlines were missed and projects were delivered with missing functionality.

In the early days, the company had revolutionized its industry, taking it out of the Dark Ages and into the twentieth century. The problem was that it was now the twenty-first century and their competitive advantage was eroding fast. They could no longer attract and keep the engineering staff they needed.

Act: What We Did

The CEO needed to help the CTO move into a new role before anything could happen. This was a priority to recover from their stuck spots because the firm badly needed his talents to be focused on creating a new strategic direction.

We helped the CEO learn to speak the CTO’s Meta Programs to shift him out of his Critter State. The CEO used this messaging to start the CTO’s shift into his Smart State: “I need your help [give CTO power, enroll emotionally]. We’re crafting a new strategic direction and I know we’ll be growing really fast. I’m concerned that we’ll move too quickly without mitigating the risks or taking the time to properly create the foundations to ultimately move even faster [Away, Reflective]. We need a step-by-step [Procedures] implementation plan to ensure we’re ready for the growth that’s coming, and I need someone who knows how to do this [Internal]. Few people here can see both the forest and the trees [General-Specific] like you can. You’d mentioned that you want to shift to a more strategic role and free up your time from management work. With a role like this you’d be doing what you’re great at [External] and have the hassle of management work gone [Sameness with Exception].”

We helped the CTO get very clear on what he wanted (no direct reports and work on strategy only across departments). We also coached him to set up office hours to avoid the constant interruptions that made him crazy. Additionally we coached him to replace his sabotaging behavior toward the CEO with influencing skills. The CTO changed roles to become Chief Systems Architect, letting go of his direct reports, and he accepted reporting to the CEO with clear conditions that honored his priorities. He gave up his seat on the company’s board, creating an opening for an industry influencer to be added.

The CEO and new Chief Systems Architect hashed out and communicated a new vision that team members owned and were inspired by. That act alone created the same kind of motivational buzz that they had experienced in their early years – and they had created it together. The bond was being rebuilt!

The stage was now set to bring up the rest of the team. This involved reducing the number of direct reports to the CEO partially through internal promotion and in one case through recruitment. We coached the entire C-suite on clarity of communication and taught them tools for explicit communication.

Next, we guided the C-suite and senior management team through the process of creating new accountability structures to get on track. They learned how to move from problem thinking to outcome thinking and how to develop rapport using Meta Programs. By making all the changes structural rather than symptomatic, this team was able to turn their ship around and create sustainable growth. One critical factor to making collaboration more seamless and comfortable among previously disenfranchised team members was the use of social technologies. We followed Vala Afshar’s ten steps to build a social enterprise and get everyone communicating more easily.

What Company Z Got

• The CEO of Company Z gained back ten hours a week and improved his relationships, both personal and professional.

• The new chief systems architect (the former CTO) now adds huge strategic value as he and the CEO work together to orchestrate the next industry revolution.

Company Z was able to make their new strategic direction profitable quickly as it capitalized on existing assets and they accelerated through the $250 million inflection point at which they had been stuck. About one year later, they sold off an unprofitable part of their business and regrouped under the guidance of the realigned CEO and Chief Systems Architect. Then they secured funding for their next surge. With renewed intention, they are now accelerating toward the $500 million mark.