I coached the head of sales of a Fortune 500 company yesterday and we had an interesting conversation.
She had a recurring issue with some of the executive board members she reports to — they are frequently challenging her management of the sales force because sales have dipped slightly over the past six months.
Sales performance is a highly subjective area in business because if it is dropping off, many factors can come into play such as pricing, marketing, product management, distribution, the marketplace . . . I can go on forever. During these meetings though, it all seemed to fall right on her shoulders. Why?
Initially, she was a bit complacent. She saw the numbers falling slightly, but didn't really see any reason to change strategy. Then when they really started to turn downward, she became gun-shy. And then right before the next board meeting, she was scared.
I call it falling down the rabbit hole. Complacent to gun-shy to scared — it's a disturbing vortex many managers go through (especially in today's marketplace). We feel the market will have it's ups and downs and then something bad happens — and we are afraid to do anything because we are gun-shy — we don't want to make things worse.
Ultimately, we move to being scared because we don't know where to turn. Here's how we solved her problem:
- THINK - Develop a series of strategies to solve the issue. Predict outcomes and impacts for each of the strategies.
- TAKE ACTION - Choose the best one.
- COMMUNICATE - Massively communicate your decision to your peers and superiors with your logic before they begin to complain.
The board wasn't concerned about her strategy or performance — they were concerned about her lack of communication, perceived interest, and action. Once you show people you are ON IT, they usually back off. In addition, if you show them your thinking around the problem, they see you've taken the time to work the issue. Only certain 'evil' people will take this as a chance to sabotage you. In addition, she also engaged all the other areas impacted for their input — which pretty well ameliorated any sabotage from the 'evil' people.
So don't fall down the rabbit hole — Think, Take Action, and Communicate.
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