I’ve been obsessed with failure recently. More specifically, I’ve been pestering close friends and mentors with the question: “If we know what we should be doing, if we know how to do it, if we know how important it is to our results, why do we consistently fail to do those things?”
Unless you are brand new to sales, your name is Rip van Winkle, or you are absolutely clueless, all of us know what we should be doing. We know we have to:
- Engage in a disciplined selling process, aligned with our customers’ buying process.
- Keep a full, high integrity pipeline
- Create value for our customer in every interaction
- Be customer focus.
- Be disciplined in our use of time, avoiding distractions, blocking time.
- Grow our share of account/territory
- Constantly learn and improve
- Leap over tall buildings…. (Oops)
As managers we know we have to:
- Hire, onboard, develop, retain the very best talent.
- Maximize the performance of each person on our team.
- Coach and develop each person on the team.
- Assure our team is executing our corporate priorities.
- Remove barriers and get the support our people need.
- Leap over taller buildings…..
Every experienced sales professional I know can describe, to varying degrees, the things we know we must do to drive success.
Most of us even know how to do those things. We’ve been through endless training programs, we go to conferences, we read books and blogs. While there are many different ways of doing these things, and there are endless discussions about which method is better, virtually everyone I know, has at least some level of knowledge about how to do these things.
We invest billions in tools, systems, programs, content, to help us do those things better. We have playbooks, templates, mobile tools, content, success stories, references, tutorials.
But at the end of the day, we consistently fail to do the things we know we must do and how to do.
We know it’s about execution, but what keeps us from executing, particularly when we know how? Somehow, I think all of us treat this far too lightly.
The people I work with, for the most part, are extremely successful, wickedly smart, well intended. Yet they struggle with this very issue every day. One thinks, “How can people who are so successful and so smart, fail so miserably?”
It is not a trivial issue, it’s at the core of everything we do, we cannot afford to treat it lightly or prescribe trivial solutions/success stories to something that is very complex. (Unfortunately, too many experts/guru’s treat this far too trivially.)
Frankly, I’m struggling with the answers to this issue–it is the issue that stands before all of us.
Certainly, it’s about change and managing change. But I think there is something deeper, so we can’t treat this as “just a change management issue.”
I believe, at the core of this issue, there is a complex interplay between commitment and fear. Both organizationally and personally. We cannot address these issues logically, or with a structured problem solving approach.
Individually, we know how difficult it is to change our own personal habits–exercise, eat healthy, lose weight, stop smoking, work-life balance, ……
I do think some of the solutions can be found in the science of habit formation. For those of you interested, I suggest you start studying this, I know I am.
One learns you can’t change habits by yourself, when you study, you hear of things like “accountability partners.” Which brings us to how do we do this organizationally.
The wonderful thing about addressing these issues organizationally is that we have a built in “accountability ecosystem” that, should we choose to, we can leverage to drive organizational performance. Unfortunately, too often, we fail to recognize this in more than lip service.
I believe much of Peter Senge’s work helps us understand and address these issues, organizationally. It really starts with a leadership team. their commitment and building learning organizations. His principles:
- Personal mastery
- Building a shared vision (underlying this, I think are having a “purpose,” and a culture)
- Team learning
- Mental models
- Systems thinking (which recognizes simplistic thinking does not work)
It is hard work, there are no shortcuts. It is about commitment and developing that shared commitment in the organization. It is about having the courage to recognize and confront our individual and shared fears. It is recognizing there are no easy answers-there may be no answers and we have to discover them for ourselves. It is rejecting “miracle cures,” and the charlatans claiming to have them.
I’m obsessed by this challenge and will be sharing more ideas. But more importantly, I’d love to start a conversation to hear your views.