“Success equals freedom” is a phrase that was thrown around a lot by my managers early in my sales career. One day a colleague said to our Sales Manager in a group meeting, “that’s demotivating for me. If I’m not hitting my targets, I feel like I’m in jail.”
Fortunately, we had a sales manager who took time to understand and respond instead of reacting. What they discovered from my colleague is they weren’t asking for permission to not hit their targets. They felt that “success equals freedom” was being used as a stick that implied if someone wasn’t being “successful” (which was undefined for our team) then they wouldn’t have the same freedoms that their “successful” (again, undefined) colleagues would enjoy.
As leaders our number one task is to ensure clarity between us and our team. We could certainly define was “success” means to us, but that would still be our definition, unowned by the members of our team.
“Focus,” on the other hand is a word with limited scope of definition. We either are or aren’t focused. In the absence of clarity from their leader (us) each member of our team will focus on what they believe is best for them.
Focus, when directed at the right prospects, KPIs and behaviors, increases productivity in our team members and gives us time back in our schedules. Focus acts like a trap, process or system to free up our team members’ mental calories from being burnt on “what should I do (focus on) today” to “how will I achieve (specific area of focus) in the next (period of time).”
The “lead dog sets the pace” is cliché because there’s a truth in that statement. We can support our team members in focusing by us focusing on:
- Changing our language – instead of saying “what are you doing today/tomorrow/this week” we say, “what are you focusing on this…” Language matters. When our team members continually hear us use “focus” their mindset will shift to focus on “focus.”
- Weekly check-in/check outs with each team member – understanding what each team member is focusing on for the week at the beginning of the week supports us in keeping them accountable and provides an early warning that our funnel may be turning into a pencil if they became unfocused during the week.
- Role playing with each team member weekly – to support them in incrementally improving their role specific skills through thin slice practice.
- Running tight sales funnel meetings – A-players appreciate the need for a sales funnel review meeting and they want to share with you the fantastic opportunities they’re bringing, but they don’t want to feel like their time is being wasted.
A common language and process supports us and our team in focusing on real opportunities and keeping our funnel full.
As we reinforce the idea that “focus equals freedom” encourage each team member, who is probably focusing on activities that are at the edge of their comfort zone, to be “better than zero.” For example, if their focus is on proactively asking for introductions, have them start at asking for one, stop, celebrate then grow from there. Focusing too intensely on a comfort zone adjacent skill or activity will quickly lead to burnout and regression.
Until next time… go lead