As I speak to many different groups throughout the year, one common trend I see is that many owners of businesses, managers of department and even employees themselves have a way of hiding from what is going on around them.
There is an epidemic of finger pointing, of excuse making, of blame when results are discussed. So where do you fit in? Do you take responsibility? Do you believe that things happen because of you or things happen to you?
Great leaders do not deal in emotions. They deal in terms of actions when discussing getting results. If we did not get the results we expected, what HAPPENED in terms of execution? That is the correct answer. They do not get caught up in excuses or “why”, they deal with the “what” and “how” first.
I had a manager ask me to give him feedback on his situation. He said that his sales team was not hitting their numbers, and he was frustrated and thought he had done everything he could to be successful. My first question to him was the following.
“Tell me about your team”.
He began to describe each member of the team. He first talked about how a low performer just can’t seem to track everything properly in their CRM. “He is a nice guy, a little older and he just gets frustrated with the CRM”. The next person he described to me as someone you can’t just talk numbers to. “It makes them nervous”. The last person they described was someone who got very defensive about you questioning them. “They make me feel like I should just trust what they do and say”.
I pointed out to the manager that he had built in excuses for each person. He was focused on emotional types of information versus facts. That kept him from holding his team accountable for performance. Had he dug into what each was doing day in day out versus coloring it with personality traits?
I then asked him to put himself in this situation. What if he was brought in today to improve the results of this team? He does not know anyone, just has results that they are underperforming. What would he do to fix the team?
He began to list things he would do:
- First, look at their customer database or CRM to see what calls or emails that were being made by his team.
- Check travel records to see how often they were meeting their clients
- Look at trends of when they were successful and what clients they were targeting
- Look at clients who were leaving and see if exit interviews were being done.
- Having one on one meetings with the team to outline specific goals
The list went on for a few more items when I stopped him and asked if he had done any of these things recently. He said he had not. His response to my inquiring why not was typical of managers in this situation:
“Because I know my team and how they work. I just keep focusing on the numbers and telling them we need to improve. They tell me they are working on it and have things in the pipeline.”
There in lies the fault of this manager. Any time you are focused on results without focusing on the things the team is doing to create the results, good or bad, you cannot be distracted by someone’s previous behavior or excuses instead of what was right in front of you.
If you find yourself in this situation and frustration is building up each day, follow this simple process. Take a step back and look at it as if it was the first time you saw the issue and were tasked to fix it. What would be on your list of things to do? Check off the items that you have already finished but my guess is, there are a few unchecked items you need to deal with.
Stopping to look at a situation as if it is brand new to you is a very simple tool for any manager or owner when they feel they are hitting a wall of progress.