This got me thinking about our obsession with results. Then it got me thinking about sports. In particular, it got me thinking about those times when you’re playing sports and you find that you can’t lose, when everything just seems to flow. But then there are those other times. You know the ones, where your game starts going downhill. Then you get frustrated and resolve to just focus and do better, but all that seems to happen is you get worse and worse.
This is the danger in being too focused on the result or the objective. In sports, when we are in love with the game, practice comes as pleasure and we seem to do well by seamlessly integrating all the different requirements being demanded of our brains and bodies. When we do poorly though, when we get frustrated, practice becomes a chore. Then we start to over-analyze every little body movement. What came naturally before is broken down into component pieces and we can’t seem to connect them to achieve success.
The same happens in business. When we are working at jobs we love towards a purpose we believe in, everything seems to come naturally and the results take care of themselves. However, when things aren’t going well, we become obsessed with the result and it’s all we talk about. We break down every procedure and action to determine areas for improvement, but, suddenly, we lose sight of the whole. Performance continues to decline and we respond by introducing tighter and tighter controls.
What we really need to do is realign around our purpose. We need to find our love of the game again and help our teams find it as well. Instead of focusing on the number of calls or the length of interactions or the number of units produced in X amount of time, we remind our teams that the real goal is providing great customer service or releasing a great product. Once we do that, we and our teams will take the actions necessary to deliver. We’ll re-achieve our flow.
Ask this question to most managers and they’ll respond, “To make a profit”. If that’s your answer, then you might as well throw all your vision statements, mission statements, and principles out the window.
The real purpose of a business, any business, is to create value. It’s to create something where there was nothing before. It’s to do something better than what’s already out there. When you create value, you better people’s lives and that’s something worth starting a business for.
I remember one of the most delightful surprises I received at the office was a handwritten birthday card from a very high level manager I associated with rarely. It was waiting on my desk before I arrived in the office that day. Such a simple gesture, but one that really showed a lot of warmth. It certainly brightened my day.
Since then, I always put all employee birthdays into my calendar and make sure to wish them a happy birthday. This is also a great practice on days special to your employees like Veteran’s Day, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day.
It’s the little things and the personal touches that help build a stronger connection with those you work with outside of just the jobs at hand.
Years ago, I worked for a telemarketing company that specialized in raising donations for police organizations. Most of us would raise about 1000 dollar’s worth of pledges on a normal day. But there was this one guy that would pull in 3000 or more every single day. Management loved him because he made the numbers look great. Here’s the thing though – the guy was a hard-core alcoholic. He would usually come in drunk and continue to drink throughout his shift. Many nights he would have to be sent home early because he was no longer intelligible on the phone. Even worse, the return rate for pledges that were sent out to people he talked to was less than 10% (normal return rates were between 30-50%). The reason was that he usually guilted people into pledging and, once they got off the phone with him, they felt so bad about the call that they decided not to send the pledge in after all. Yet, management kept him around because the numbers looked good on paper at the end of the day. You can guess what message this sent to the team.
Well hopefully not as bad as the example above, letting the star performers get away with cutting corners is a common occurrence in today’s work place. This kind of blatant favoritism and lack of accountability absolutely kills morale and sends a number of terrible messages, not least of which is that, “as long as you bring in the numbers, it doesn’t matter what you do.” This generally creates a culture where every employee is out for themselves, gaming is rampant, and the only loyalty an employee shows is to their next paycheck.
High performing teams require high accountability from everyone. The feelings of unfairness that arise when different employees are held to different standards kills far more productivity than the extra (often dubious) results driven by one star performer. Great leaders know that it’s not what results you get, but how you get those results. The how is what builds customer & employee loyalty and delivers consistent, long-term results for a sustainable business. That’s on top of the fact that it’s simply the right thing to do. Teams respect leaders who hold everyone to the same standard and don’t see the numbers as more valuable than the team.
Today I met with a customer who promised that he would sign up for our program if we were willing to bend some rules and provide some extra services to better fit his needs. I said no. Why? Because our program speaks for itself. I am so confident in what we offer that if a customer is choosing not to buy because of some non-essential details or because they want special privileges, then they aren’t the right customer for us.
Whatever product or service you offer needs to be what blows the customer away. If you need to gain customers by offering extras or giving in to demands for special privileges, then your focus needs to be on creating a better product or service or maybe showcasing it better.
The pressure is always there for more sales, for more profit, for more growth. However, it’s not about making the sale, it’s about making the right sales. If I sold to a customer who was only interested in what special privileges they could get rather than our program, then they weren’t interested to begin with. They would most likely be an unhappy customer, one constantly demanding more or extra, because they had never been interested in what we had to offer in the first place.
It’s also not worth compromising the integrity of yourself and your organization for just one sale. You can always make promises you can’t deliver on, but this will only destroy your reputation in the eyes of the customer when you don’t deliver. You can also make promises you shouldn’t deliver, but can probably get away with. This sets a terrible standard where customers learn that everyone is receiving something different for the same price. It also tells the customer that you don’t have confidence in your product. If you’re willing to give extras and break policies to close a sale, then you don’t really believe in what you’re providing. It’s time to either provide something better or find a position with a different organization whose product and service you do believe in.
Making the right sale means making the sale that keeps your integrity and that of your organization’s intact. It means seeking out customers who truly value and desire what you have to offer that will remain loyal, provide repeat business, and spread positive word of mouth about your organization to others. It means sometimes letting go of a short-term sale to ensure the long-term health of your business. At the end of the day, your employees will be proud of what they are offering and your customers will respect you for what you provide and the integrity with which you provide it. The next time you are under lots of pressure from a customer or from your boss, think to yourself not just do we need this sale, but, is this the right sale for us.