Toddlers, with shotguns

Perhaps it’s age, or perhaps a genuine change in corporate behaviour, but where did all the grown-ups go?

The more you look around in today’s corporate management structures, the more it appears we’ve unleashed a bunch of toddlers with shotguns. Primed to have maximum impact on the business, armed to the teeth with great ideas, filled with enthusiasm, but sadly, all self-serving. No more strategic alignment, commitment to customer, sense of moral responsibility or even a touch of fear of consequence.

Today it seems to be about randomness and inconsistency to build, develop and shape the corporate culture. Less about building people up, coaching and mentoring, more about surprising them with profound actions or even a bit of fear.

Today corporate culture seems to be more about cringing, keeping your head down and not drawing attention to yourself… but then again, with those toddlers with shotguns around, who’d blame you..?


Just tell the customer…

Bizarrely, there are staff that still seem to think customers care about nonsensical internal processes. That the customer should be grateful that we are to entertain their business.

Just tell the customer… That’s not how we do it, or perhaps, that’s not when we do it.

It may be something as simple as a variation to a contract, a slight change in a required solution or even a customer’s timeline, that unleashes the wrath of the back office. It is at this point that we are told just how important a process/person actually is and more likely this real pearl of wisdom… this is how you should manage the customer through this sale (really?)

In most businesses we have these people, the first to point out how Sales and Marketing just don’t perform or how the customer just doesn’t get it, yet are the first to go out of their way to scupper any new business opportunity before its even begun. Its almost as though each new customer is really just another load of hard work, best dealt with in the adversarial way their inconvenience deserves.

It is in these businesses too, that we see a truly remarkable Sales behaviour come about. The one where after hitting their heads on internal brick walls repeatedly, the seasoned sales pros, hightail it out of there…

Oddly, this is usually followed by a similar customer behaviour, but does the back office ever actually understand this?

You’re a micro, micro man…

Micro, Micro Man,
I’ve got to be, a Micro Man
Micro, Micro Man,
I’ve got to be a Micro

Micro is the new Macho. In the month of Movember, how cool would it be to have a Micro Manager with a thick Macho moustache!

Awesome. Someone to tell me when to breathe. When to read each email. How to respond. My very own Micro Man will disempower me, relieving me of the terrible burden of decision making. Liberating me. I would no longer need to think, because Micro Man does all the thinking for me.

The best thing about having my own Micro Man is that if I were to do something well, the credit would go to him, standing beside me all the way. If I screw something up, obviously that’s because I’m too stupid to follow the instructions given to me.

The more Micro Men we have in the world, the more mindless idiots we can employ. By giving them a home, we will have no room for those troublesome, free thinking innovative types. With a Micro Man, I can leave most of my intellect and energy at home. It’s simply not needed in the office anymore. I would be so task focussed, without the distraction of solving problems, innovating, or doing anything other than what Micro Man tells me. Every day I would live to bring glory to Micro Man, carrying out his instructions with discipline and diligence.

Micro Man. The key to predictability in the office, with everyone following his instructions. Suffocate innovation, diversity and free thinking. Get yourself a Micro Man today.

Entitlement complex

entitlement complex noun A state of thinking you deserve something, just because you’re you

It’s amazing how regularly this condition can be observed in business. Commonly observed in the narcissistic manager, entitlement complex is a frequent ingredient in failure.

“I deserve to be promoted, I’ve been here the longest.”

“We should have got that sale, we’ve been supplying XYZ Co for over 10 years”

“We’re pretty smart, we know our operation. We should be able to save 10% on our costs.”

Special, Talented You
Everyone knows you’re special, you have talent. You could do anything you put your mind to. Unfortunately entitlement complex leaves you thinking that you deserve success. Because you’re smart. Because you’re experienced. Attractive. Gifted. Surrounded by good people. Representing a good brand. Bred from good stock.

Where does success come from?
Success comes from having a vision, constructing a credible plan to achieve your vision, and then executing. Not wiggling your nose in a bewitching way. Not believing you’re good, but actually doing. Sales occur when you understand your customer’s needs, and deliver a proposal which addresses them. Cost reduction comes from identifying specific areas of your operation, and working on them to remove cost. Successful product development occurs when you understand what the market wants, and build something to address those desires. You get promoted because you develop skills desirable to your employer.

If you find yourself thinking you deserve something, just because you’re you, you’ve probably already lost. Go back to basics, and work out from first principles how you got where you are today. Chances are you earned it!

When politics trumps purpose

As bizarre as that sounds, it does… (most of the time)

It wasn’t that long ago that a business and it’s collective shared in a common purpose – to make the business great at what it does best. Sadly, since then it seems that most of the grownups have left the room and left the business’ fate to the school-yard bullies and inconsequential, petty politics.

So many businesses nowadays are so racked with petty internal power struggles, distractions, veiled threats, intimation and all the inefficiencies that come from that, that the actual business’s reason-to-be seems long forgotten. The business seems no longer able to do what it is good at… instead it has become a confusion of¬†petty politics.

It does not take much imagination to predict where a business following this path will find themselves in just a few years, yet the politic internal seems not to see this, nor frankly to care. Surely this should be called out as corporate delinquency, or are we too politically correct (or just too scared) now to point this out?

Whatever happened to a sense of corporate responsibility, duty of care to the company and it’s staff? To actually inspiring and leading the business to once again be great, to be competitive and to have a clear purpose that inspires and excites?

When will the adults come back and take control?

An allegory of bees…

Spring time can mean swarming bees. A wandering queen with an army of loyal workers looking for somewhere to set up shop. A safe place? A secure place? Close to nectar, a productive place? Makes you wonder about the power of choices in business.

The choice?

With every decision, business leaders face the choice to build, or the choice to tear down. A decision to build takes the business forward, creating the best environment for
workers to make honey. Changing direction, excising dead parts of the hive, or giving constructive feedback to a worker. These all take the business forward.

A decision made without Vision always takes the business backwards. Random cutting in the face of market challenges tears the business down. Typically the leader without vision will cut the parts of the business he/she least understands, and defend the comfortable home patch. The Sales guy doubles down on front end resources, the ops guys invests in productivity improvement, the Finance leader needs more Analysts. The narcissistic leader invests in his own future.

Just like the Queen Bee, the true leader has the long term interest of the hive at heart, and will direct the workers accordingly.

What many Leaders fail to realize is how often they are presented with these decisions. With every staff interaction, there is opportunity to build, or to tear down, whether those interactions are in formal reviews, chance encounters by the water cooler, or via written communiques. With every strategy decision, the leader either builds or breaks down. With every funding decision, the business goes forward or backward. Indecision, or the choice not to act will inevitably be a decision to break down.

What breaks a business down?

Poor strategy. Failure to address external market conditions. Not realizing your customers have moved on,and you are now failing to delight them. Bad culture within your organization. Cynicism within your workforce.

When faced with the choice, choose to build, not tear down. Your people, your processes, your products, your culture, your technology base. Take the business forward, don’t kill it.

Counting chickens

Anyone that has anything to do with Sales Management has probably been there… attempting to provide the business with a reasonable forecast, only to have “the business” strong-arm Sales into over-committing, because that’s what they need…

This begs the question, “why would a seasoned sales manager allow this to happen?”

The answer though, is not quite so simple and is dependent on a few factors, the most significant being an immature business. By business, I mean the finance team that are going to try interpret these forecasts to upward revenue reporting and capacity planning, often with very little understanding of the stages of a sales-cycle or more likely, complete contempt.

Contempt for Sales

Where does this contempt for sales originate? Well, probably from the many earlier forecasting cycles that have resulted in their reporting being overly optimistic or wildly wrong! They told Sales what they needed… Sales agreed it was possible… they reported and banked on it… someone got slapped ‘cos it’s all wrong. They don’t trust Sales much, anymore.

This problem lies in vicious cycle created by the finance team pressuring the Sales team into upgrading their forecasts – often optimistically spinning it up – to tell them what they want to hear. Then not having the experience or understanding enough to question and qualify what is being given to them to allow for some basic contingency coverage to be included in their own reporting.

Who started it?

Nobody in particular. What this illustrates is a symptom all to common in businesses today, one coming from a culture of fear, distrust, lack of ownership and accountability and most of all, respect. Respect for people’s specific experience in their roles and their role’s accountability. You start second guessing your professionals in their jobs, you not only foster a culture of dis-empowerment, you set yourself and everyone around you up for a darn hard slap.

Who’s the victim?

Yes, it is a trick question, because everyone involved in the business will feel the effects of this roller-coaster ride, but there are some that will feel it far more personally.

Finance will feel the effect of their lack of consistency and inaccurate reporting they provide to their business, making it impossible for the business to plan its future. There will be plenty of stuff hitting a fan here and much of that is going to go downhill.

Sales management look like fools when they consistently overestimate their position and demonstrate their inability to assert control and reason on their part of the business. For their continual dis-empowerment and distrust of their staff, some of that fan hitting stuff will land quite hard here, but it’ll still be moving downhill.

At the bottom of the hill, they may have forecast accurately, for the stage the deal was at, the probability of closure and even highlighted the risks and erred on the side of caution…

But, for the Salesperson, that means nothing. It was their fault that that business wasn’t all won, their fault that their manager looks like a idiot and their fault that the business is managed erratically.

In the sales world, a business that starts counting chickens before they hatch only drives sandbagging behaviour, suspicion and discontent – and an ever-churning sales force…