Welcome our guest thought leader: Tim Ohai is a leading growth consultant. He is the Founder and Principal of Kupu Solutions, and previously served as Global Director of Sales Effectiveness for Workday and other sales enablement roles at Shell Oil and Pennzoil. Connect with him and follow his wisdom here. And catch his latest podcast season of How to NOT Execute Your Strategy (and what to do about it) for more.
Napoleon Hill famously said, “Plan your work and work your plan.”
To be fair, the concept is likely older than Mr. Hill. It is considered timeless advice for the power of hard work and extra effort.
However, the problem with executing our revenue strategy (as we covered in the last article) is not the plan. The real problem is the many obstacles that get in the way of making great decisions.
Therefore, when execution is bogging down in real-time, every leader needs to start there — at the obstacles to decision-making.
Assuming the first obstacle to great decision-making (a lack of clarity) has been properly addressed, the second obstacle to focus on is a lack of empowerment.
Think about it. We can make everything abundantly clear. Everyone can nod “yes” when asked if they understand the strategy, plus their prioritized goals and roles to achieve it. There can even be zero questions when we ask for them.
But then the strategy STILL struggles to execute.
Adoption from the salesforce stalls. Support from key stakeholders shuts down. Revenue numbers start being missed.
What is happening? Is this a case of people not working hard enough to execute the plan? Most likely, the answer is no — even though it is one of the most common answers I hear from leaders who aren’t seeing the strategy being executed well enough. That is when I press in to explore the lack of empowerment.
“Has everyone been given exactly what they need to be successful? More specifically, have they been given the people they need, the time they need, the energy they need and the resources they need?”
This is when it can get a little uncomfortable, because — more often than not — the leader has only provided a plan with time and target goals fully fleshed out.
EMPOWERMENT IS ABOUT MUCH MORE THAN PROVIDING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
To execute the strategy, everyone needs to be empowered with the following:
- People: This means we have enough of the right people with the right skills. Launching a strategy without being fully staffed is foolish. Of equal importance, launching a strategy without being fully skilled is also foolish.
- Time: This means we have enough time to not only get things done but to turn progress into momentum. Strategic plans that end with a launch date — and no timeline for reinforcement / adjustment / adoption — are doomed to unwanted chaos as well.
- Energy: This means we have enough mental and emotional capacity to make good decisions and execute — that we are not wrestling with confusion, fatigue, resistance and such. Energy also includes the full emotional support of leadership for the players on the field. Leaders must be empathetic to the players, not critical of them.
- Resources: This means we have the right budget, equipment / technology and even the physical space to get the job done. When strategic plans assume the initial resource estimates are 100% correct (and do not keep something extra in reserve for use later to drive reinforcement / adjustment / adoption), success is guaranteed to be limited.
Now, if we have provided both clarity and empowerment and execution is still stuck in a slog, we can tackle the third obstacle to executing our revenue strategy: engagement.
In the simplest of terms, engagement describes the state where an organization’s people buy into / believe that what they are doing is good for the organization AND good for them personally. An engaged workforce hums with self-motivation.
If engagement is missing — even if we have injected clarity and empowerment — we get apathy. Nothing really matters. And while there may be a flurry of action on the surface (meetings, emails, projects, etc.), none of it actually goes anywhere because the decisions being made are not tapping into the full capacity of the players making decisions. And the lack of engagement ruins execution.
DON’T LET DE-MOVATION KEEP YOUR TEAM FROM BEING ENGAGED
Let’s assume for a moment that people are generally motivated to do meaningful work. This desire can become blocked by de-motivation — a state where internal motivation is buried beneath layers of restriction. The most common restrictions I see are:
- Isolation: A sense (real or imagined) of being separated from all support
- Information overload: Becoming overwhelmed by too much communication and data
- Task difficulty: Struggling to do something that is currently beyond personal ability
- Unrealistic expectations: Being held accountable to do something that cannot be achieved realistically
As leaders, we cannot motivate our players. Motivation comes from within. However, we can seek and address the factors that are de-motivating our players — especially when we might be the actual cause of the factor(s) involved.
This is not to say that it is easy work. Engagement is a complex and highly organic concept. There are many factors that generate it. But when we put our efforts into minimizing (and even eliminating) de-motivation, we create an environment where motivation can flourish and engagement can surge.
TAKE THE RIGHT STEPS TO SUCCESSFULLY EXECUTE YOUR REVENUE STRATEGY
Please allow me to offer one further piece of advice: Go in order.
If the revenue strategy is struggling to execute …
- Start with creating clarity. Make sure that goals and roles are clear, aligned, and prioritized.
- Then, address empowerment. Everyone should have the people, time, energy and resources they need to fully execute — not just launch — the plan.
- If execution is still struggling after clarity and empowerment have been assured, dig into engagement. Seek and address de-motivation to release the team’s full capacity.
The good news is that execution can be corrected using these principles. The even better news is that we can embed these principles into our execution from the very beginning.