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Are You Scaring Your People into Mediocrity?
All leaders want to outperform, outsell, and outinnovate the competition. And most teams are fully capable of doing so. The problem: we consistently say and do things that spark unconscious fears and keep our people stuck in their Critter State. This primitive fight, flight, or freeze mode distills all decision making to ...
Are You Scaring Your People into Mediocrity?
All leaders want to outperform, outsell, and outinnovate the competition. And most teams are fully capable of doing so. The problem: we consistently say and do things that spark unconscious fears and keep our people stuck in their Critter State. This primitive fight, flight, or freeze mode distills all decision making to one question: What will keep me safest?
Lying low, sucking up, procrastinating, and doing a good enough job may keep employees breathing, but it doesn’t make for vital organizations. Leaders have to get their people unstuck and fully engaged, replacing their old, limiting mental patterns with new patterns that foster optimal performance.
New York Times bestselling author and applied neuroscience expert Christine Comaford knows what it takes to move people from the Critter State into the Smart State, where they have full access to their own creativity, innovation, higher consciousness, and emotional engagement. When an entire culture maintains that state, it becomes what she calls a SmartTribe. Focused. Accountable. Collaborative. Imbued with the energy and passion to solve problems and do what needs doing, again and again and again.
Comaford brings to this book more than thirty years of company-building experience, combined with her expertise in behavioral modification and organizational development. She has helped hundreds of leaders navigate rapid growth, maximize performance, resolve internal conflicts, and execute turnarounds with the full support of their people.
Now she shares potent yet easy-to-learn neuroscience techniques that will help you do the same. You’ll learn how to move your team forward and reach your next revenue inflection point using the five key Accelerators of the Smart State—focus, clarity, accountability, influence, and sustainability. You’ll get better at anticipating and moving through your own stuck spots and those of your people.
Using her proven system, Comaford’s clients have already created hundreds of millions of dollars in new value. They’ve seen their revenues and profits increase by up to 210% annually; individuals become up to 50% more productive and 100% more accountable; marketing demand generation grow by up to 237%; new products and services created up to 48% faster; and sales close up to 50% faster. They spot changes in their markets more quickly, then pounce on them to create the future they want.
Ultimately, SmartTribes will help you and your team achieve optimal performance and engagement—brilliance—and leave competitors in the dust.
FOR THE SMARTTRIBES TECHNIQUES
“Thank you for all your work in fostering American entrepreneurship.”
—PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON
“Christine is super-high bandwidth.”
“CCA has made a huge difference in the growth of our company, the level of leadership across the team, the sense of ownership in all of our employees. In addition, they are helping me perform at new levels I had not known were possible. The results have been remarkable. Our employees are more engaged and taking greater initiative, our emerging leaders are learning how to be more effective and are mentoring their reports to be the same, and our company is reaping the substantial benefits. We are on track to double our eight-digit revenue in the coming year. Thanks, CCA!”
—MICHAEL VANERDEWYK, CEO, ReliaMax
“Whatever business challenge we’ve come up with, Christine and the CCA team have worked through it before—and often across multiple industries. CCA’s tools and techniques are practical, easy to apply, and super impactful. Whether it’s company-wide accountability and incentive plans, sales process and strategy, marketing measurement and effectiveness, or cultural programs to increase engagement, CCA has tools and past ROI measurements for each investment we consider making. Thanks, CCA—here’s to our next level of growth together!”
—KRISTIN RICHMOND, CEO, Revolution Foods
“From our first conversation, Christine asked me questions no coach or consultant ever had. In the first ninety days we created and communicated a compelling new mission, vision, and set of values—which tangibly increased engagement and alignment within our entire company, launched a vibrant innovation program—which yielded the first results within forty-eight hours—and rolled out new accountability structures. Our leaders are more focused, more clear in their communication and directives, more accountable, and more influential; most importantly, the energy behind the innovative process is palpable. CCA has positively and profoundly positioned us for future growth.”
Vice President/General Manager, Baxter Manufacturing
“CCA has helped us ‘up’ our own high expectations of ourselves. We have streamlined our sales process and provided our team with new tools and techniques, our marketing is more effective and ROI-focused than ever, and our implementation process is tight and run by a cross-functional team. The best part is that I have more energy, focus, and time than ever before. Our new incentive plans, accountability structure, executive team code of conduct, ranking of high- and low-value activities, and other techniques have provided the executive team members with five to ten hours of strategic time per person each week. I knew we had a great team, and I see now that they’re capable of far more than I could’ve dreamed. Thanks, CCA!”
—JASON BEANS, CEO, Rising Medical Solutions
“When I first met Christine I wasn’t sure what the return on investment in coaching could truly be. Now I know what it is: I think bigger working with Christine—we will double (or greater) our revenue this year as a result of my increased ability to create new strategies, expand my vision, see into my blind spots. She helped me create accountability structures and communication rhythms so everyone is aligned and charging forward. In less than 120 days we closed the largest deal in our company’s history using the strategy Christine and I created together. I know what’s going to happen next—we’ll exceed our sales quota. Again. This is now how we roll. Thanks, CCA! Thanks, Christine!”
—SHARON MACDONALD, CEO, Interim Furnishings
“The results have been terrific. In our first six months working together, Christine helped me delegate low-value activities and gain fifteen hours of strategic time per week, optimize our sales pipeline and process, get me out of stress and into peace and increased performance, and streamline both marketing and account management. Christine is personable, creative, extremely intuitive, and understands the steps needed for a company to consistently grow. I highly recommend CCA for any organization that wants to take their company to the next level and build a great team.”
—GAIL TOLSTOI-MILLER, CEO, Consultnetworx
“I’ve been in boardrooms around the world, and I’ve been in the C-suite for many years. I thought I’d learned a great deal about leadership and culture in my roles as COO and CFO at Patagonia, and CEO at Smith & Hawken. Then I met Christine. Our team has come together in a way I couldn’t have imagined prior to coaching with CCA. We now have the right people in the right roles with the right tools on the right initiatives. Our revenue and profitability is rapidly growing; our culture is rich, honest, and thriving; and our team is rising up and performing at unparalleled levels. I always knew we had this in us! Thanks for helping us to help ourselves, CCA.”
—KARYN BARSA, CEO, Coyuchi
“Christine has been very effective in helping me establish a strong meeting and communication rhythm, which has increased our team’s morale and improved our culture. She has provided practical advice on rewards/consequences and increasing our alignment. We have implemented systems to improve our accountability, which has led to our largest pipeline in history and more proactive sales activity across the firm. I am really excited about where we are going and greatly appreciate all that Christine is doing for us.”
—SCOTT EISENBERG, Managing Partner, Amherst Partners, LLC
“Working with CCA has made a huge positive difference for us in sales, marketing, culture, operational efficiency, and leadership overall. Our sales plan is now streamlined, and our reps have compelling new incentives. We’ve put in place a solid ROI structure and can cost-justify our marketing. As a result of our work with CCA I have increased visibility of each department and can help guide our company more effectively. Operational efficiency at our company has reached a new level—and we’re raising the bar. The best part is that our culture is deepening, our team is emotionally engaged, and we know where we’re going and how to get there.”
—ASHA CHAUDHARY, CEO, Jaipur Rugs
“CCA has helped me to become a more effective leader in the eyes of my team members, my colleagues, my strategic partners, and the loved ones in my personal life. Our team loves working with Christine. They are now more aligned, are closely tracking to our goals, and are more emotionally engaged and accountable. We’ve recently had the two best months of our history, and the trend continues upward. We’re on track to significantly increase revenue and profitability in the coming year. CCA has truly ‘moved the needle’ for our business.”
—DIONE SPITERI, CEO, U.S. Appraisal Group
“If you want to gain tremendous clarity on your business strategy and priorities, consider CCA. CCA’s best value comes in changing mindsets and improving strategies in an environment that is ready to rapidly grow. If you’re a CEO or executive on a rapid growth trajectory, and you want to be the best leader possible for your team, with CCA you’ll experience unparalleled levels of insight, growth, and support. We’re highly profitable and are diversifying into new markets, revenues continue to exceed our projections, and our team is deeply coming together. Thanks, CCA!”
—SABETAY PALATCHI, CEO, General Financial
“I’d heard about executive coaching for a while, yet was fairly skeptical regarding the return on investment. Within the first six months my leadership style evolved in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Using the tools I’ve gained from CCA, especially the neuroscience rapport techniques, I now more quickly and deeply connect with our team, clients, and prospects. The inquiry techniques have enabled me to more rapidly create a culture of leadership at all levels, helping our team to take greater ownership faster. Our profit is soaring and our people are performing at record levels. Thanks, CCA, for helping us to grow into who we’d always hoped to be.”
—MARK PAYNE, President, ReliaMax Surety Group
“Before working with CCA we weren’t always working effectively as a team. Within one day of CCA’s training, we had over 33% of our entire company ask for more responsibility and to have the bar raised on their leadership contribution. As a result of our work with CCA, our morale is higher. Our retention is up. We’ve had record levels of revenue for several months and we’re seeing real gains in cross-functional team productivity. Our CEO now calls Talent the Heart and Soul of the organization.”
VP Talent Management and Administration, Rising Medical Solutions
“We’re a high-performance service team in a very complex business with very demanding customers. We’ve been ‘hard at it’ tasked with delivering huge savings and other value contributions to the business year after year. We also reduced our head count significantly during the same time. Christine Comaford spent time with our team talking about how we could use her learnings to reenergize, beat bureaucracy, and put excitement back into the job. We’re a tough group…but it was transformational. She’s the best!”
—GREGG BRANDYBERRY, Former Vice President,
Procurement, Global Systems and Operations, GlaxoSmithKline
“How do you inspire a global sales force to adopt new, high-velocity sales techniques and get beyond ‘no’ even in the face of a down economy? Christine Comaford. That’s how. Thanks for rocking our sales conference! Your proven tactics for sales and life success left everyone inspired, invigorated, and ready to exceed their quotas!”
—TIM MINAHAN, CMO, Ariba, Inc.
“When the Oval Office says ‘jump!,’ the only question is, ‘how high?’ Christine helped us develop and launch our intranet strategy, which was super-aggressive for standard-pace government workers. She got everyone past the fear of change and into the excitement of it—and now Americans have access to far more government data via self-serve websites. Christine’s contribution to creating a government that works better and costs less was critical.”
—GREG WOODS, National Performance Review,
“When my boss said he wanted me to increase our top line sales by 30% fast I was wondering how I’d do it. We’re a huge company, and growth like this doesn’t happen overnight. CCA helped us to use the latest neuroscience techniques to shift the state of our sales team to a more positive and empowered state, to streamline our sales process, to develop rapid rapport with our prospects and partners, to more deeply engage with our sales and service teams. The result is that we now have massive momentum…we have a clear and rapid path to our increased sales, we’re getting more meetings, we’re closing faster, we’re having a lot more fun and less stress. I have new tools to develop my sales team faster and keep them on track. Thanks, CCA, for helping us sell at the level I always knew we could.”
Director of Sales and Marketing, Baxter Manufacturing
“Our members rely on us to provide them with leading-edge speakers and breakthrough ideas. Christine keynoted our annual CEO conference and got a standing ovation. Need I say more? Nope.”
—MIKE SANSOLO, Senior Vice President, Food Marketing Institute
“Our client appreciation event was our best ever—thanks to you, Christine! You reinforced our brand as the financial adviser whose finger is on the pulse of what the high-net-worth individual needs. Our clients and prospects were enthralled, entertained, and eager to take decisive action regarding their financial future.”
—JOY BOATWRIGHT, Senior Financial Advisor,
Merrill Lynch Global Private Client Services
“Christine’s coaching has been instrumental in accelerating growth in my company from 2011 to 2012—triple digit this last year. She pushes, she paws at existing structures, and she insists on performance. Great investment!”
—LISA CALHOUN, CEO, Write2Market;
2012 Female Entrepreneure of the Year Finalist, American Business Awards;
Atlanta Top 23 Entrepreneur, 2012; Past President, EO Atlanta
“Christine delivered a thought-provoking keynote at our recent client and team appreciation event. The audience was entertained, encouraged, and gently challenged to take their careers and lives to the next level. Christine’s pragmatic techniques for reinventing oneself, increasing connection with others, and delivering results were all spot-on. The feedback has been phenomenal!”
—KIM HOPKINS, SR. Vice President, Area Sales Manager,
Business Banking, National City Bank
“Your keynote at our client appreciation event was a smashing success! Thanks for a lively, inspirational, thought-provoking program. I know everyone left with tangible takeaways to both excel in their careers and lead balanced, fulfilling lives. Thanks, Christine!”
—KYLEEN FISHWICK, Integrated Account Manager, Businessweek
“If you need a speaker to engage your most difficult audience—‘Type A,’ dynamic business leaders who are often difficult to engage—you need Christine Comaford. Her ideas and techniques are both specific and actionable when it comes to generating predictable revenue, building passionate teams, and driving profitable growth, and are delivered in a fun and fascinating way. Our clients are still talking about her presentation and consider it our best yet! Put her in front of your toughest audience and you won’t be disappointed!”
—SUNNY NUNAN, President & Founder, Core24
“For the past eighteen years, I have hired hundreds of speakers. Over the years, one speaker’s message runs into the next and the thrill of hearing speakers’ presentations and messages has dulled. Yet when I read Christine Comaford’s book Rules for Renegades, I knew she was different and that I had to hire her and bring her to my YPO client, Global One. Christine speaks from her heart and her personal experience with a lot of value to business owners. She shares real information for a real person facing real challenges in their business and her accountable coaching strategy for executives gets measurably improved results and a positive impact on corporate profits. I highly recommend Christine. My client YPO Global One rated her presentation a perfect 10!!!”
—SAMANTHA BORLAND, Chapter Administrator, YPO Global One Chapter
Disclaimer: The Publisher and the Author make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties, including without limitation warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales or promotional materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for every situation. This work is sold with the understanding that the Publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. If professional assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. Neither the Publisher nor the Author shall be liable for damages arising herefrom. The fact that an organization or website is referred to in this work as a citation and/or a potential source of further information does not mean that the Author or the Publisher endorses the information the organization or website may provide or recommendations it may make. Further, readers should be aware that Internet websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared between when this work was written and when it is read. In order to protect client confidentiality, all case studies in this book are either amalgamations of multiple companies, and/or have had the company’s industry and possibly the gender of the executives mentioned altered. In the unusual event that sources were not cited, please notify the author via www.ChristineComaford.com.
SmartTribes is dynamic, fast-paced, and full of insights that are incredibly valuable to executives who are looking to create positive and lasting cultural change in their organizations.
In this high-octane and insightful book, Christine Comaford gives us a systematic approach to creating what she calls a SmartTribe—a company culture that will outperform, outsell, and outinnovate the competition. Christine’s approach is unique in that it is from the inside out. It helps us change our company’s and culture’s ecosystem and as such generates results for the long term.
Having been recently recognized as the #1 leadership thinker in the world by Thinkers50 (sponsored by the Harvard Business Review), I can say that I know a thing or two about leadership, behavioral change, and executive coaching, and Christine is spot-on in her discussion of emotional triggers! She calls them “emotional hijacks,” those little interrupts throughout your day that remind you of a person, a relationship, a relative, a situation at work. These codes that were written into our psyches when we were very young play out in our adult life. They can keep successful people from being even more successful.
In fact, any human being will tend to repeat behavior that is followed by positive reinforcement. And the more successful we become, the more positive reinforcement we get, the more likely we are to experience the success delusion: I behave this way. I am successful. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way. Not so!
The method for change that Christine puts forth in SmartTribes will help you change your repeated behavior, especially when it no longer serves you, to that which will take you to the highest peaks of performing. Even better, it will help you as a leader assist your people to get the results they would like, too. Christine’s goal is to help you increase your own and your team’s performance, innovation, and engagement. And if you do as she suggests in the pages that follow, it will happen!
So, get ready to launch into a new dimension of performance. With Christine as your guide, you will be amazed with the results!
Life is good.
author of the New York Times best sellers MOJO and
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and #1 leadership thinker
THE ROI OF A SMARTTRIBE
Luke, the CEO of a thriving midwestern transportation company, was barely managing 63% growth per year. He couldn’t hire people fast enough, his team was on the verge of burnout, he had twelve direct reports, and he worked all the time. His greatest concern was that he’d have a heart attack or lose his marriage before he reached the goal line: selling the company for $500 million.
Luke approached me after I spoke at a joint Stanford-MIT event where I outlined the process for optimizing teams in rapid growth and turnaround scenarios. After a brief interview the diagnosis was clear: he needed a SmartTribe. We applied the techniques in this book to his business and here’s what happened: Luke maintained his growth pace; further cultivated the leadership team to help balance his workload; streamlined the executive team’s focus, influence, and clarity; and ended the burnout. Today his company is worth $425 million. Next year he’ll be ready to sell it for $500 million. His goal is now within reach, his team is happy and energized, and his marriage has never been better.
When leaders call me, they want three things from their teams (and often themselves): increased performance, increased innovation, and increased emotional engagement. They’re heading toward the next level of revenue, and what worked in the past just isn’t working anymore.
They aren’t getting the results they want.
What you need isn’t more tactical advice. What you need is a systematic approach that changes your company culture from the inside out and generates results all on its own. In this book, I’m going to teach you how to create a SmartTribe, a company culture that will consistently outperform, outsell, and outinnovate your competition.
Why “smart”? Because the proactive, innovative part of the brain is consistently in the driver’s seat. In this state, we’re able to access all of our internal resources and respond from choice instead of reacting impulsively from fear. We’re able to envision an exciting future and feel drawn and compelled by it, as we eagerly anticipate the exciting rewards it holds.
Why “tribe”? There’s a reason tribe has become the new buzzword; the latest neuroscience research shows that our very sense of survival depends upon a sense of belonging. When that sense of belonging isn’t there, even in the workplace, fear kicks in. And our primal survival “fight/flight/freeze” brain takes the driver’s seat and kicks our innovative brain to the curb. A tribe is all about collaboration, connection, shared goals, and emotional engagement. Our feeling of tribe is fostered by our company’s culture, which we’ll optimize in the coming chapters. And even if you’re working alone, you have extended team members—whether they are contractors, service providers, or friendly sounding boards. Very few projects can be completed by one person working in a vacuum.
Yet as leaders we often unintentionally send our teams into the part of their brains where optimal performance is tremendously compromised. This can happen when a company
• Is navigating rapid growth where internal priorities are frequently shifting and the team is challenged to quickly adapt and stretch
• Has unclear directives
• Has inconsistent accountability structures and communication rhythms
• Has a culture where the blind spots and challenging behaviors of the leaders are not being addressed
• Has unresolved conflict and/or low alignment among the leadership of the company
• Is changing its business model or executing a complete company turnaround
All of the above are common in growth scenarios. And all of the above can put our teams into fight/flight/freeze, or what in this book we’ll call the Critter State, without access to our greatest resources.
In contrast, the Smart State is where we have full access to creativity, problem solving, innovation, higher consciousness, and emotional engagement. We all want our companies to grow, and change is always a part of growth. So we all need to learn techniques to avoid sending our teams into their Critter State and to help them shift into—and stay in—their Smart State. If your entire culture is consistently operating in its Smart State, then you’ve got a SmartTribe. This is when our team becomes a true tribe.
So what does this SmartTribe culture look like? Even in the face of change and growth, SmartTribes are focused and communicate clearly and directly. They are unusually accountable to their promises and powerfully influential. And they have the energy and enthusiasm to do what needs to be done—consistently.
If you don’t have a SmartTribe and want one, or you want to make your SmartTribe even smarter, this book will show you how you got where you are, how to get clear on where you want to go, and how to use potent neuroscience techniques to get there. These techniques are easy to learn, practical to use, and will ensure you and your team move forward, reach the next revenue inflection point, and do so with energy, engagement, and innovation.
They’ll also give you the power to leave your competitors in the dust. Sound intriguing?
Here are some results from the SmartTribes we’ve helped create. Note that the ranges can be quite wide, based on the company size and the length of time the team has been operating as a SmartTribe.
• Sales closed up to 50% faster and close rate up by 44%+
• Revenues and profits increased up to 201% annually%
• Marketing demand generation increased up to 237%
• Individuals are up to 50% more productive and emotional engagement, loyalty, accountability increased up to 100%
• New products and services developed up to 48% faster.
• Marketing messages are up to 301% more effective.
Here are a few more results from individual team members in a SmartTribe:
• 97% tangibly contributed to increasing key executive strategic/high-value time by five to fifteen hours per week.
• 63% received a promotion to a role with increased responsibility and management of others within six months of applying our techniques via coaching and training.
• 100% increased their ability to significantly influence others and outcomes.
• 86% reported getting more done in less time due to the accountability techniques they learned.
• 100% reported the ability to apply our communication techniques and thinking styles both at home and at work, resulting in an increase in personal fulfillment.
Here’s the bigger picture, thanks to Harvard Business School’s eleven-year study on the impact of performance-enhancing cultures:
TABLE 0-1. IMPACT OF PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING CULTURES
Source: James Heskett and John Kotter, Corporate Culture and Performance (Free Press, 1992), validated by clients of Christine Comaford Associates, LLC.1
This groundbreaking research in 1992 by Harvard Business School professor James Heskett detailed the corporate cultures of two hundred companies and how each company’s culture affected its long-term economic performance. Heskett and John Kotter published a book, Corporate Culture and Performance, that explained the study and demonstrated the value of investing in culture. A lot has happened since this data was released; there have been countless discoveries in applying neuroscience techniques to increase leadership, emotional engagement, and performance even more profoundly. The key is having the tools and techniques to replicate the above results in your own culture. Hence this book.
Having a SmartTribe becomes essential if you want to:
• Navigate rapid growth where internal priorities are frequently shifting and the team is challenged to quickly adapt and stretch
• Increase accountability, communication, and execution among team members, resulting in profound revenue, profit, and market position growth
• Resolve conflict or improve alignment of business partners, teams, and board members
• Improve the leadership and communication skills of C- and VP-level executives by helping them overcome their blind spots and challenging behaviors, and expand their vision
• Execute a new business model or complete company turnaround with executive and cultural support
My combination of more than thirty years of operational experience plus more than thirty-five years of expertise in behavioral modification, human potential, and organizational change is the secret behind creating SmartTribes.
And now the secret is yours.
How to Get the Most from This Book
See this book as your field guide. I’m your scout. I have run ahead of you and I’m here waiting, machete in hand, to show you the most efficient and effective path. Did you see the movie The King’s Speech? If so, think of me as Lionel, the speech therapist. Like Lionel, I am neither a medical doctor nor a neuroscientist. I’m a business builder in the trenches who applies a wide variety of techniques in order to generate meaningful real-world results.
Read the book from start to finish, or drill down on the chapters as you need them. Do the Assess, Act, and ROI exercises at the end of each chapter, apply the Resources, and you’ll be amazed by your results. Try the templates and additional materials we’ve provided in the appendix to jump-start your SmartTribe. And come back to the book when you’re stuck, stressed, or not getting the results you want. You can use it as a helpful refresher and reminder of some techniques you may not have used yet.
We all have stuck spots—those blind spots where we ache to move forward but somehow can’t. What if you could see ahead, and either move through potential stuck spots or navigate around them? What if you could see into the stuck spots of your key team members and help them through or around these treacherous time and energy wasters? With this level of vision, you could also see where the market is going, and get there first—or at least arrive better prepared than your competition. That’s one reason you’re reading this book: to see the present more clearly and to intentionally create the future you want.
In this book, you’ll get the tools to improve your vision, create a culture where you and your team can fully access your best resources, and improve performance constantly and naturally as your company grows. You’ll get the tools to get and stay Smart.
Ready? Let’s become brilliant together.
HOW GREAT COMPANIES GET STUCK
There’s a war for talent out there. In the 2012 Pricewaterhouse-Coopers CEO Survey,1 the consulting firm found that having (or not having) the right talent in place can impact innovation, market opportunities, the ability to deliver on strategic initiatives, growth, and quality of output. Talent was the number one concern for CEOs. Period. Look at how CEOs responded when asked “How have talent constraints impacted your company’s growth and profitability over the past twelve months?” The results were telling; talent had a huge impact on their performance.
But there’s only so much top talent out there, and your energy should not be—and cannot be—spent solely on replacing or recruiting talent. At the end of the day, you’ve got to maximize the talent that you have.
Leaders often assume their company’s growth depends on finding and fixing problems. They want their salespeople to sell more, their engineers to innovate faster and with greater ingenuity, their client-care people to better service accounts, and on and on. And in the rare cases where increasing revenue isn’t the priority, increasing profit is.
Hey, who wouldn’t want to solve all these problems? Yet these are not the real problems. They are merely symptoms of underlying structural problems, indications of people getting stuck in their Critter State—in fight, flight, or freeze. And leaders often put their teams exactly there, albeit unintentionally.
When companies grow, they come to certain places where the things that used to work, the things that created a level of success, don’t work anymore. We call these inflection points. And these crucial points are tied to revenue and company growth.
Are You Approaching an Inflection Point?
Here’s the trouble with inflection points: at each one you have a whole new company. At each inflection point, a company must reinvent itself in order to reach it and move through it. If a company doesn’t adapt, it will become stuck and ultimately decline into a parabolic upside-down curve, rather than an undulation back into growth mode. (See figure 1-1.)
Figure 1-1. What Happens at Revenue Inflection Points
How do you navigate between inflection points? How do you maintain and increase your momentum to avoid organizational stuck spots—the spots of stasis usually found between inflection points where the company stops growing and swirls around at approximately the same level of annual revenue before sliding precipitously backward? How do you get into the Smart State—the safe, secure, intelligent state of teamwork that will get you to the next inflection point, when the game reaches the next level?
To reach that next inflection point, you will need to intentionally map out a plan to get there, and then execute that plan with determination. Either you keep doing what you’re doing, barely maintaining the same revenue year after year, or you slide back down to the previous inflection point, or you move forward with tremendous intentionality. The world is full of “living dead” companies that reached an inflection point and couldn’t grow to the next one. You’re either moving forward or moving back. Stasis is not sustainable.
Figure 1-2. Some Common Revenue Inflection Points
In case you’re about to dive into your Critter State, let me throw you a line. One thing that’s reassuring about inflection points is that they are relatively predictable; we consistently see companies getting stuck at specific revenue levels. That’s the good news; you’ll be able to see that next inflection point in your future and know what you need to focus on: shifts in people (and culture), money (sales and financing), and business model (which includes marketing).
Figure 1-3a. How to Navigate Common Revenue Inflection Points
Cultural/Leadership/Execution Assessments, annual 360s across all leadership levels, optimize acquisition integration, ensure consistent culture across subsidiaries, enhance succession planning and executive cultivation
An excellent book about how to be a good leader and build a strong team.
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Posted August 22, 2013
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