Swimming against the current
November 19, 2021
How to achieve change amidst a sea of gaps
Right, let’s start with a situation. You’re in Sales, and the Executive Team says that we need to shift our sales from product, feature, function-based selling to trust-based, value-oriented solution selling that contributes towards business outcomes, with our key audience being the C-suite. The Sales team is given some training about what solution selling is and how to do it, and off you go!
What lies beneath this seemingly straightforward shift of approach are lots of moving parts that need to align for the team to be successful.
Do we ALL see the say-do gaps?
From your point of view, at whatever level you sit at, how clearly do you see that your peers, teams, colleagues, manager(s) recognise the say-do gaps that exist? The ‘ideal’ conditions for change, where all of the ducks are perfectly lined up in a neat row, don’t happen all that often (if at all) and it’s likely that we all will, on some level, be saying one thing and doing another. This is part of the journey - not an opportunity for judgement (of ourselves and others). Let’s be curious about what’s going on here and how we can support each other.
"If we wait for the perfect conditions for change, we probably won't get started."
Are there blind spots?
In your view, is there a patchy level of awareness about the say-do gaps? This is particularly important at senior levels, where acknowledging the gaps that exist is the first step to closing them. These can be related to forecasting, sales methodology, opportunity and pipeline management - the list goes on. Engagement surveys can be a useful tool here, as they are usually anonymous and therefore more likely to reflect how people feel about the business direction. More specifically, you could run an anonymous survey with the team to get more recent / relevant feedback pertinent to the change. Try to get your hands on some data that is recent and speaks to identifying the gaps that you can see.
How do you move forward?
So, given that you are where you are, and things around you may not change, how can you move forward? Here are some thoughts:
Communicate what you need
Communicate what you need to be successful, starting with your own say-do gaps, including the impact to the organisation if you don’t get adequately supported. Don’t expect to get everything you want, but calling out the challenges that stand in your way is the first step in pacing others to what is possible.
Accept what you cannot change
There are likely to be some large challenges, such as breaking down organisation silos and limitations with systems and tools. This isn’t going to happen overnight, and certainly isn’t going to be something that is fully in your span of control. Whilst you can lobby, influence and support you may not be able to change things quickly enough. These areas that you cannot change become challenges you need to navigate, rather than brick walls that stop you in your tracks.
Change what you can
So, what is in your span of control? This is likely to be you and your team and how you collectively respond to, and work with, each other and your clients. What are the things you can change? How will you do things differently, in the face of the challenges you face? Really digging into this space provides you with agency and accountability which are powerful forces that will push you in the right direction.
It’s likely that, having assessed the lie of the land, the full extent of what the business wants to achieve may not be possible, maybe because of the size of the say-do gaps that are present or the time in which things need to change. The next step is to make a plan, in collaboration with your team, about what you can do and how you can do it.
Focussing on "how" to achieve change
Here at Broadleaf we focus on the ‘how’. So regardless of what you are setting out to achieve, here are six things that will help you get there:
Connect your why, how and what
This is really important for your team or your part of the business, so that, although you may be swimming against the tide at times there is a common purpose that people can powerfully connect to. You can collaboratively craft the why, how and what of your approach and it will be your North Star, guiding you through the changes you want to make. If you don’t know the “how” then believe in the way you’re collectively trying to do things. If that feels shaky, then start there; it will come.
You are pioneers, breaking new ground, discovering new ways of working. This will be challenging, particularly as the ideal conditions for success may not be in place. Therefore, each person needs to identify "what's in it for me". It could be learning new skills, positioning themselves for promotion, financial rewards but it’s crucial for this to be regularly reviewed, so that there is balance between the challenges and the rewards. Reframing the challenge helps us to connect with what is good about the situation that can help us grow.
This is going to be table stakes for you and your team, and you’ll need it in bucket loads! Your approach to mistakes and failure, how you learn and support each other in these moments will prove critical. Your mantra could be, “we’re not there yet”. Tuning into the team’s mindset and supporting each other to be in a growth mindset as much as possible will be invaluable. This takes practice and resilience; don’t give up and keep supporting each other in trying.
Focus on quality conversations
Our interactions with colleagues and customers happen in their hundreds each day. By focussing on transforming even a focussed small number of these, different relationships will build, and different outcomes will be achieved. We believe that the conversation is the relationship and focusing here is a manageable change, within each individuals’ span of control.
Designing projects or workstreams of activity for the team to work together on will embed new ways of working. Grounding this work in the nuts and bolts of the team’s day to day operations will make this work relevant, not something else they have to put onto their To Do Lists, but something that actively contributes to achieving their goals.
Feedback is golden
Navigating new ways of working, doing things differently, will require adjustments and for some personal say-do gaps to be closed. One of the greatest “hows” in this space is feedback. When a team can care for each other enough to share the impact of how others show up, it is illuminating and hugely supportive. This can only be done by teams where there is psychological safety and a bedrock of trust present.
If we wait for the perfect conditions for change, we probably won’t get started, so although it can feel like swimming against the tide, using “the power of how” to engender accountability and action in ourselves and others is the key to making real and lasting change.