Jayne’s business was eroding.
Areas of her business that were previously fertile and profitable were now barely breaking even.
She was frustrated and she needed to increase revenue.
If you follow the dictates of systemization, you might quickly arrive at the conclusion that her lead generation and lead conversion systems needed to be innovated.
But that's not necessarily right.
In fact, leaping straight to a solution can do more harm than good.
The system of thinking
Creating effective systems requires systemic thinking.
Now, that statement is not as obvious as it may first seem. Too often, one’s first response to addressing a frustration is to simply rush to install a system that will make the frustration stop.
But, that’s like taking a pill to stop the pain without identifying its origin.
A business is a reflection of its owner. Therefore, it’s imperative to look at yourself, as the owner, and first consider what you might be doing to cause the problem and not just leap to a solution.
Systemic thinking is, therefore, the act of thinking systematically. Step by step.
I knew it was time to introduce Jayne to EMyth’s premier problem solving exercise, the Key Frustration Process.
I started from the beginning.
“So your basic frustration is a lack of revenue, right?” I asked her this question as a way to get her to ‘stop’ and focus in on the true underlying condition causing the frustration.
“Yes, Joe, I thought that was clear,” Jayne replied with a sigh. I was getting the sense that she felt going over it again or delving deeper didn’t much appeal to her.
Children are natural systemic thinkers. Their favorite word is “Why?” Sometimes, the best coaching approach is to model a precocious 5-year-old.
I knew Jayne needed to be both challenged and supported since it was hard for her to look at the actual conditions in the business that might be causing the results that were making her unhappy. Jayne tended to blame the outer economic situation; and the changing face of her industry. But I knew there was a deeper reality going on here and that’s exactly what the Key Frustration Process aims to address.
“Why has revenue not kept pace year over year?” I asked.
“Like I said, the environment has changed ” she insisted.
“Why do you believe that it’s the outer environment and not something internal to your company?”
“I just do.”
“Because it’s all the same people involved,” Jayne said with an air of frustration that facing the truth often brings if you’re not prepared for the answer.
It’s my job, as Jayne’s coach, to push her further than she would go on her own.
“Why would you accept that it’s an outer directed problem?”
“Because I’m making that assumption,” she replied.
“Good, that’s exactly it. Now, why would your sales people accept the results they are getting?” I asked.
“Um-mm,” she murmured. “Could it be that we really don’t have a way to focus them on targets and hold them accountable?”
“Might be. Why do you think that?”
“Well I have to admit, the entire culture around here is kind of lax in that regard. We just expect our folks to do it, and come to me if they can’t.”
“And how that’s going for you?” I asked.
“Well, the results tell the truth, right?” She replied.
“They keep the score if that’s what you mean. Why haven’t you been able to change those results?”
“Well I think it must have something to do with the fact that we lack any real accountability in our company. We just kind of stopped when we started to lose clients.”
“Why don’t you track your sales activity goals and your conversion rates?” I asked.
“Because we just stopped doing it,” Jayne acknowledged.
“So you see,” I said, “you seem to have identified a much deeper condition than simply needing a new lead generation or conversion system. It’s certain you may need to innovate these systems, but unless you solve this underlying problem of accountability, it will be like putting on a band-aid before you’ve stopped the arterial bleeding."
Graphic, but it made the point.
“Yes!” Jayne cried out, “you’re absolutely right. We’ve let ourselves believe we were doing all we can, but in truth, we gave up holding people accountable in any real fashion, and now we’re suffering the consequence of this.”
How it works
Jayne decided, based on our coaching conversation, to create better expectation agreements with goals and measurements that were discussed in regular 1-on-1 accountability meetings with her salespeople.
In just a few weeks of these adjustments, Jayne started to notice a real difference with her staff. They now knew what was expected of them and how they were going to be measured and held accountable.
It is easy to find a system solution. But if in the process you haven’t addressed the shortcomings of your culture, leadership dysfunctions or other habits that need shifting, you may stamp down the fire - or stop the immediate pain - but you’re likely to leave the most critical flammable material still smoldering in the background. You won’t have transformed your business. Which do you want to achieve?