Leadership Feed

Five Tips for Setting a Course to Great Sales Leadership

Tris Brown headshotToday's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Take the LSA Global free and confidential 12-minute Alignment Survey at http://www.lsaglobal.com/alignment-survey. In addition to receiving key business insight, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $100 Amazon.com gift card.

 

 

This year, I’ve published several posts about sales culture and strategy on the Selling Power blog. Now that we’re in the final stretch of 2014, here’s a quick review of some tips for sales leaders who want to set a course for success.

1) Be proactive about designing your organization’s culture.

Every organization has a culture. If you don’t proactively create a culture that makes sense for your unique strategy and market, it will be created for you. If you want high-performance results, it’s much better to take control of your destiny and design a high-performance sales culture. Remember, culture is not “soft stuff.” A recent Harvard Business School research report described how an effective culture can account for up to half of the positive differential in performance. 

2) Create clear and meaningful goals for your team.

Without a crystal-clear connection to larger meaning, people tend to drift or become disinterested. It’s your job as a leader to give the people on your team a vision and inspire them to become part of something bigger than themselves. Remember, one in 10 hikers who climb Mt. Everest die, yet still they choose to try to summit. Our endeavors must be tied to something clear and profound, or we won’t be inspired to make it through the inevitable struggles that will challenge us.

3) Separate winning from success.

For many sales leaders, winning equals revenue gains, but a winning organizational culture is not necessarily one that promotes revenue over all else (though it certainly could be). Your culture reflects your true corporate values. Those values drive key business practices and behavior. Consider the example of General Motors (GM). Internally, GM employees became familiar with “the GM nod.” Safety issues might be reported and discussed during meetings, but the tacit understanding was that no one would ever act on these reports, and the reports would be quietly ignored. Thus GM created a corporate culture that prioritized pushing out faulty products over the safety of its consumers. Carefully consider what kind of behavior your culture promotes and whether it is effectively aligned with your growth strategy.

4) Hire for cultural fit, not smarts.

At most companies, sales leaders look to hire “quota crushers” and then wonder why things don’t work out six months later. That’s because hiring for skills, smarts, or past performance will not necessarily help you capture the kind of talent that will thrive in your culture. In fact, those three criteria might just sabotage your chances for success. Google learned this lesson during a period of high growth and now ensures that, in addition to desired levels of proficiency, new hires have the right “Googliness.” This includes the ability to collaborate, learn, handle ambiguity, and be agile. In general, skills can be taught, but the key behavioral competencies that make sense for your unique corporate culture often cannot be learned.

5) Model your culture.

What’s good for those in the mailroom is also good for those in the boardroom. A company culture has to present a unified front. Model your company culture in every action you take, and reward those employees who successfully embody the culture you have defined. Any sense of misalignment among your employees can throw the entire framework out of whack.

Want to learn more about how you can take steps to create a high-performance culture at your company? I invite you to take our free and confidential 12-minute Alignment Survey at http://www.lsaglobal.com/alignment-survey. In addition to receiving key business insight, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $100 Amazon.com gift card.

 


The Four Most Powerful Forces in Sales

Jeff Seeley

 

 

 

Today's post is by Jeff Seeley, CEO of Carew International, Inc. Check out this Carew International white paper, “Success in the Challenger Sales Role.”  

“When it comes to sales, the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

“The sales profession is completely different from how it was five years ago.”

Which of these statements rings true to you? Your answer will depend on your personal perspective and your definition of sales. Both statements are accurate but in very different contexts. When it comes to the sales process and delivery methods, the pace and/or methods of communication, and customer expectations, everything has changed. In contrast, the fundamental role of the successful sales professional (collaborator, consultant, and valued resource for problem solving and revenue and profit growth) and the need for fundamental selling skills (diagnostic skills, interpersonal skills, relationship building and presenting solutions) have not changed. Outstanding sales professionals have always been outstanding business advisors for their customers.

It’s like the critical role of gravity in our physical world: gravity is the strongest natural force on Earth. The way we use it and interact with it (even defy it) has changed tremendously in recent decades, but the fundamental power and force of gravity has not changed at all, nor has our dependence on it for survival.

What gravity is to life on Earth, communication and relationship-building skills are to the sales function. Their application has changed, but their importance has not. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” I add that the second biggest problem is the self-delusion that we have deeper relationships with our customers than we actually have.

How did we lose sight of the most powerful force in sales? There are two factors: First, at some point, business leaders and the business community started mistaking go-to-market strategies as sales strategies, functions, and skills -- and these are distinct and different entities. Go-to-market strategies are required for long-term success, but they must be integrated into a compatible sales strategy, and typically, the sales team will need a new skill set to implement a new strategy.

Second is “shiny-object syndrome.” Sales leaders looking for the next new thing relative to the sales process become enamored with various “shiny objects,” but they don’t consider their sales team’s current skill set and the team’s ability to carry out the new process. The result is beleaguered sales professionals and frustrated leadership.

The most powerful forces in sales include:

1) delivering insight,

2) challenging the customer’s norms,

3) offering more strategic business advice, and

4) influencing business outcomes.

This is where sales professionals and leadership need to be heading quickly. Suited up in a new sales process without the right skills, sales professionals are like the new human flyers using wingsuits to defy gravity, racing through the atmosphere. When they try to use the parachute to float gently to the earth, “there is no ‘chute.”

 

Check out this Carew International white paper, “Success in the Challenger Sales Role.”   


Most People Don't Know How Their Success Is Measured at Work

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Take the LSA Global free and confidential 15-minute Alignment Survey at http://www.lsaglobal.com/alignment-survey. In addition to receiving key business insight, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $100 Amazon.com gift card.

 

Here’s an interesting question to ask everyone on your team: “How is your success measured?”

Actually, this is more than just an interesting question; asking it is a crucial practice you need to implement as a leader. Why? When you hear people’s answers, you’ll probably spot a disconnect right away. 

For example, when we ask thousands of people how their success is measured, we typically hear, “That’s a good question. Let me think about that.” Then they ramble for five minutes about what they think they’re supposed to accomplish, for whom, and why. By the time they’ve finished talking, it is obvious that their performance expectations have not been well articulated or are not clearly understood.

In other words, most people have no idea how their success is truly measured at work.

This is an important consideration for leaders, because a keen focus and the accomplishment of important, everyday activities are what constitute success or failure on a larger scale. If you want to push your company in a specific direction, employees must know clearly what constitutes success and failure. Only then can they effectively align and prioritize their everyday activities and long-term projects to the business strategy.

So ideally, when you ask this question, you want to hear a very clear answer, complete with specific metrics, milestones, and stakeholders. For example, an aligned employee could say, “My boss measures my success based upon client renewals and deal size. My target is four to five renewals of greater than $100,000 per month. Failure is fewer than four renewals a month or less than $100,000 in deal size.”

That’s a very clear answer with well-defined metrics for both failure (what to avoid) and success (what to strive for). Here are four key benefits of clear, accurate, fair, and consistent business success metrics:

1)   Employees don’t drift and/or invest in activities that will benefit only them and not the organization. 

2)   Coaching and “checking-in” conversations between employees and managers are more focused, and everyone is on the same page.

3)   It’s easier to identify and retain top performers and support or move out underperformers. 

4)   Leaders have an early-warning system when ground-level teams are going off track, and they also quickly see what’s working well. 

Companies perform better when their strategy, talent, and culture are aligned by clear measures of success. Conflicts are reduced, job satisfaction improves, problems are resolved faster, and results increase. When your employees aren’t sure how they’re being measured, that’s a critical sign of misalignment.

You can help your company today by getting personalized insight into how the alignment of strategy, culture, and talent impact performance. Take our free and confidential 15-minute Alignment Survey at http://www.lsaglobal.com/alignment-survey. In addition to receiving key business insight, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $100 Amazon.com gift card.


Four Warning Signs of an Unstable Sales Team

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global.

 

 


Usually, we can tell a lot about the stability of a sales organization by asking both leaders and direct reports one simple question: “Do you have a clear and compelling sales strategy in place?”

When we ask sales leaders this question, they almost always answer yes. When we ask their direct reports the same thing, they almost always answer no.

What’s the disconnect here?

It is vital that sales leaders tie the daily activities of salespeople directly to the larger goals of the organization. If your employees can’t easily make this connection, you are trying to steer a ship without a rudder. Over the years, we have learned to look for four big warning signs that a sales organization is drifting off course.

Warning sign #1: People in your organization believe that priorities shift a lot.

In many organizations, people either don’t know what to focus on, feel they’re constantly being pushed in multiple directions, or just feel overwhelmed by conflicting and ever-changing agendas. These perceptions translate into an overall sense of confusion, frustration, and disengagement. As a leader, shifting priorities might be a sign that you are making it too difficult for your people to say no and spend their time in the most productive way. It is also a sign that your strategy is not as clear as it needs to be. 

As a leader, make sure that you clearly communicate the top two or three priorities for each team, and make it easy for people to take lower priority items off their plates.

Warning sign #2: People have a laundry list of long-term goals they’re trying to meet.

Leaders at the very top are thinking about all kinds of problems day in and day out, but your managers and salespeople don’t always have the luxury of looking at the big picture and identifying the critical few priorities; that’s what they rely on you to do. When you ask people what they’re trying to accomplish in a given fiscal year, they should name no more than three big goals. 

As a leader, make sure that you help them identify the critical few moves that will make the biggest impact.

Warning sign #3: People are quick to point fingers and blame each other for problems.

The blame game is a common symptom of a directionless organization. If your team is highly focused on assigning blame for mistakes, screw-ups, and failure to meet goals, they’re treading water. You never want to get to the level at which people are more invested in the politics of running a business than actually engaging in business activities. You need to step in and get your team thinking about solutions and collaborations, rather than divisive political maneuvers.   

As a leader, hold people accountable for results and act decisively to quell overly political maneuvers.

Warning sign #4: People are unclear about how their success is measured.

Left to their own devices, people will often pursue either the most urgent items or whatever activities will lead to the highest personal gain, rather than pay attention to the strategic goals of the business as a whole. Salespeople should always be crystal clear about the criteria on which their performance is based.

As a leader, make sure that you measure and incentivize your team to pursue activities that align with your larger strategy. 

Staying vigilant about these four warning signs can save sales leaders a lot of headaches. Strategic clarity can create enormous performance leverage. For example, over a recent four-month period, we helped a high-growth client decrease internal conflicts by 38 percent by simply increasing goal clarity by 6 percent. 

Most sales leaders make assumptions that employees understand far more than they actually do. Make sure you find out what your team really thinks.

Read more in our white paper, "Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Performance Environment May Be in Trouble."


Culture Woes at General Motors: 3 Takeaways for Sales Leaders

TristamBrown_200

Today’s guest post is by Tristam Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Download one of his latest white papers, “Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Performance Environment and Culture May Be in Trouble.”

 

Back in 2009 when General Motors (GM) first filed for bankruptcy, things weren’t looking totally dismal. GM recaptured some lost market share, posted profits, and garnered positive attention from critics and consumers over new vehicle models.

Then came the tidal wave of recalls. As of early June, GM had issued 44 recalls in 2014 (here’s the ongoing tally of GM recalls). The real headline grabber was issued on February 7, 2014, when GM recalled a whopping 800,000 cars due to faulty ignition switches, which could shut off the engine while it was being driven and prevent the airbags from inflating. According to CNNMoney, GM has already recalled “more cars and trucks in the U.S. [in 2014] than it has sold here in the five years since it filed for bankruptcy."

What’s worse than the billions of dollars GM has lost in revenue and the damage to its brand is the fact that these recalls have so far been linked to at least 54 car crashes and 13 deaths. The company is currently facing a federal criminal probe to investigate these matters, and journalists are pulling back the curtain on a pass-the-buck-and-keep-your-head-down corporate culture. According to one report by Bloomberg Businessweek (“GM Recalls: How General Motors Silenced a Whistle-Blower”), the head of a nationwide GM inspection program, Courtland Kelley, was put on a career ice floe after repeated attempts to raise awareness about product flaws:

“Kelley had been the head of a nationwide GM inspection program and then the quality manager for the Cobalt’s predecessor, the Cavalier. He found flaws and reported them, over and over, and repeatedly found his colleagues’ and supervisors’ responses wanting. He thought they were more concerned with maintaining their bureaucracies and avoiding expensive recalls than with stopping the sale of dangerous cars. Eventually, Kelley threatened to take his concerns to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Frustrated with the limited scope of a recall of sport-utility vehicles in 2002, he sued GM under a Michigan whistle-blower law. GM denied wrongdoing, and the case was dismissed on procedural grounds. Kelley’s career went into hibernation; he was sent to work in another part of the company, and GM kept producing its cars.”

It seems this was hardly an isolated case. According to the Valukas Report, compiled by attorney Anton Valukas as part of an internal investigation and published in early June, GM has systematically been suppressing product-safety concerns from employees for at least a decade. In its by-the-numbers summary of the Valukas Report, the Wall Street Journal noted that it took GM 11 years after first learning about its defective engine switch to issue a recall.

What can sales leaders learn from GM’s woes?

1)   Culture matters. Culture is not “soft” stuff best left to human resources. It is a critical consideration for leaders and has an impact on everything from your ability to hire the right people to your level of success in pursuing a given business strategy. One recent Harvard Business School research report described how an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business.

2)   Culture exists at all levels. Your company’s culture does not begin and end with you. What your employees do day in and day out is a reflection of your brand and how you do business. At GM, supervisors and executives were actively ignoring safety concerns pushed up from employees. As a leader, you want to think about what messages aren’t getting through to you.

3)   Culture is not whether you win or lose business. A winning organizational culture is not necessarily one that promotes revenue over all else (though it certainly could be). Your culture reflects your corporate values. Those values drive key business practices and behavior. Internally, GM employees became familiar with “the GM nod.” Safety issues might be reported and discussed during meetings, but the tacit understanding was that no one would ever act on these reports, and they would be quietly ignored. Thus GM created a corporate culture that prioritized pushing out faulty products over the safety of its consumers. Think about what kind of behavior your culture promotes and whether it is effectively aligned with your strategy. 

How would you describe your corporate culture? Would your salespeople agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Communication Tips for Leaders of Global and Remote Teams

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Download his white paper, "10 Simple Steps for Successful Virtual and Global Teams."

 

 

Managing teams across multiple time zones and cultures isn’t easy. If you get it wrong, you can be plagued by everything from high turnover rates to low profitability. Although sometimes CEOs decide to rein in remote teams, that’s not always an option. Managing remote and virtual teams is an issue that’s only going to grow in importance. Consider the following:

  • According to a Forrester report, 34 million Americans work from home; this
    number is expected to expand to 63 million (or 43 percent of the US workforce) by 2016.  (US Telecommuting Forecast)
  • A poll conducted by Cisco revealed that 29 percent of college students believe that the ability to “work remotely with a flexible schedule” will be a “right” once they enter the workforce. (Cisco Gen-Y Study: Mobile Devices Valued More Than Higher Salaries)
  • More than half of respondents in a global study said managing virtual teams will be a vital future competency, but only 36.5 percent believed their managers had mastered the necessary skills required to manage virtual teams effectively. (Developing Successful Global Leaders)

When global teams hit the headwinds, they must rely on trust and commitment to stick together. So how can you build trust and commitment across time zones? One of our global-team clients has put together a set of guiding principles on how team members will interact with each other. The client says this framework helps keep the team focused, as well as more mindful of other virtual-team members.

Here are some questions to distribute to your team members to get them thinking about how they’d like to work together.

  • What constitutes a timely reply to an email?
  • Do emails with certain subject lines get priority response times over others?
  • What is the definition of “the end of the day” for teams working in different time zones?
  • What are common expectations around any of the following: deadlines, next steps, and instructions for follow up?

Working collaboratively, team members can agree to some common (yet powerful) definitions around these very simple communication practices. They can also come up with templates to respond to their peers when they feel communication is starting to go off track.

Above all, this exercise gets the point across to your team that you don’t want anyone to get bogged down by vague, ill-timed, or incomplete communication. When all members know that they have a manager who supports improved communication, they’ll be more open to bringing issues to your attention – before they become a habitual problem.


Are You Managing Your Sales Reps or Are They Managing You?

Meridith Powell headshot (1)Today's guest post is by Meridith Elliott Powell, founder and owner of MotionFirst and author of Winning in the Trust and Value Economy.

 

 


A few months ago, I was working with one of my favorite clients on business-development training and strategic business growth. Our typical style when making change is to involve and engage the team right from the start, ensuring before we implement change that we get the team’s support and buy-in.

In this instance, however, out of nowhere, we got a major opportunity, and we had to make a quick decision. It was a unique and innovative new product line that would be the perfect addition to our client offering – a little out-of-the-box but very innovative, and it truly filled a client need. If we wanted to offer it, we needed to act quickly and sign an exclusive deal with the vendor; there wasn’t time to engage the team to get input and buy-in. The timing wasn’t ideal, but we didn’t worry about that, as this product was going to give the team a great new product to sell and offered a serious way to open doors and sell more to existing clients.

The CEO was pumped up and could not wait to share the news with the team. I cautioned that we needed to prepare for this meeting and discuss how we were going to get the team’s buy-in and support and how we would handle push-back. He felt that such preparation was totally unnecessary. He wondered why the team wouldn’t embrace a new product line that was going to make sales, client growth, and retention so much easier.

So forward we went with the meeting, and the CEO rolled out the new idea, complete with the dates of required training to get started. I asked to be at the meeting just to observe, and observe I did. The moment he started talking, his entire team, including his commercial leader, started to resist. Before they even said anything, you could feel the energy in the room change and how irritated the team was getting, and you could almost hear all the negative thoughts running through their heads.

As soon as the CEO stopped talking, they started. There was push-back, complaining – sheer resistance so strong and loud that even the commercial leader jumped in, and the CEO started to cave and immediately began making concessions. He offered to wait on the training, have the product in the company’s mix but not highlight it, and review it one more time before the contract is signed, and the list went on.

It was clear in that moment who was running the team and company, and it was not the commercial leader, and it was certainly not the CEO. The team was running the show. Unfortunately, if someone else didn’t start leading the team, then this team and company were going to miss a major opportunity.

People don’t resist change because they are bad people; they resist it because they don’t understand change, and more importantly, they do not understand how it will benefit them. Unless the change is our idea, sometimes the first reaction to it is defensive and negative. As a leader, understand that you must prepare for it and help your team make the transition. Your job as the sales leader is to simultaneously acknowledge the challenge your team members do see and help them see the benefit of what they don’t – what’s in it for them, their customers, and their company.

In this case, right after the meeting, the CEO, the commercial leader, and I had a coaching session, in which we debriefed the meeting, going through what went well (very little) and what could have gone better (a lot). The result: a CEO with a stronger backbone and a willingness to strategize before meetings that are focused on change, and more importantly, a commercial leader who is now committed to focusing on opportunity rather than challenge when change is introduced.

We had a do-over, and this time we walked the team members through all the benefits (for the team and clients) of this new product line, which were immense and why the CEO was so excited; acknowledged their worry about additional challenges on the front end; and guaranteed the support and help they would need to make the transition.

The result: a motivated, engaged, and excited team hitting record-growth numbers with the new product line, and a CEO and commercial leader who are back in charge of the team and company.


Critical Factors That Drive Your Organizational Culture

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global.

 

 

Your company culture is more than just a phrase or a tagline; it’s the heart of how things truly get done at your company. It is the key to strategy execution and high performance.

As an example of culture’s importance, take a look at this video clip, from the movie The Internship, which I showed to the audience during my recent presentation at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

In the context of this movie, Google has a strong sense of its company culture. What’s so funny is that the two characters clearly don’t fit in, and their stints at Google will not and should not last if the culture has high performance attributes.

Organizational culture is not “soft” stuff. Harvard Business Review says that up to half of the difference in performance between companies in the same industry can be attributed to culture. Think about it this way: in nature, organisms change when their environment changes. The same is true for people. If people truly want to succeed and be a part of your company, they’ll conform to your culture. If they don’t, they’ll eventually be weeded out, one way or another. In terms of performance, this is a good thing.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference, I asked the audience members what factors they think drive extraordinary results in the following three high-performance environments: 1) the Olympic Games, 2) the singing competition American Idol, and 3) the weight-loss competition The Biggest Loser. Here’s what they said: 

  • Clear goals

  • National pride

  • Recognition

  • Coaching

  • Competition

More personal and world records are broken during the Olympics than at any other sporting event in the world. In a relatively short period of time, American Idol takes raw talent and dramatically improves contestants’ performance to create best-selling recording artists. The Biggest Loser, a show that features obese people competing to win a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of weight, dramatically changes lives fast. 

What is it about these environments that foster high performance? I believe it is their high performance culture. It’s the leader’s responsibility to create this culture, aligned with the company’s business strategy. That is how leaders set their teams up to succeed on a consistent basis.

Remember, culture is not what you want to be or what you aspire to be. It’s what’s true about your company. Every company has a culture, and it exists either by design or default. Is yours designed to win? Read more by downloading our white paper, “Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Performance Environment May Be in Trouble.”

As a leader, how do you use clarity, competition, meaning, recognition, and coaching to inspire and propel your teams to succeed? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


When New Sales Hires Fail, Try, Try Again

MichaelAhearneToday's guest post is by Michael Ahearne, professor of marketing at University of Houston and principal at ZS Associates.

 

 

Ever wonder why newly hired salespeople fall into the rut of making boilerplate pitches to customers? New research of mine published in the Journal of Marketing suggests that missed sales goals are a significant contributor.

We followed 221 new hires selling high-ticket retail items during their first six months on the job. On a biweekly basis, we tracked the rookies’ sales goals, performance against those goals, and intentions to engage with customers in maladaptive ways.

Jeff Boichuk, a doctoral candidate and lead author of the research, summarized the effect by saying that newly hired salespeople “act more and more like stereotypical used-car salesmen with every sales goal they miss. The process can be likened to learned helplessness, where new hires who experience early failure give up trying to uncover and adapt to customers’ needs because they begin to think selling’s too difficult.”

How can managers help? In an effort to find an answer, we also tracked the degree to which the store managers in our study facilitated a guided learning environment by providing new hires direction, a model of desired behavior, and support from more experienced co-workers.

This style of leadership, however, proved to be fleeting. These transformational leadership behaviors, as they’re referred to in academic literature, lose their credibility when missed sales goals accumulate. You can inspire, show reps how it’s done, and tell them their teams will be there for them all you want; nevertheless, if you operate in a failure-prone environment and they miss their targets, you might as well throw everything out the window.

A more effective approach, we found, is to think long term, promote exploration, and most importantly, frame errors positively.

This leadership style, coined “error management,” lessens the shock of missed sales goals by giving rookies the comfort of knowing that their jobs are not on the line as they become socialized in the organization.

Here are the key findings from the paper:

“Newly hired salespeople need to know that they are likely to make errors as they actively try to uncover customers’ needs. For developmental purposes, managers should encourage newly hired salespeople to make errors, even if it means asking the wrong questions or revealing themselves as novices because they do not have all the answers. Furthermore, managers should downplay the stigma of missing sales goals during the sales force socialization process in favor of promoting these developmental benefits.”

These are profound recommendations given the short-term, results-focused culture in many sales forces today. Further, they add an important caveat to the saying “The road to success is paved with failure.” Evidently, failure is a slippery slope. Managers need to embrace and encourage failure in order to help salespeople succeed.

I hope managers heed this advice. As consumers, we stand to benefit if they do.


How to Use Goals to Create a High-Performance Sales Culture

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Download his white paper, "Aligning Culture and Talent with Strategy."

 

 

Most sales organizations are constantly setting new goals. Setting goals is one thing, but achieving them is another. In fact, we at LSA Global have yet to meet a sales leader who is totally happy with his or her team’s performance against stated goals.

Research about high-performance cultures has shown that, in order to be effective, goals must meet four criteria:

1) The goal must be simple enough to be clearly understood.

Overly complicated or ambiguous goals are doomed from the get-go. If your team members can’t understand what the goal is, they’ll never latch on to it.

Don’t confuse simplicity with easily accomplished. . Sir Edmund Hillary’s goal was to be the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest – simple and clear, but certainly not easy to accomplish.

2) The goal must be (just) achievable.

If goals are too easy, they’re not very useful. On the other hand, if goals are seen as impossible, your team will only end up discouraged and frustrated. Remember that goals are not one-size-fits-all. What is achievable for one person or team may be out of reach for another.  While reaching the summit of Everest is certainly achievable with the right preparation, determination, skill, and support (658 people summited last year), it is not an achievable goal for the vast majority of the population.

3) The goal must be meaningful.

People look to leaders for a vision and to help them become part of something bigger than they could achieve alone. If you cannot tie your goal to anything meaningful, you won’t inspire the necessary enthusiasm among your team to struggle to achieve it.  To have a fair chance at conquering Everest, where 1 in 10 people loses his or her life, the endeavor must make profound sense to you and your family physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

4) The goal must be worth fighting for.

Goals require work and discipline. When the chips are down and the road ahead still looks long, people must be able to revisit their intention to achieve the goal and say, “This will be worth it. I will do what it takes to prevail.”

Some organizations have not gotten the memo about goals, and they wonder why their teams are underperforming. More often than not, we find in these types of organizations that leaders are setting goals that are unclear, meaningless, impossible to achieve, too easy to achieve, or not seen as worth the effort in the eyes of their people. (If this describes your organization, you might want to check out our white paper, “Is Your Strategy Clear Enough to Act? Probably Not,” which details seven warning signs that your company is suffering from strategic ambiguity.)

The next time you set a goal for your team, make sure it’s simple, achievable, meaningful, and worth fighting for. When you are crystal clear about where your organization is headed and how you’re going to get there, you can see amazing results from the top of the world. 

Hear Tristam Brown speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference on May 5-6 in San Francisco.

What are some lessons you've learned about setting goals for your team? Share your thoughts in the comments section.