Steve had thrown every ounce of energy into launching his most important strategic initiative. Everyone knew what was important and why, and his five times, five different ways communication strategy was more like thirty by thirty.
He ensured all the best people were on it, and yet the program was still struggling to gain traction.
“I was getting so frustrated about the lack of sales of our new strategic program. I had reinforced why this was so important to our company so many times, I was sick of hearing myself talk about it. But the service reps were struggling to convert inquiries to sales. Then one day, I just went into the contact center and took a few customers’ calls myself. The questions were tough. I realized how hard our new program was to explain. I learned that our training had not prepared our reps to take those calls. No amount of explaining “why this program mattered” would help until the reps knew how to answer our customers’ questions.”
– Steve, CEO Home Services Company
Steve understood what best-selling author and vulnerability expert, Brené Brown calls “being in the arena.”
“If you’re not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
Steve realized before his team could take his feedback seriously, he needed to experience this initiative from inside “the arena.” This meant being willing to face the discomfort of hearing what customers really were experiencing himself. His reps needed to know that HE KNEW how hard it was and that they were in this together.
This is far different than micro-managing. I’m not advocating getting in the weeds and staying there. That won’t benefit your mission, you or your team. What I’m talking about here is showing up vulnerable, knowing that you don’t have all the answers and taking some risks to figure it out. Going first, particularly when it’s hard. Never making your team look bad so you can look good.
Show Me You’re With Me
Every week, I hear stories of wimpy managers, asking their teams to take risks so they don’t have to.
“If a meeting is going to be contentious, my boss always finds a way to send me instead of going herself. And when I get back she’s full of feedback of how I could have positioned our argument differently.”
“My manager is too scared to advocate for what we need, she puts politics over progress every time.”
“We’re trying to get this project moving but we’re all getting different marching orders from our supervisors. When we suggest they work out the issues at their level, they say the decision is “above their paygrade and they don’t want to make waves.”
Oh, and here’s one I got from a previous boss, “Karin I think it’s a great idea, but it might not work. You can do it if you want, but, if it fails or if the senior team disapproves of your approach, I’m going to pretend I didn’t know about it.”
I bet you can guess how that story ends, It worked. And he was happy to act like he was for it all along.
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