When asked for a productivity tip, Warren Buffet once said something along the lines of, “It’s simple. I do one thing at a time and I don’t start something else until I’m finished with that one thing.”
If there is any one “secret” of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time….
Concentration is dictated… by the fact that most of us find it hard enough to do well even one thing at a time, let alone two. Mankind is indeed capable of doing an amazingly wide diversity of things; humanity is a “multipurpose tool.” But the way to apply productively mankind’s great range is to bring to bear a large number of individual capabilities on one task…
This is the “secret” of those people who “do so many things” and apparently so many difficult things. They do only one at a time. As a result, they need much less time in the end than the rest of us…
The people who get nothing done often work a great deal harder… the typical executive tries to do several things at once.
We can almost always diagnose a problem with a case for support (or funding story) by using the Altitude Framework. And, what’s interesting is that organizations tend to need help at a single level of messaging versus all or multiple levels.
We can organize messaging challenges into these three levels of clarity:
At 30,000′ – Toward what end? (This is a WHY question)
At 14,000′ – Where is the money going?
At 3′ – What’s the math?
Note: There are some supplemental questions based on circumstance and sector. For example, a social enterprise needs to be able to talk clearly about the business model (explicitly) but, I would argue that topic is covered (conceptually) under ‘knowing the math.’
Here is how we often see the lack of message clarity playing out:
At 30,000′ – Toward what end?
Organizations that struggle at 30,000’ tend to be doing sector-changing work (and often in a crowded space). They focus too much on how they’re different, or the nuances of their model, instead of being really clear about the simple, visceral reasons WHY someone should care: “This is the problem we’re solving!” Or, “This is how we want to change the world!”
Tell-tale sign: They often lead their narrative with a theory of change.
Health (care) Transformation.
At 14,000′ – Where is the money going? (Or, what are the funding priorities?)
Organizations that struggle at the 14,000’ level tend to operate on an (established) funding model other than philanthropy. They’re not good at talking about how they’ll use funds to do X, Y, or Z. Culturally, they might start a fundraising campaign simply to augment a different business model.
Tell-tale sign: An organization with a multi-million-dollar operating budget wants to start a campaign for unrestricted funds.
Global RFP-Grant-Based NGOs.
Large earned-income organizations.
At 3′ – What’s the (Case for Support) Math?
Organizations that struggle with the math tend to be those with built-in funding prospects. A great example here is a school. Alumni and parents will no doubt support the school, but the the questions then become about how all the math works out. Will it increase tuition? Will it be sustainable? What is the cost? How will this funding project impact the future business model (tuition/admission)?
Tell-tale sign: A mentality of “If we build it, they will fund.”
To be clear: every organization needs to address these three case questions. I am just outlining some general trends and questions that might be helpful in uncovering your challenge.
I’ve been taking some time off from writing/posting these past two weeks. The Fellers family welcomed our fourth(!) child, baby Kathryn (“Kit”) last week.
I’ll be working my way back into posting Daily Nuggets, but I wanted to share this nugget from Jim Rohn. Rohn is one of the ‘success author’ pioneers. He’s credited with inspiring Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, and many others.
Somehow, it became a ritual for me to rock new babies and reread all of Jim Rohn’s stuff. I find it inspirational, directional and centering. Rohn’s concept of ‘success’ is not limited to financial, or corporate. He focuses on success in terms of fulfillment and family. For this fourth-time new dad, I always connect with Rohn’s passages on parenting, in particular.
Here are two nuggets on Leadership – and Parenting:
Leadership is the great challenge of today [Jim Rohn writes… in the 1970’s], in all fields: science, politics, industry, education, sales. And leadership will continue to be among our greatest challenges in the future.
But I want to begin by recognizing one of the most challenging roles in leadership—parenting. Yes, one of the greatest challenges of leadership is parenting. Unless we take our children by the hand and strengthen the family foundation, the nation is shaky. Parenting is where it all begins.
My father had a simple little rule. He said, “Son, if you get in trouble in school, when you get home, it’s double trouble.” Does that method sound familiar? Double trouble at home if you get in trouble at school. A lot of parents are hoping someone else will exercise the leadership role—teachers or the church or the school or the community—somebody will take up the task of being the example of leadership. But this is a challenge for parents to take up themselves, to become leaders.
The Challenge of Leadership
So now, here’s what leadership is: The challenge to be something more than mediocre. It was said of Abraham Lincoln that when his mother died he was at her bedside, and her last words to him were: “Be somebody, Abe.” And if that story’s true, he must have taken it to heart. Be somebody. That’s a good challenge. Be somebody. Be somebody wise. Be somebody strong. Strength is attractive. Be somebody kind. All of the attributes of leadership are a unique challenge.
Leadership is the challenge to step up to a new level, a new dimension. Here’s what this new dimension has: opportunity and responsibility. But who wouldn’t want the responsibility along with the opportunity if it builds an extraordinary life? You wouldn’t want it any other way.
There’s a whole new level of leadership, a new method. Here’s what it is called: Leadership by invitation. Not leadership by threat. Not leadership by aggravation. Not leadership by intimidation—that shows the weakness of the leader or shows ego at work instead of skills. Leadership by invitation. Invite somebody to a better way of doing things.
Here’s what else it’s called: Leadership by inspiration. Inspire somebody to make the necessary changes to move up or to get the job done. As leaders, we inspire. As leaders, we entice. As leaders, we invite. Invite, entice, inspire, but not threaten.
Ichak Adizes created the working theory and framework for organizational lifecycles. Many ‘gurus’ have duplicated, or built upon, his lifecycle framework.
Here is a nugget nestled in the introduction of the latest edition of his work. It’s a specific insight about the importance of INTEGRATION as a key factor in predicting organizational growth. Most leaders might grow organizations a few times in their careers. We’ve worked to transform hundreds of organizations… and scaled just as many ‘funding efforts’… built and developed teams… to help raise over $2Billion. To us, this little nugget is HUGE and not to be missed!!!!
“I have learned that although it remains true that entrepreneurship causes growth and a lack of entrepreneurship causes aging, Integration is the factor that precedes entrepreneurship in predicting organizational growth and aging. This factor enables the creation of the nurturing environment essential for entrepreneurship and, thus, for organizational growth. Integration also allows organizations to treat aging problems more proactively—that is, earlier. Because this factor is subtle, it is commonly ignored and neglected in the pursuit of growth. That neglect is what causes organizations to take the typical path—with all its pains—on the organizational lifecycle.”
Adizes observes that large organizations are often working on ‘integration’ of teams, functions, systems. But his wording is insightful: integration is the ‘factor that precedes… in predicting’ where organizations are going.
We use this insight in our coaching.
Let’s suppose we’re helping you START an effort to build more individual giving. The trick is to balance ‘entrepreneurship’ (i.e., moving fast / doing things) and integration. In practice, this might mean that we prototype an effort inside of a large enterprise. Then, after there is some funding success, we’ll focus FIRST on how to integrate that function with other elements of the enterprise. That integration (buy-in, alignment, role clarity… the ‘culture stuff’) is predictive of the organization’s ability to successfully scale the funding model in an enterprise.
The title of this post is supposed to be reductively simple: To increase sales, spend more time selling.
This morning I’m reading through old HBR articles on ‘selling.’ We do this to find the research, studies, and science, and then use that information to back our approach and/or innovate. Here’s a little ‘finding’ from a 2006 article: The New Science of Sales Force Productivity.
Another question that leading sales organizations ask themselves is, Are the field reps spending as much time as possible selling? When we measure salespeople’s “non-customer-facing time,” we find that it often amounts to more than half of their total hours. If sales executives uncover that kind of problem, they have a variety of tools at their disposal. They may be able to channel some of the reps’ administrative functions to support staff… They also may simplify the systems that the reps are expected to deal with. Several years ago, sales executives at Cisco set a goal of reducing reps’ nonselling time by a few hours a week and charged the IT department with making it happen. The improvement led to several hundred million dollars in additional revenue.
I’m sharing this because it looks so simple. And it IS that simple. The problem is that most social impact organizations hold – as a cultural point of pride – the ability for each person to wear many hats. I was on the phone last week with a director of development who said, “Our president expects EVERYONE in the organization to be on the front lines providing service at least three mornings per week.”
That’s a decision.
In addition, we often see front-line salespeople being tasked with other functions – like running events. Or, in health care, the ‘fundraising executives’ are often asked to be at every health care system executive meeting (often this takes the BEST sales person offline for 40% of the month!).
These organizations are all trying to find ‘new ways to raise money.’
Our advice is not ‘innovative.’ It’s simple: Free up more time for your SALES PEOPLE to FOCUS on SELLING.
Andy Grove was the co-founder of Intel. More than an ‘executive,’ Mr. Grove was a teacher. He taught people how to think. He taught an industry how to think!
When speaking of Intel’s strategy, he often said, “We had to engage and then plan.” And, “Understanding comes from action.”
At For Impact | The Suddes Group we harness the power of these words when it comes to visiting with prospects. You can only do so much planning… so much research. On the whole, the ‘social sector’ is paralyzed by prospect planning. Sometimes we need to ENGAGE AND THEN PLAN.
Vision is simply a clear picture of the future toward which you are striving.
Most organizations benefit from having a long-term vision, and a near-term vision.
Your long-term vision is often time-independent. Example: Ending Cancer.
Vision, in this sense, is more like a ‘higher cause worth pursuing.’ We call it vision, but we can’t always see exactly how to get there.
In these instances, we benefit from a near-term vision that will maximize the contribution and engagement of others. This is usually time-dependent and tied to an achievable goal.
Example: “By 2020 we want to make sure we have a national registry for xyz cancer trials. This will be an important milestone toward ending cancer.”
I’m sure we could simply reframe these visions as ’cause’ and ‘goal,’ but thinking of them as a long-term vision and a near-term vision helps to frame them in a way that is usually more visceral and engaging, because we’re focusing on the ‘clear picture.’
The late J. Richard Hackman, a Harvard sociology professor, found that teams are much trickier to build and maintain than we like to think. The issue is not that teams never work, but that team dynamics are powerful but delicate, and expansion is a surefire way to break them. “[It’s a] fallacy that bigger teams are better than smaller ones because they have more resources to draw on,” he explains. “As a team gets bigger, the number of links that need to be managed among members goes up at an accelerating, almost exponential rate.”
In his handbook Leading Teams, Hackman reminds us of “Brooks’s Law”: the adage that adding staff to speed up a behind-schedule project “has no better chance of working… than would a scheme to produce a baby quickly by assigning nine women to be pregnant for one month each… adding manpower to a late project makes it later.”
Reflect on this excerpt and think about the implications for your team(s).
On a large, late, or urgent project, the tendency is to add more people. We must first put extra resources into clear planning and then be prepared to commit resources (e.g., time and communication) to building/managing the exponential links a ‘team’ requires.