In Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries for Leaders, he explains that a leader should ensure team members focus on what is essential, inhibit distractions and keep it current. Following these three essential steps leads to behavior that drives result for the team.
Never take your eye off the ball.
Cloud’s message reminds me of a favorite movie – Forrest Gump. To this day, I can still hear my children chasing each other shouting “Run, Forrest, run!” Aside from nostalgia, as a personal growth consultant, I’m fascinated that Forrest excels at everything because he does what he is told, and never questions authority. Take the example of when Forrest joins the military ping-pong team; the coach tells him, “Never take your eye off the ball, and don’t let anything distract you.” Simple instructions, yet Forrest achieves excellence.
Three simple steps for a leader to adopt.
If leaders follow these steps, teams perform at a high level.
While coaching technicians at any company, I lead meetings to practice the customer greeting and presentation script. Recently, I led an apathetic technician – full of excuses – through the process of keeping your eye on the ball. During a role play, I asked the technician to execute his greeting and presentation from the script, but he couldn’t locate the hard copy. Although he completed the greeting well, the presentation part was poor without the script in hand.
Poor execution of scripts leads to lower revenue.
After I explained the presentation was substandard, I asked the technician to find his script or print a new copy. Although he protested initially, he finally found the script. With the dialogue in front of him, he performed the presentation flawlessly and efficiently.
Focus is easy to understand in the above example; concentrate on the script and execute it flawlessly.
#2 Inhibit Distraction
Deciding what to inhibit is more challenging. Considering the technician mentioned above, I identified the following as distractions:
Excuses: A messy truck, so that he couldn’t find the script.
Helplessness: A bad weekend and a messy truck.
Lack of personal responsibility: The manager didn’t give him a script.
Any strong leader can detect which distractions to inhibit.
Here’s the conversation with the technician, I previously introduced:
Roger: “Get your script, and perform a stronger presentation.”
Technician: “I can’t find it. I had a bad weekend, and all my stuff is scattered around my truck.”
Roger: “No problem, have another script printed.”
Roger: “I’ll wait this is important.”
Technician: “I’ll look for it!”
At this stage, inhibiting excuses is unfamiliar to the technician, and as a result, he is uncomfortable.
Technician: “Here, I found it.”
Roger: “Now, please, execute the ESA presentation script.”
Technician: “What is that?”
Roger: “You should have it and know it. I distributed them in January.”
Technician: “Well, I don’t know if I got it?”
Roger: “Get the service manager to give you another copy.”
Technician: “Oh, I see, here it is …”
Do not allow excuses, focus instead on what brings results.
#3 Keep it current.
Cold calling and canvassing were how we self-generated all our leads in my heating and air business. First, we always had a script, and all the staff were informed and familiar with the process. Remaining relentless with accountability and setting expectations were crucial for this success.
From time to time, I would canvass with my sales team to encourage them, but the action always came from the team. Moreover, every morning, I would meet with three salespeople, and I would ask them a few questions – one at a time.
Here’s an example of the daily meeting:
Roger: “John, how many cold calls did you make yesterday?”
Time and time again, John would give me excuses, when all I was seeking was a number. Numbers expose the truth, and so he would avoid a figure. I’d listen respectfully to John, but when he finished speaking, I would patiently ask again.
Roger: “I hear what you are saying but how many cold calls did you make?”
Inhibit excuse making.
John: “Well, I did not make any.”
Note here: this is still not a number.
Roger: “How many? I just need a number for my spreadsheet.”
Roger: “Can you fix that?”
Inhibit bad behavior.
Roger: “How many cold calls will you make today?”
Simple boundaries that aid focus are all you need to achieve success. As a leader, you must help staff focus and be relentless to inhibit any distractions.
As a side note here, even with these systems in place, when I was absent, standards and procedures would slip – focusing each morning kept things current, without the accountability of the meeting in place, soon focus decreased, which harmed results.
Understand this: maintaining focus, inhibiting distractions, and keeping it current are related. Without processes in place to ensure accountability, such as daily meetings, performance becomes poor. Expect people to perform and allow them the opportunity to practice regularly with supervision.