Case Study: When your project backfires (and why)

Ellen, who runs a small manufacturing company, created new accountability tools to track weekly sales. It seemed like a good idea, but she got tremendous pushback from the sales team.

“All you care about is sales and profits!” they complained. Salespeople felt pressured to upsell whenever possible. They worried about damaging customer relationships simply for financial gain.

By shifting perspective, the team began to recognize the value of their role within the company.

When Ellen contacted me, she was baffled. I asked how she rolled out the new accountability plan. “I put a new database on our server, and asked the team to enter the number of calls they made, how much they sold – all the usual stuff,” she said.

The problem, as happens in many cases, came down to communication. Ellen’s presentation of the new program appeared to leave client satisfaction out of the sales process. And this was a company that prided itself on excellent customer service.

I suggested a shift in perspective. Instead of just bringing in revenue, the sales staff needed to recognize that the products they sold were of VALUE to the customer.

“Your sales team needs to see themselves as problem solvers,” I said. “They aren’t just selling – they are offering solutions to issues that the customer is experiencing.”

By reframing the new sales goals as supporting customers, rather than making money, Ellen was able to help the sales team recognize the value of their role within the company.

Just four months after sharing this new perspective, the sales team beat all their goals. And they retained their satisfied customers!

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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When leaders and their teams are not on the same page

Joe, a talented CEO, came to me with a complaint. “My staff spends too much time on projects that are not high-priority,” he said. The projects were important, he admitted, but not at the top of the list.

Joe was frustrated because he had worked so hard on a strategic plan that was supposed to guide everyone’s work. Now it wasn’t being followed!

When I asked Joe to tell me how he prioritizes projects for his staff, he stopped talking. I could tell that he was having an “awakening moment.” Joe realized that he had not communicated his priorities often enough, or clearly enough, to his team.

Getting your entire staff on the same page requires more than one announcement about your key priorities.

This is where the disconnect happens. Leaders insist that they’ve communicated with their teams. But if the teams are not aligning their work with the organization’s key priorities, the message was not received – because it was unclear, vague, too short, or the team didn’t feel it applied to them.

Getting your entire staff on the same page, aligned with your key priorities, takes more than one announcement. It must be reinforced constantly, with check-ins, reminders, and measurement.

It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. When leaders and teams are on the same page, you’ll see results.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Don’t Avoid This Conversation

Recently a client shared a story that most leaders can relate to, especially in a year where disruption is the norm. The client, “Bob,” described struggling with a 15-year, high-performing direct report, “Michelle.” For several months, Michelle had been experiencing family difficulties.

When I asked how he and other team members handled Michelle’s situation, Bob summed it up in two words: “Avoiding it.”  Bob said Michelle always gives 150% and the team is like one big family. However, when Michelle shares the smallest bit of information about her situation, everyone “runs for cover” and has no idea what to say other than quickly changing the subject.  Sound familiar?

Rather than avoidance, Michelle needs empathy during this challenging time of her life.

Empathy builds connections, fuels trust, and lays the foundation for success in your organization.

Empathy is very different than sympathy. It allows us to take the perspective of the other person and recognize the emotion he or she is experiencing.  When we employ empathy, we do not pass judgment. We simply let the other person know that they are being heard.

What role does empathy play in the workplace, or in any relationship? Empathy builds connections and fuels trust. And trust is the foundation on which you build a shared vision of success for your organization.

Once Bob reached out to Michelle, she felt relieved. She knew that Bob understood what she was going through, and Bob felt that Michelle would return to 150% once her family situation was resolved. They began to trust each other again.

You can dive deeper into empathy in one of my Recommended Books for Leaders, The Empathy Edge by Brené Brown.

Today, more than ever, our world is desperate for empathetic leaders in ALL walks of life.  Will you make the choice to lean in with empathy?  What a great gift you can give to yourself and others.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

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Finding Positives In The Midst Of Change

“Unusual events are guaranteed to happen.” That was the message from Chris Voss, author of Never Split The Difference and a speaker at last year’s Global Leadership Summit. When he spoke these words, none of us could possibly know that major changes – in the form of COVID-19 – were on the horizon.

As leaders, we should expect change and be delighted in the possibilities it can bring. Of course, the devastating loss of life from the pandemic is a horrible tragedy. But has the shutdown opened new opportunities within your organization?

We should expect change and be delighted in the possibilities it can bring.

At the Center For Extraordinary Success, we believe that your team holds the key to finding these opportunities. Rather than  focusing on data, start a conversation with your staff – maybe even with employees with whom you often disagree. They may see hidden gems that you have missed. Approach these conversations with an empathetic mindset, and you may find something transformative amid the uncertainty.

Let us help you ask the right questions and seek the right input from your team. Together we can create the most powerful path to success from today’s uncertainty.

Sherri Miller, Founder and CEO
Center For Extraordinary Success

Don’t Launch Your Project Without This Critical Step

Your company’s new product or service is finally ready to go after months of meetings, analysis, detailed projections, and marketing plans. But have you included the most important step of all?

An internal communication plan is essential to your project’s success and is often overlooked by leaders. If your staff doesn’t understand the project and how it will be rolled out, you may not achieve your desired results.

Your staff may not be aware of your project’s mission and vision.

Have you ever asked three different staff members about your project’s goals and gotten three different answers? Without a planned project implementation and careful communication, your staff may not be aware of your project’s mission and vision. That means your customers won’t know, either.

Without effective internal communication, even the most thoughtfully planned, marketed, and priced product or service will miss the mark.

The best leaders plan their internal communication in advance by asking these important questions:

  • WHO needs to know about the new product or service? (Senior leadership or customer-facing staff?)
  • WHEN do they need to know (Hint: make sure it’s before the product or service is rolled out.)
  • HOW will I share the plan? (All-hands meeting, or a staff e-mail?)
  • Offer DETAILS to share with the internal team, including:

Why is this product or service important to our organization? (Make sure it’s NOT just to make more money – money is the result, not the reason.)

What is your vision for the new product or service?

What will be different in your team’s workflow as a result of the new product or service?

Will company processes change as a result of this new product or service?

How and when will you celebrate successes?

How will your team be informed and held accountable to ensure the project’s success?

Contact me before you roll out your next product or service and together we’ll create a successful and effective internal communication plan.

-Sherri Miller
Founder & CEO