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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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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