In today’s current market conditions, leaders need to accept that the success of their teams and their companies will rely heavily on striking a collaborative, coordinated balance between creative strategic thinking and effective implementation. The previous model of leadership through top-down, silo-driven ‘command and control’ thinking will no longer suffice.
Here are five steps we see collaborative leaders taking right now to adapt to, and thrive in, the extraordinary circumstances we all face – a rapidly changing marketplace where there is no “normal.”
1. Support the sales leaders. Of course, we need to prioritize revenue generation. That means we want to double down on sales management. Sandler research indicates that 43% of sales managers do not receive effective training prior to taking up the role. As if that weren't enough, some 32% of sales managers report that the ongoing training they do receive is less than effective. That is unacceptable in normal times, but it is strategically dangerous right now. As organizational leaders, we need to make absolutely sure we are giving our sales managers the support they deserve, by providing them with all the training, all the tools, all of the coaching and all the personalized support they need.
2. Be open to innovation. This is really a matter of organizational mindset and corporate culture. Phrases like, "We have never done that," "It won't work," and "It didn't work last time we tried it," all need to be thrown out the window. We need to start connecting seemingly unrelated dots and creating new perspectives. We need to look for alliances that we might never have considered in the past. For instance, business agreements with people you once regarded as "enemies" or "competitors" may make perfect sense now, because you each do things that are slightly different but, collectively, you have a better service offering. In addition, we should be enhancing the communication between sales and product management, creating a constant ‘closed loop’ of feedback between those who create new offerings and those who first hear the voices of the market.
3. Set clear expectations and create a culture of accountability. In order to hold people accountable, your expectations must be crystal clear – and the best way to do that is to hold brief daily meetings with direct reports. What did we accomplish yesterday, what are we trying to accomplish today, and what are the tools and support we need to accomplish that? Those three simple questions will help propel all the tasks and behaviors that need to be done on a daily basis. Success has its rewards; the failure to deliver has consequences.
4. Avoid over-platforming. If we all run out to get the most "up-to-date" platforms and technology possible for each one of our teams, we may find that we are making it harder, not easier, to communicate and collaborate across and within the organization. That is overkill. And that is a recipe for disaster when rapid change is required. What we don't want is to silo ourselves into micro-groups within our organization, each using a separate communication or project management platform.
5. Wherever possible, clarify the process. Express the following idea to your team members: "We need to follow the ball. Whenever our goal is to do ‘X,’ we need to identify step one, step two, and step three for making sure ‘X’ happens successfully, and we need to write that down in a playbook and then circulate that playbook to all the appropriate people." When there is no playbook in one of those functional areas, we are basically asking Fate for a breakdown. Striking a collaborative, coordinated balance between creative strategic thinking and effective implementation will be all the harder to strike given the constantly changing market environments we all live in and the need to implement new initiatives frequently. However, not impossible.