The Lazy Leader Lull

I was reading Smart Business Columbus, a local publication, the other day. I came across an article written by Fred Koury, the President and CEO of the publisher, Smart Business Network. The topic struck a chord with me. It was about laziness and discipline in the magazine and it brought to mind a few leaders I have encountered recently who are frustrated by their sales teams’ performance.

Looking Inward

Even though they think their sales team is causing their frustration, I truly believe these leaders are likely simply frustrated with themselves. They have been lazy and lackluster in their focus to instill a disciplined approach to sales. These frustrated leaders have abdicated their role as charismatic influencers and are now paying the price through lost business, underperforming salespeople and managers who are not effective.

How do I know this?

I have been there.

I struggle with leadership laziness myself. I have always just wanted everyone to do what they are supposed to do without needing intervention from me.

Sound familiar?

An Arm Grabbing Insight

My friend, Nancy Bleeke, fellow sales expert and award-winning author of the book, Conversations that Sell, once sent me a gift that has helped bring me more clarity about the lazy leader lull.

She said when she saw it, it reminded her of me. It’s a bracelet. On it, it simply says “Wake Up. Kick Ass. Repeat.”

I was flattered. I wear it every day.

The message I got from this gift, however, I originally turned inward toward my frenzied pace of being busy. I do tend to work hard most days and usually work long hours. While doing it I’m maybe not as smart as I could be as a leader. I am not always good at communicating clearly what the expectations are and am frequently worse at following-up to make sure everyone is on the same page. Likewise, I sometimes think that other things are more important and forget to make sure everyone is moving toward the same vision. This is the telltale sign of leadership laziness.

New Meaning

Yes, I have worn this bracelet every single day since Nancy gave it to me, but recently it has taken on a new connotation. It doesn’t mean simply kick ass by working as hard as I possibly can. It means kick ass by being the best leader I can be and inspiring everyone else to become the best they can be while I’m at it – continuously looking to the future – and crafting a plan to realize that future. The bracelet now reminds me of my ongoing journey to improve my effectiveness as a leader and that I must try to follow those principles.

Five Rules

Here are five ways to combat leadership laziness. These are the principles I try to follow:

  1. Set the focus. What are the long-term goals? What is the team striving for? Make it big. Make it public. This Quarterly Strategic Sales Action Plan form, adapted from the book Scale written by Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel should help.
  2. Establish outcome expectations from everyone on the team. Work with each person to establish their own action plan. “Their own” is the key phrase here. They need to be intimately involved in creating it – so they can OWN their plan. This Math of Success worksheet should help.
  3. Set just three “Must Accomplish” big goals each day for yourself. If nothing else gets accomplished, then these three must.
  4. Articulate often where things stand for your team. Do this either through a regular touch base meeting or through engaging mass communication (think short video recording sent to everyone) if you have a big team.
  5. Conduct regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. Use these meeting with those that directly report to you for accountability check-in, formal coaching to help improve effectiveness and for a little dose of inspiration to help motivate.

Sticking to It

These are simple steps, but not necessarily easy. It takes discipline to stick to a plan. Use your calendar to help. Schedule touch points and check-ins on the calendar AND do not move them.

Success is not a destination, it is a journey, and it can be a marathon. Remember to Wake up. Kick ass. Repeat. I wear my bracelet every single day as a reminder. It helps.