How can a follower be at the top of the pack one year and in the bottom half the following year? 

What keeps top producers working long and hard after they make so much money that they don’t have time to spend it?

Leaders constantly strive to instill and maintain commitment to a vision, goal or outcome among their followers. As we’ve seen, one key to that is understanding people’s needs and how they change in response to changing market conditions and others. What happens in a down economy or a down market, for example?

One of the amazing things I’ve observed in working with hundreds of sales people is that a person can be on top one year and in the middle of the pack, or even lower, the next year. The motivational tactics that worked one year often do not work in subsequent years, leaving leaders scratching their heads.

Conversely, a person who is struggling can come from being placed on a performance plan to President’s Club status in one year.

Approaches that netted a lackluster response a few years ago might now move people significantly ahead toward the achievement of their goals. Although I use sales people as an example in this post, the information can be used for anyone in any position.

Some of the reasons for such dramatic changes have to do with how followers’ needs evolve as they struggle through business or economic changes. People’s inner beliefs about their abilities also change over time and with changing economic conditions.

When an employee’s heart and mind are fully engaged, high commitment is possible. However, the distraction of a worsening environment or market can have a devastating effect on performance. People’s commitment to a goal will wane when the goal loses value to them or when they believe the goal is no longer achievable.

If leadership is sales and sales exists to satisfy needs, then a leader must understand how a follower’s needs can change with economic conditions. A person who faces ever-changing obstacles and objectives may come to view a past accomplishment as something that is impossible to achieve again. For example, a salesperson may view last year’s accomplishment as nearly impossible now because of changing conditions, such as greater competition or fewer customers in the marketplace.

While a leader cannot make or command someone to be motivated, you can create a motivating environment or help followers see that the existing environment will work to satisfy their needs and is achievable – that is, sell them on what it will do for them and that they have what it takes to achieve in this environment. To do that, it is critical to understand how people’s commitment to a goal or outcome can change as their needs change.

Learn how to identify changing needs, create an environment for maximum motivation and enhance followers’ views of what’s possible:

From the book, “The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement”

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Leadership, Motivation, Sales, Uncategorized, Vision | Tagged , , , | 3,124 Comments


Part Three - The problem is that nothing stays the same.

There is within all of us a natural inclination to keep things the same. The problem is that while we work to keep things unchanged, they don’t really stay the same. Once we establish our comfort zone, we often try to stay well inside it to avoid pain, frustration, humiliation and embarrassment.  Over time, the comfort zone shrinks.  With it so does our view of the possible.

Great achievement requires us to stretch ourselves. Stretching entails risk and the opportunity for a lot of pain if we perform poorly or don’t achieve our goal. Often, we decide we are comfortable within a certain performance range relative to the activities needed to achieve the outcome. Once we learn where the barrier is, we work to stay where we’re comfortable, well within the comfort zone and far away from the edge. Eventually, we work so hard to stay away from the barrier that we form a new barrier well within the original. The border shrinks. The result is an ever-shrinking comfort zone.

The really frightening thing: When your comfort zone shrinks, so does your view of the possibilities. When your view of the possibilities disappear, action seems futile. When action is futile, decline and failure are inevitable.

One real-life example that most of us can relate to has to do with the elderly. Some once-vibrant people who were out there taking on the world through their 60s later find it is all they can do to get to the early-bird dinner special and home before dark for fear of running into trouble and hurting themselves. Some people accept shrinking comfort zones as a part of aging. Many require less and less of themselves over time.

Shrinking comfort zones are not inevitable.  They will continuously expand when individuals push themselves through new opportunities and challenges.  There are many people who wouldn’t think of skiing in their 70s or 80s, yet a man at my health club tries to ski once each year for every year of his age. He is more than 80 years old and skis more than 80 times a year. There are people who run marathons well into their 80s.

Implication for Leadership

If leadership is moving people far beyond what they thought they could do, then selling people on moving out of their comfort zone is essential.  If the leader fails to do this, the follower doesn’t just stay the same, they wind up far less capable than when the leader first met them.  

Some people with a poor view of performance enhancement feel that a leader who pushes followers to achieve far more than was thought possible is doing so selfishly. Perhaps, but as you see, pushing people beyond their comfort zones is essential if they are to grow and experience all that life has to offer rather than shrink their view of the possible and capabilities.

From the book, “The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement”

Posted in Leadership, Motivation, Sales, Uncategorized, Vision | Tagged , , , | 1,751 Comments


Part Two – Implication for Leadership and Management

A basic principle of psychology is that people are hedonistic. We move toward pleasure and away from pain, which is why we like our comfort zones. When we’re given a goal, we look at all aspects of achievement. We look at the skills and abilities necessary to achieve the goal and determine how well we think we will do in any specific area. We ask ourselves, “OK, what will it take to achieve? What might trip me up?”

We break each element down and look specifically for the most challenging aspects, sizing ourselves up to determine if we have the wherewithal to succeed. We develop a perception of how far out of our comfort zone we’ll have to venture to achieve the goal. We do this to protect ourselves from the pain and embarrassment associated with possible failure. Other people may have different perceptions of our capabilities but, to the individual, our self-perception is our reality.

In the comfort zone

As discussed, inside the comfort zone we are comfortable with our skills and abilities.  Outside the comfort zone is where we feel we struggle with certain activities that are critical to achieving the desired outcome.  For example, while an individual may feel comfortable doing basic presentations, he may be unnerved by technical presentations that require juggling a lot of detail. One-on-one sales presentations may be her forte but presentations to groups of 20 to 50 people may be very uncomfortable. Someone who is excellent at building relationships with existing customers can have a good deal of trouble stepping outside to cold call and sell to new accounts.

If those things are essential to achieving the vision, an individual can spend a lot of time and energy fretting over them and ultimately, depending on the level of his discomfort, drag his feet or freeze up.  Even after we lead people out of their comfort zone they often fall back.

You can get people to move out of their comfort zone but the real trick is to keep them out so they can achieve well past the norm.  We have an inherent need to keep things in homeostasis – to keep them normal, the same – safe within our comfort zone.  How often have you coached followers to do more than they thought they could only to see them slip back to the previous levels of performance?  If a person doesn’t believe he is the “type” of person or has the skills to perform at the new level, he will move back to the previous level of performance where he feels he is capable and comfortable. A good example of this is movie stars and professional athletes who don’t believe their “hype.” They fear they will be “found out” or exposed as being a “fake.”  They seem to have everything going for them but they self-destruct.  It happens in business as well. People who don’t believe they should be capable of performing at the level needed will be haunted by the fear of failure. They become worried they cannot sustain the new level of production needed and do something to move themselves back to their previous level within their comfort zone.

Here’s the implication for leadership and management. When we examine the comfort zone which is more effective?   If the problem is followers’ lack of belief in their abilities to perform all aspects needed to achieve, how effective is threatening someone with a performance plan, disciplinary action or loss of a job?  When invoked, these often cause the follower to freeze up.  When it does work, the results are usually short term. I have often heard people in positions of management say, “when the heat was on and the direct report was placed on a performance plan he did well.  Once the plan was lifted, he fell back to previous levels of performance.”  The reason intimidation is not often effective is that the problem is a lack of followers’ belief in themselves.  Stress only makes it worse.  It serves to demonstrate to the followers that they aren’t worthy of the accomplishment.

Lasting change takes leadership.  Followers’ beliefs in their abilities need to be changed. It takes constant and continuous selling of followers on their abilities to achieve each individual requirement and move well beyond their comfort zone and stay there.

 The purpose of the comfort zone is to protect you by keeping you safe and the same.  The  problem is no matter how hard you  work to stay within the comfort zone, you never stay the same as you will see in Part Three.   

From the book, “The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement”

Posted in Leadership, Motivation, Sales, Uncategorized, Vision | Tagged , , , , , , | 4,950 Comments


Part One

True leaders lead people to achieve outstanding outcomes that few see and most don’t believe are possible. What if the followers have trouble believing they can achieve their part?

How often do you need and want people to tackle a goal or vision that you believe to be achievable but people around you are dragging their feet? How often do you feel you have your followers’ commitment to the overall vision but the goal steps for getting there seem to be major hurdles? Why is it that some people who appear to have all the skills and abilities to knock the cover off the ball and achieve great things have only excuses?

One of the greatest thieves of human potential is the comfort zone. Many people are reluctant to venture out for fear of failure, pain or embarrassment. They are drawn back to the performance they are comfortable with, and they shy away from the awkward, risky, uncomfortable activities that would propel them beyond their current situation.

“The inability to break free of the tentacles of the past is the reason most people accomplish far less than they are capable of and remain unfulfilled and dissatisfied for most of their lives.” Brian Tracy

 “Comfort zone”

A comfort zone is an artificial mental boundary within which a person maintains a sense of security. It is a reflection of how we think and feel about ourselves and the world around us. It’s how we view the world and our place in it and how we expect things to be. Within the comfort zone are all the skills and activities we believe we perform well. Outside the comfort zone are all the skills and activities we find challenging. Being inside the comfort zone is comfortable; outside is risky and scary.

There is a natural inclination to stay within the comfort zone. We are drawn there when the stakes are high because we’re out of harm’s way. We feel secure. Most people don’t push past their comfort zone at all for fear of disappointment, pain and embarrassment.  Some may push past but fall back within the comfort zone when confronted with a difficult objective, task or roadblock.

Here’s a leaders dilemma.  No meaningful change will come without getting out of one’s comfort zone. To achieve a grandiose vision or outcome, leaders must get followers to commit to move well beyond the norm and out of the comfort zone and stay there.

More on the comfort zone and how to get followers to move out and stay out in Part Two and Three.  

From the book, “The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement”

Posted in Leadership, Motivation, Sales, Vision | Tagged , , | 3,388 Comments

What’s Up With The Vision?

 Most experts agree that communication of a vision is a leader’s most important task. The vision tells the world where you are leading the team. The legacy created by the vision is what the followers get when they follow. It’s their reason to follow. By definition, the leader rallies the team to commit emotionally to the daily activities that move the team to achieve the vision. To do that, the leader has to appeal to people’s needs.

 Most people want to leave a legacy that counts for something. A legacy can be short-term, involving a year in a person’s life or a notable accomplishment, such as winning a prestigious award. Leaders need to be aware of this when crafting, communicating and selling a vision. A well-crafted vision will speak to the follower’s basic need to contribute to something greater and leave a legacy.

 Company visions that are general in nature rarely invoke a high level of passion and commitment because their apparent relevance to an individual follower or team often is marginal. The connection to the individual usually is hazy and often not self-evident to the team or individual team player.

 The framed vision statement on the wall is often thought of as part of the public relations function, for customers and new employee orientation, but not as part of everyday life. Few people can tell you what the vision statement is. Even fewer can tell you clearly how they contribute to their company’s vision every day through their work.  Those who are aware of the vision often do not understand the extent to which they can impact it through their work, which leads to less targeted action. Without targeted action, people are less likely to hit the target, or vision.

 From the book “The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement” 

Learn how any leader on any level of the organization can develop a team vision that coincides with the company vision.  Develop a vision that is a guiding light that demonstrates to all what the team can become. One that speaks to individual followers emotionally and creates the excitement and motivation to drive them through all the steps and milestones needed to achieve the vision.

From the book “The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement” 

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Leadership, Motivation, Vision | Tagged , , , , | 3,766 Comments

People Want to Be a Part of Something Great

People want to know they’re contributing to something larger than themselves.  They need to know that they are more than the sum total of the tasks that make up their job. 

You might look at your own team and say, “Not my team. They’re just looking to get through the day.” I would say, “Yes, your team, too.”  Most people don’t believe their work will move them to self-actualization.  They don’t expect to see it, so they don’t look for it and therefore don’t see what’s in front of them. That’s why leadership is so important, and it’s another reason I say leadership is sales. A leader sells a vision by putting things in perspective, by helping people see the opportunities that are right in front of them. Followers will embrace a vision when they see how it will satisfy their needs and move them further along the continuum of development so they can be more, have more and experience more.

A leader sells a vision or desired outcome by putting things in perspective to help followers see what opportunities will do for them personally and professionally.

 From the book, The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Leadership, Motivation | Tagged , , | 2,389 Comments

Credibility is the Cornerstone of Leadership.

According to extensive research by Kouzes and Posner, detailed in The Leadership Challenge, credibility is the cornerstone of leadership. People first listen to what leaders say and then watch their actions for consistency. If you are inconsistent, followers conclude that you don’t believe in what you are saying. If leadership is sales, a lack of credibility leads to “no sale.”

One of a leader’s most important skills is the ability to gain the trust and confidence of followers. Followers have to believe the leader can lead them to achievement of the vision or outcome. They need to be confident that the leader maintains belief and commitment throughout if they are to devote their hearts and souls to doing what it takes to achieve the vision or desired outcome.

For example: “Follow my lead and I will help you get where you need to go. I have done it before and I can do it again.”

Followers who do not respect their leader and his or her abilities will not commit to achieving the vision. They may like the leader as a person but lack faith in the individual’s abilities. I have listened to followers say of a very personable, like able but weak leader that they would socialize with him but never work for him ever again. I have worked with other leaders who tried so hard to be liked that, once they were gone, team members complained bitterly about their lack of support.

Trust and confidence often come through stories of how you, as a leader, have helped others achieve something similar. Faith and belief are enhanced further when you can lay out a viable plan and direction to achieve the lofty vision. When you break the vision down to doable goal steps, followers can see more clearly how the vision can be accomplished. Stories of how others have achieved in similar positions and situations also help sell followers on your abilities.

If you are not seen as credible, no one will buy into anything you say, regardless of your intentions. To the extent that followers doubt you, their own commitment and action move further away from achievement of maximum outcomes.

From The Six Things: Leading People to Outstanding Achievement

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Leadership, Sales | Tagged , | 3,685 Comments

Leadership is The Process of Influence

Executive Outcomes logo.
Image via Wikipedia

How much easier would your life be if your followers had a higher level of trust, admiration, loyalty and respect for you as a leader and were more willing to work harder for you?

How much more successful would you be if your followers were emotionally compelled and committed to desired outcomes?

“Leadership is the process of influencing group activities toward the achievement of goals.” – Brian Tracy

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Leadership | Tagged | 3,406 Comments

Leadership is Sales

WASHINGTON - APRIL 16:  U.S. Secretary of Educ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Leadership isn’t telling people what to do. It is selling them on the possibilities, on what the outcome or reward will do for them personally and professionally, and on their abilities to achieve over any obstacle. It is selling them on the reward and that it will be worth the effort and on your own ability to help them obtain the reward. Selling is so important because followers often do not clearly see the opportunities in front of them.

If you merely tell someone to work toward a goal, you likely will have to push, pull and drag them to the outcome – or they might do exactly what you tell them to do and achieve predictable results. If you sell your followers on what the outcome will do for them, they will come up with creative approaches that will surprise you. They will take you further than anyone thought possible.

From the soon to be published book,

“The Six Things:Leading People to Outstanding Achievement”

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Leadership, Motivation | Tagged , | 5,057 Comments

An absolute essential for change leadership

Organizations spend megabucks on change initiatives. All too often, an inordinate amount of time and resources are spent on everything leading up to and including the rollout. The rest is left to manifest organically, assuming people in the organization will pick up the charge.

Many companies do a good job of explaining the need for change, at least from the company’s view. They pull groups together and talk about the change needed and about the impact on the company if they either do or don’t move in the direction of change. They lay out the steps required to lead to that change. They attempt to sell the change, or put the best possible spin on it.

A mistake many make when selling change is they address only groups when discussing the direction of the change and it’s imperative. For change leadership to be effective, people on all levels need to understand the value of the change for them and not just for the company. Often overlooked is the role of the individual in change.

Teams, departments, divisions and companies are all made up of people. Each individual needs to be sold. They have different needs, wants, fears and need to be convinced that the change will be good for them. Individuals can contribute to the derailment of change efforts if they don’t see value. If the change initiative is rolled out only to groups without specific and targeted efforts to sell individuals, then change will be less effective.

 It’s important for followers to see that people on the top levels are committed to change. But it’s also important that the change initiative be well planned and executed from all levels and that key people officially charged with leadership and unofficially involved in influencing the direction of change are sold.

Before the roll-out of the change initiative, key individuals, influencers, unofficial leaders and official leaders within the group need to be identified. They need to be sold and preferably enlisted as change agents so they are not working against the steps to change. They, in turn, should be enlisted to sell others.

Posted in Leadership | Tagged | 2,489 Comments