Shawn Casemore is an expert on sales growth, who works directly with companies and their leaders for breakthrough strategies in performance. Shawn has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as CN Rail, Tim Horton’s, and Pepsi Co, however he invests the majority of his time working with some of the fastest growing and dynamic mid-market companies, including Bellwyck Packaging, Gerson and Gerson Incorporated and Saje Natural Wellness. Shawn is well-versed to offer insights on how to build winning strategies through the intelligence of well-managed teams. He shared his findings and expertise in the below article.
For the longest time, my dog Charlie, a labradoodle, would sneak a sock from our room and chew on it – eventually making the sock garbage.
Every time we find him chewing on a sock, we put him in our laundry room, a time-out of sorts. What always surprises me is that despite him receiving feedback on how undesirable his behaviour is, he repeatedly sneaks and chews socks.
To be fair, Charlie’s environment doesn’t provide him with any additional feedback that would prompt him to do otherwise. Our response, although negative, gives him the attention he needs. The feedback he receives is not broad enough to prompt him to change his behaviour.
As leaders, we can face a similar challenge: receiving feedback that is too limited in scope to drive breakthrough thinking or strategic insights. Let me share an example.
When I ask most CEOs and executives about what they’ve learned in the last 12 months, they often respond in a similar fashion:
Remote work has worked for some employees, while others seemed to have simply checked out.
Overall sales have sustained, but the sales team seems to have lost focus.
Long-time customer accounts have been maintained, but new account acquisition has declined.
This is typically the feedback they’ve garnered from their executive team and from their own observations. But let me ask you, is this feedback broad enough to warrant any new insights? Does this provide the business intelligence that will help you formulate a strategic response?
During the past 12 months, I’ve been working with companies who continue to work face to face, those who have shifted to 100% remote, and everything in between. Here is my observation:
Regardless of the environment, we’ve stopped investing the time to have conversations that provide us feedback and insights we need to think strategically.
We’ve stopped checking in on our employees.
Our outreach to key customers and suppliers has subsided.
Meeting rooms and boardrooms (and the conversations they prompted) remain empty.
During a recent discussion with a client, I asked what intelligence they had been gathering to inform their strategic decisions over the next 12-24 months.
With a blank stare, he responded, “With all that is going on right now, I haven’t had the time to give this any attention.”
We’re all busy, but setting aside time to have intelligence-gathering conversations is the most important responsibility of being a CEO.
So how can we do this despite our hectic schedule?
There’s a simple exercise I call “The Power of One.” It’s one simple question that you ask each month for three different groups. This exercise will allow you to always remain at the forefront of what is happening with your customers, employees, and key suppliers.
- Call one customer – ask what the greatest challenges are that they are facing right now.
- Call one employee – ask what the greatest challenges are that they are facing right now.
- Call one supplier – ask what the greatest challenges are that they are facing right now.
These three calls should take you no longer than 10 minutes each, or 30 minutes in total. To ensure they are most effective, apply the following rules:
- Make sure these questions aren’t an add-on to an existing conversation, as they lose their impact and result in less clarity.
- Approach each call with the intention of understanding. Ask your question and then listen to the response. Don’t offer up responses or interrupt.
- Document responses in your planner or wherever you keep your most important insights to reflect upon later.
At the end of each month, set aside 30 minutes to reflect upon these insights and ask yourself:
What opportunities can you find in your customers’ challenges?
What solutions can you bring to your employees’ challenges?
What risks do your suppliers’ challenges present to your company?
By investing 60 minutes each month, you can capture business intelligence that will inform your thinking, direction, and leadership. If that’s not the best use of 60 minutes, I’m not sure what is.
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