7 Traits of Effective Leaders in a World of Increasing Change, Intensifying Competition and Game Changing Innovation.
Published: Mon 17 Nov 2014

Know your Stakeholders: Your stakeholders are those whose support is essential to your success. Do you understand their concerns and aspirations and what they expect in return for their support? No organisation or initiative can be led successfully without understanding how your stakeholders feel and what they expect.

Walk and talk: Locked in a remote office, exposed only to sanitised reports and surrounded by “yes, yes, how high!” support staff is a formula for short tenured leadership. In a changing and intensely competitive context, there is no substitute for getting out and feeling, smelling and seeing what is really happening.

Communicate: A new CEO of one of the few consistently successful US airlines hand wrote a short personalised letter to several thousand employees seeking suggestions and got an abundance of useful responses. Communicating and acting in a way that conveys the importance you place on the ideas and suggestions of your team are powerful motivators.

Collaborate: There is a NASA Moon mission survival exercise that we use in leadership development programs to demonstrate how much more effective a collaborating team can be as compared with an individual working alone. How effectively you are able to collaborate is critical to your success as a leader.

Think systemically: Even in a complex rapidly changing environment, certain events typically follow others. A decline in economic performance typically leads to a drop in stock prices, which can lead to a shift in investment into property, which may trigger inflation, which may trigger increases in interest rates -- and so on. Leaders of the most successful organisations have a sharp ability to anticipate consequences (both positive and negative) by thinking systemically and interactively.

Think creatively: Having the confidence to look at a situation from a different perspective to see connections and possibilities that have never been seen previously is what creative thinking is about. Be more confident in stepping out of the ordinary if you want to become extraordinary.

Learn from past experiences: Periodic reflection, guided by specific questions, on your past good and bad experiences is an effective way of learning how to repeat success and is essential to ensure continuous innovation and adaptation of your leadership style and approach.

Part 3: The Motivational Challenge
Published: Thu 18 Sep 2014

This is the third instalment of a three part series.
Read part 1 | Read part 2.


Personal motivation is important to any successful sales career and is critical to great sales performance. In client relationship management, there are many ways in which a loss of motivation that leads to a motivation challenge can be triggered.

“I have only sold one this week and my target is 1000 this year!” An over focus on long range targets at the expense of shorter term targets can trigger a motivation challenge. Focussing on a target of 4.4 per day is more manageable mentally than 1000 per year. Shorter-term performance targets are advised by all the sales directors we have dealt with.


TIP: Big annual targets can be overwhelming mentally – smaller daily targets are mentally manageable. start each day with a potential small win and build on that win.


Another important source of potential demotivation is the length of some sales processes. A senior banker worked for three years to understand the operations and build relationships necessary to secure the transaction accounts of a Federal Government department that was a major provider of public services. A construction project manager worked for four years to secure the contract to build a major hotel in Sydney. In both cases, motivation was sustained by establishing shorter term objectives that brought the end sales progressively closer. This is an essential motivation sustaining approach in sales cycles that require long gestation periods.


TIP: After a bad week, modify the daily or weekly target to get back on track to reach the annual total.


Unfortunately the management of some motivation challenges are outside of a business generator’s control. Dealing with key clients who are not able to be serviced within a reasonable timeframe for some supply capability reason and who do not have a viable alternative can be demotivating for the sales team, particularly if the relationship manager has done everything that could be done to resolve the matter. To address this form of motivation challenge, one sales executive assured their key customer that a guaranteed place in the fulfilment queue had been secured and the client’s priority position would be defended at whatever cost. This provided an illusion of action that was favourably received by the client and as a consequence revitalised motivation.

Some business generators interviewed projected an outward air of apparent confidence that on further probing often disguised personal insecurities and motivation issues that clearly required some form of coaching support. Several great sales generators also claimed that without regular holiday breaks with their family they would not be able to sustain their motivation.


In summary

Each challenge that is overcome leads to a significantly higher level of confidence, motivation and subsequent performance. Some sales executives deal smoothly with these challenges and become great business generators, whilst others only partially deal with them and coast at an average performance level and some are so overcome that they see no alternative other than to recognise that their abilities would be better suited to another type of job.

Part 2 - The Strategic Challenge
Published: Mon 08 Sep 2014

This is the second of a three part series on Becoming a Star Sales Performer.
Read part one | Read part three

2. The Strategic Crisis

A strategic challenge occurs when sales decline due to an ad-hoc approach or when the sales strategy adopted is no longer working. Successful relationship pipeline management requires three distinct strategies to be formulated and executed:

  1. Strategies for generating potential relationships and converting them into client relationships: most organisations provide leads to their sales organisations, but great performers creatively add new sources and they identify meaningful justifications as to why it is in the interests of the client to act now.
  2. Strategies for increasing the depth of existing client relationships: for example, by increasing the extent to which the client may be assisted or by providing someone to manage their enquiries when you are not available or required.
  3. Strategies for allocating resources across pipeline stages to ensure a steady flow of sales: many great sales generators manage the prospect pipeline themselves until the initial sale is completed and then have a support team that assists with managing post sales and ongoing services.

We can’t always be there personally, but we can ensure that help will be available when the client needs it. Great sales generators anticipate client needs and ensure the ability to respond when required.

TIP: Build a team or outsource to improve your ability to continuously develop client relationships and to respond to new business opportunities as they arise -- opportunity windows are tending to close more rapidly.


Up next: The Motivational Challenge

Becoming a Star Sales Performer
Published: Wed 03 Sep 2014

Star sales performers successfully overcome three challenges by creating support systems and using outsourcing to increase their efficiency and allow them to focus on higher value tasks, according to a study undertaken by the Australian Graduate School of Leadership.

The three challenges that sales performers must overcome to become superstars are:

  1. Administrative;
  2. Strategic; and
  3. Motivational.


1. The Administrative Challenge

An administrative challenge builds as stress from increasing workloads results in fatigue and a declining quality of family life. Repeatedly not being there when you said you would mounts and eventually reaches a breaking point; thinking “I do not know how much longer the family will put up with my coming home late at night and working weekends!” usually means an administrative challenge is imminent.

Family support is essential to star sales performance. A significant percentage of great business generators claimed that, in addition to keeping family commitments, decisions affecting the family, such as where to go on holiday or the next household luxury item to purchase, need to be shared decisions that are discussed by the whole family.


TIP:   Your family commitments override most work appointments – so don’t miss them!


Balancing the delivery of great sales performance and family responsibilities involves making time by working smarter:

  • Automate as many functions as possible; for example, event support, action reminders, and any other trigger situations that can be satisfied with a standardised response;
  • Continuously explore how client relationship development can be made more efficient; that is, with less effort required to move from one relationship stage to the next;
  • Delegate administrative functions wherever feasible, such as making appointments, some after sales client servicing and bookkeeping; and
  • Avoid scheduling important potentially open-ended client meetings before agreed family commitments.

Several high performing respondents claimed that failing to deal effectively with this challenge had led them to a divorce and, unfortunately, the lesson learned on how to balance their commitments was too late.


This is the first of a three part series.  Up next: The Strategic Challenge; followed by: The Motivational Challenge


Sustaining Networks throughout their Evolution
Published: Wed 20 Aug 2014

Appropriate network support action will depend on the stage of network development. There are three distinct stages networks evolve through with each stage requiring capabilities in addition to those of the previous stage.



A variety of activities are required to support network operations, including: recruiting network members, induction briefings to develop shared expectations (how expected member contributions, benefits and risks will be shared, and how and when feedback will be provided and communication will occur). The challenges at this stage include ensuring promised benefits are available on time, sustaining development momentum, providing timely relevant performance feedback and making necessary operating adjustments.



To support continuing network growth beyond the initial operating establishment stage, a systematic administrative support infrastructure to monitor network operations and highlight what is working and what may need adjustment needs to be developed and support for critical executive functions, such as event management, needs to be provided. Network growth depends on identifying early activities that lead to desirable results and the rapid reinforcement and promotion of these activities.

Network controls need to be viewed as a basis for learning how to do it better next time rather than as a compliance device. If administrative network control becomes too complex, operational flexibility can be stifled and the network purpose can be hindered. Projected control variances can provide a useful basis for anticipating potential future issues and allow the lead time to take appropriate adjustment action to deal with them.



In the development of every network, a stage will be reached at which a strategic capability is needed to ensure the network can adapt to evolving threats and opportunities, otherwise the network will most likely begin to decay. Major networks such as those of Amazon, Apple and Google are continuously evolving the range of benefits they offer their members.

If a strong purposeful collaborative climate has been established and is supported by a shared strategic network vision that encourages experimentation, a shared future development strategy will inevitably emerge. If development of the network has generated members that hold dominant power positions that are used for personal gain, the network will progressively lose its creative vigour, propensity to experiment and, in time, its member base. Various strategies can be adopted to prevent the emergence of abusive and coercive concentrations of power, like granting veto power under certain circumstances, rotating network roles, instilling operating principles and enforcing rules that limit potential power concentrations (for example, by placing an upper limit on the percentage of network business that any single member can secure).

Understanding how networks are established and sustained through the stages of their evolution is critical to effective leadership, especially while networked organisational structures are becoming more and more prevalent.


This is the second instalment of a two part series. Read part one.

Refer also to our earlier blog post: Corporates and Start-ups Collaborate for Innovative Hedged Growth