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Death By Metrical Strangulation

For some of you this article will hit home. These are crazy times we live in. There are top producers out there with accolades and accomplishments that read like rap sheets of America’s Most Wanted who are returning recruiter’s phone calls that they previously would have laughed off years ago. Why? Because of poor talent management and failure to launch (or in this case failure of management to GET deservedly launched).

Without further adieu, let’s get started as to why.

I think it’s important to paint you a picture before we begin…

Case Study 1
Company A has been in business for the last 50 years. Profits have steadily risen during the good years, remained flat during the dreaded early 80’s, and slowly recovered over the course of the last two decades. Since the softening of the economy back in Q4 2008, eyes have been wide and heads have been on a swivel. Watching, waiting, hoping…Thinkers have been thinking. Planners have been planning. Doers have been doing. Sellers have been selling (or at least trying).

Company A’s 100 person sales force has been booking orders and driving revenue to the best of their ability albeit against poorly trending figures. Company A’s leadership (who most have not been in a revenue producing role in the past decade) respond by of course analyzing metrics and performance. This tactic is the rock they have leaned against in seemingly tough times since they were placed in management. After looking at the figures they come up with a brilliant idea that productivity needs to increase. TODAY. No excuses.

Monday morning roles around and the conversations heat up about increasing productivity. Company A’s sales team is less than thrilled because they know that is not going to shield them from the nuclear fall out they are dealing with on the front lines. A few months go by and by now productivity across the 100 person sales force has doubled, but revenue is still flat. Management is scratching their heads wondering why this approach didn’t work. Their response is to release an amber alert on the entire sales force, no one is safe. They will be watching and analyzing every one’s numbers on a daily basis now (mind you this was not done at all in the last two decades, shoot it wasn’t needed) Produce or you’re gone. Period.

What management doesn’t realize is that they have just driven a dagger into their 100 person sales team. They have brought their revenue producers to the edge of the plank and given them no space to be creative or even turn around for that matter. What transpires thereafter is a divide amongst a united front, anger, animosity, resentment, and a change in culture. None of which you want OR need when trying to turn around profits and stay in business. Top level and mid tier producers leave for other appealing offers that they previously would never consider and Company A is left with bottom tier talent to fight the most difficult war they have ever faced while dealing with massive attrition and the ensuing need to now pry away other top level producers from their competition. But the secret is already out. Your culture stinks, you don’t provide professional development, profits are done, your team is stressed, and probably no bonus this year. Why would the best player on a winning team ever CHOOSE to go play for the worst team in the division? Hmmm. Yea, recipe for disaster.

If you are reading this you most likely know exactly what I’m talking about, or have a close friend, spouse, neighbor, or family member that has spilled their guts about just this thing happening at their own company.

Humor me here on the rest of this article. Don’t worry there is something for everyone:

Managers – if your revenue generating team is struggling; implementing a ‘Death By Metrical Strangulation’ approach is not the panacea that is needed. This is actually the worst thing you can do. Circumstances have changed. The game has changed. You can’t use sandbags to brace against a tsunami. Your job as Captain of the ship is to set strategy, plan alternate routes to avert danger, and motivate your people to row hard. You read above in the case study why. I’m sure I could come up with 15 additional bad outcomes if you gave me another few days to track down your former top producers that left you this past year and ask why.

Revenue Producers – if you previously loved your company and you find yourself in this situation, then my advice is to get out while you can. Unless management will be leaving before you of course. In most cases your effort has not failed you. Your leadership has failed you. You are not charged with setting the course and holding the compass to make sure your ship arrives at its destination. That is the Captain of the ship’s responsibility. If the only thing management can come up with is to do what wasn’t already working three times as hard and expect a different outcome then you need to put your paddle down and grab a life jacket, because that boat is going down.

Companies – please note that due to your lack of investment in ongoing professional development, you have assigned once promising top producers into leadership roles who have now become one dimensional managers with antiquated tool kits to fix your problems. Which basically equates to cheerleaders clad in company colors with worn out pompoms shouting go, fight, win while remembering the championships of yesteryear.

If companies AND those in leadership put half as much energy into stepping back and coming up with new, creative ways to approach your target markets as you do analyzing and measuring flat revenue and implementing metrical management techniques, I assure you that you would see improved results twice as fast. Don’t believe me? Ask your own top producers their thoughts on the matter, but beware they may already be gone to your competition by the time you get around to your Outlook calendar.

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