How can you say, “It’s not just about the numbers”?

I want to use this column to explain what I mean when I say “it’s not just about the numbers”.

In business, the viability of a firm depends on its ability to create the numbers it needs to exist! No one can debate that.  My all-time heroes, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, knew that and made profit their number one corporate objective.

At the same time, Bill and Dave recognized that the numbers by themselves could not create an environment where people can grow, where they can ensure the success of those they care about, and where they can make a contribution to their industry and their community.  All of those things are critical for the employees of an organization to feel that their work matters and to fully engage in the mission of the organization.

So looking at it another way, the key word in my catch-phrase is the word “just“.

The high-tech industry in particular, has become so competitive, and the importance of current quarter business results so compelling, that leaders often sacrifice everything to get “the number”. What they miss,  is that focusing just on the numbers destroys the employee engagement that is so critical to achieving the business objective. Most mature adults understand that meeting the business objectives is job one. They just don’t want it to be “job only.”

As leaders, we have to appeal to all levels of their motivation. We have to help them feel a part of a community, to feel that their company and their colleagues, really care about them as individuals, and that the company ties its business success to values that transcend more than just return to shareholders.

This is why I get so excited about deploying the power of coaching into modern organizations. It’s the best way for leaders to connect their teams to the motivation and skills they need to hit their numbers, while making their workplace a human and fulfilling place to invest their time and their skills.

Salespeople provoke your customers… Sales Leaders, provoke your team!

Is Solution Selling Dead?

In an excellent article from the March 2009 Harvard Business Review, Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin, and Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm) suggest that “solution selling” is getting long in the tooth, and prospects are getting hardened to that approach.  They are overwhelmed with suitors wanting to peer deeply into their eyes and ask open ended questions on “what keeps you awake at night?”  In my own selling, I’m finding my prospects increasingly unmotivated by the classical solution selling approach.  Even if I have an existing relationship or an introduction from someone they trust, I find their eyes glazing over quickly as I attempt a classical fact finding discussion.

Here is how the authors describe a more edgy alternative, “provocation based selling”:

“Provocation-based selling goes beyond the conventional consultative or solution-selling approach, whereby the vendor’s sales team seeks out current concerns in a question and-answer dialogue with customer managers.  And it differs dramatically from the most common approach still in use—product based selling, which pushes features, functionality, and benefits, usually in a generic manner. Provocation-based selling helps customers see their competitive challenges in a new light that makes addressing specific painful problems unmistakably urgent. This approach isn’t right for every selling situation you’ll face in a downturn, nor does it apply only under challenging economic conditions.  But for many companies that see their old approaches losing power, its time has come.”

Harvard Business Review, March 2009, “In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers”

So what does this have to do with leading and developing our teams?


Our team members are our customers for our efforts to help them develop.  We are competing for their attention and sense of urgency as they make decisions on where to spend their time and energy.  Like their customers, they are overwhelmed with unmet quotas, reluctant prospects, and declining customer budgets.

As much as they want to please us, and grow, they are performing triage daily.  We have to provoke them and build a case for the importance of investing in their development of  their skills and effectiveness.  They have to feel enough urgency around their development objectives to make time and dedicate resources.

As you approach your next one-on-one, how will you provoke them with the value proposition for personal development, and the compelling impact on them and their business if they fail to act?


A Journey into the Valley of the Stuck

Here’s a great article from a colleague coach, Teresa Pool, which was recently published in a North Texas Coaches newsletter.  You can read more about Teresa at her website:

A Journey into the Valley of the Stuck

By Teresa J. Pool

Help! I have no idea where to go next with this client. They
are totally stuck and neither one of us seem to know what to do about it. I
feel like I’m failing to help him. What am I missing? Where do I go from here?”
Steve’s concern, blurted out at the start of our coaching session, mirrors a
common challenge that every coach experiences at some point during their
career: what do I do when nothing seems to work? At this point, I have to be careful
of not sounding too excited for these coaches, as the mental leap from failure
to excitement is a bit much to take in all at once. But I know that they are
about to discover the incredible power for change to be found in that stuck

The sensation of being stuck comes from a lack of
perceivable options. Clients remain in their current situation or state of
thought because nothing else seems possible. The coach may find himself joining
them in the Valley of the Stuck when every tool in their kit fails to light the
way out. It is an uncomfortable place to be. Sometimes the coach takes on
blame, “If I was a better coach, I’d know how to get us moving again.”
Sometimes the frustration is laid at the feet of the client, “This client
doesn’t really want to change.” When either happens, stuck becomes struggle and
the coaching relationship often ends shortly after. What a shame, since amazing
growth is waiting just on the other side of that stuck place.

I encourage coaches to explore stuckness (not a word but it
deserves to be) with fascination. Wallow in it, be curious about it, find joy
in it, poke fun at it. Always treating it as a temporary resting place before a
major change, like a vacation spot for the mind before it embarks on a big
journey. Make it a safe place for clients to be until they are ready to leave.
Because deep in the heart of Stuck Valley is the option that they want. Notice
I said previously that the sensation of being stuck comes from a lack of
perceivable options. The mind’s actual purpose for being stuck is to avoid
something unpleasant, usually around the option that they really want.
Obviously, the clients are the only ones who know what their difficult options
are, and they don’t even know they know it. The coach’s job is to help them
find awareness in the stuck place. Awareness is the bridge out of Stuck Valley.

Recognizing Stuck:

  • Observation method: The client states a strong
    desire to move toward his or her goal but makes little actual attempt to get
  • Exhaustion method: The coach finds consistent
    resistance to all questions and suggestions.
  • Easy method: When the client is asked, “Are we
    stuck?” he or she responds with, “Yes.”

Embracing Stuck:

  • Present “stuck” as a normal stage in the change
    process, fertile ground to explore.
  • Remove all pressure to figure out why they are
    stuck and what they need to do about it.
  • Let clients know that they are free to stay
    there as long as they like. Ex-press confidence that when they are ready, they
    will naturally move on.
  • Encourage clients to talk about the benefits of
    being stuck right now. If nothing else, it’s a break from all that action!

Exploring Stuck:

  • Compare history. Ask the client if he or she has
    ever experienced this same stuck feeling before. What was that like? What
    caused it to end? What happened next? How is this situation similar? Different?
  • Gather resources. What kind of skills, data, or
    assistance might be help-ful while in this place?
  • Embrace learning. What are clients learning by
    being here? What else do they hope to learn?
  • Future view. What can they see on the other side
    of being stuck? What will it be like once they get there? How will they be
    different? The same?

By recognizing, embracing and exploring the client’s
stuckness, you begin to build the awareness needed to move on. So the next time
you are taking a trip to Stuck Valley, enjoy the ride. You never know where you
might end up!

Teresa J. Pool, the President and founder of Transitions For
Business, helps her clients achieve their full potential. A human behavior and
communication special-ist, Teresa’s work as a coach, consultant, speaker,
strategic facilitator, and work-shop leader has motivated thousands to achieve
their personal best. In addition, she inspires change through her published
articles, television and radio appear-ances, and two leadership guides: Focus
in the Midst of Chaos and Communication DISCovery. Teresa is an executive coach
in UTD’s Executive MBA program and serves as a coaching supervisor and examiner
in their Executive Coaching program. Teresa is dedicated to serving the
coaching community as a former President of the ICF North Texas Chapter. She
also helps the sight-impaired achieve their full potential through her work as
a volunteer puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs and IMPACT director for
the FMC Carswell “cell dogs” program.

© 2009 Transitions For Business. All rights reserved..