Maybe I'm all jazzed up because the new season of Ted Lasso is out... But I also had two really cool conversations this week that got me thinking about inspiring teams to believe in business.
The story of Roger Bannister is a perfect example of the power of belief.
Bannister was an English athlete who set out to achieve what many considered impossible, running a mile in under four minutes.
This was an elusive goal that many athletes pursued for decades, but no one could break through the four-minute barrier. In fact, many experts believed this feat was physically impossible for a human being to achieve.
That is until Bannister came along.
He didn't let the skeptics discourage him. He believed he could run a four-minute mile and trained relentlessly to make it happen.
On May 6, 1954, Bannister took to the Oxford University track before a meager crowd and a handful of reporters.
The conditions were terrible. It was windy, wet, and muddy. But he didn't let the conditions deter him.
He pushed himself to the limit, running each lap faster than the one before it, ultimately finishing the mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds, shattering the long-held belief that it was impossible to run a mile in under four minutes.
Bannister's achievement wasn't only a triumph for him. It was a pivotal moment that altered the course of athletic history.
An Australian runner accomplished the same feat 46 days after Bannister's record-setting run. Three more runners broke the barrier a year later in a single race. Today, thousands of runners have achieved the coveted four-minute mile.
Not only did Bannister prove it was possible, he inspired a whole generation to push the boundaries. Today, the record for the mile stands at an eye-popping 3 minutes, 43.13 seconds.
It turns out that once we believe something is possible, we can almost certainly achieve it.
As in running, so it is in business. To realize their full potential, our teams need to believe, too.
They need to believe in:
- our mission – why we exist business?
- our goals – are they attainable?
- our strategy – the path to attaining our goals?
- our tools – do our people have the raw materials for success and the autonomy to use them?
Whether sales, customer success, support, or other customer-facing function, a leader's ability to inspire their team is directly proportional to their team's ability to inspire and persuade prospects and customers.
Whether it's convincing them to buy something, adopt something, or advocate for us, we are in the business of convincing our customers to act.
One profound lesson I've learned over the past two+ decades in tech is that it's far easier to develop a strategy than to communicate and enable it throughout an organization.
The best leaders focus first on inspiring their teams, and they get their hands dirty with this work.
They clarify company goals and ensure their team's and individual employees' goals align with the company's goals.
They create plans that identify how goals will be met, mapping out specific activities the team will perform in pursuit of said goals.
They identify how those key activities will be measured to ensure the team is on track every day/week/month (i.e., how the program will be operationalized).
They provide a playbook. Once clear on the actions the team needs to take, the leader creates an execution playbook. Playbooks are one part process definitions and one part how-to guide.
They contain the steps and scripts a CSM can use when conducting a certain type of customer interaction, such as a renewal, a business review, or an advocacy request.
Building a playbook is the act of designing and writing down the best way to execute a task from the experience of your most senior people or the leader herself.
And finally, the most underrated yet important part of building a team that believes is enablement.
Enablement is communicating strategy, teaching the playbooks, and incorporating feedback from the field into playbook design.
Enablement is like Bruce Bannister's training for the four-minute mile.
Enablement comes in the form of facilitated training sessions, documentation, FAQs, supporting collateral, live roleplay, and certification programs.
No matter what the goal is, our people have to believe these efforts are in the best interest of the company, the customer, and themselves. And when they do, the results are magical.
In a challenging economic climate, it's never been more important for leaders to step up, lean in, and create the conditions for their teams to believe by clarifying goals, creating playbooks, and enabling execution.
What will you do this week to grow your team's belief in your mission, goals, and plans for the year?
💡 Weekly Favorites
Here are some of my favorite podcasts, blogs, and videos from the week (all about writing):
- Design thinking is what playbooks are all about. What are you trying to accomplish, and who do you need to influence? Don't just do something, stand there. From one of my faves, Seth Godin, on his Akimbo podcast.
- What's holding up [software] buyers and how to meet them where they are. An interesting read from SaaStr about the biggest barriers to software sales which are expected to grow this year despite the economy. Spoiler alert - its information and trust.
- Super insightful read from David Apple on why Nobody knows the ROI of their CSMs.
See you next week. ✌️