The Game Has Changed

– 3 min –


As we continue to deal with the challenges of our uncertain and changing world, one fundamental concept leaders need to embrace is that success looks very different now. Our “best next move” looks nothing like the concrete, incremental wins that we are used to achieving. It is hard to shake the belief that our prior experience, knowledge and success are the currency that puts us in a position to know what is coming next and enable us to understand what we need to do as we face the road ahead. Our identity and self-worth are tied up in our resumes and achievements that brought us to this point in our careers. It’s a big mindset shift for us to acknowledge that the game has changed.

So how do you respond when a major change to how your work – where the structure or process that you normally follow – shifts all of a sudden? How do you help your team adjust their focus from relying on what they have done in the past, from what is known and comfortable, and what has consistently generated those incremental wins that are so seductive?

Here’s an example: one of my clients, a software sales executive in a growing technology company, and his team were facing a major change in how their sales territories would be assigned and worked. While salespeople in general are very optimistic and resilient, this change was disruptive and anxiety-provoking — a wholesale change in how they would sell.

The executive was apprehensive and worried; his team of highly trained, ambitious and successful account executives were rocked back on their heels – not understanding why this change was being put in place when they had demonstrated consistent success in the previous structure. He was concerned but — rather than digging in his heels and resisting the change, or plowing ahead in a “business as usual” manner, or hoping the change was just another “flavor of the month” that would soon go away – he knew he had to prepare his team to think differently about how they sell.

He set a process in place that was grounded in some of the structure and assumptions his team already knew, then carefully urged them – one step, one “best next move” at a time – to work through this new framework. They would not have that same, step-by-step, predictable sales structure they were familiar with; the one that yielded concrete, incremental “wins”, that demonstrated progress and fueled their success along the sales process. But what they would have is the ability to always find their “best next move”, to feel confident in their own personal agency to act and to understand that progress – even in a competitive sales environment. This new strategy was defined as a move that pulled them forward.

It was definitely unknown territory for them, but over time they saw results and built a confidence based on knowing they could chart their path forward through anything that was thrown at them. They were miles ahead of their peers, who were still desperately holding on to their old ways, resisting the changes that continued to come.

Whether you are in a sales, product, engineering or any other function where your team is used to creating success through a familiar, known and recognized process, when things change – and you know they will – your role as a leader is to help your team understand that expectations have shifted. We are all playing a different game now, one where we don’t know what is ahead, but where we need to confidently make our moves, even without knowing what the outcome will be.

Big solutions are no longer the expectation. It is the smaller “best next move” that we now need to define so that we can pull forward together as a team and continue to achieve those incremental wins.

Roberta A. LaPorte, Organizational Consultant

After spending 25 years leading Fortune 50 organizations and technology start-ups, Bobbie draws on positive psychology and her experience as a six-time Ironman triathlons finisher to help organizations navigate uncertainty and get ready for anything. Learn more »



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