Why change initiatives fail

More change?

I’m really fortunate. I get to work with some great people in great organisations. I frequently get to facilitate off site strategy meetings with senior managers at fabulous locations in the UK and internationally.

Strategic planning meetings are really important. They give the senior team time away from the business to focus on the future away from the pressures and detail of day to day issues. As we consultants are fond of saying, “it gives senior managers and business owners time to work on the business instead of in the business”.

It’s usually not long before the senior team is talking about the need to be a more customer or client focused business and being a great place to work. Senior managers are right to spend time on this – Customer Experience is fast becoming recognized as THE way to differentiate a business.

After ‘away days’ it’s usually not long before members of the senior team volunteer or are allocated responsibility for an ‘Employee Engagement’ or ‘CX’ project. Anticipation about what can be achieved is often high at board level, budgets are allocated and the top down communication about the initiative begins.

Initiatives, initiatives

It sometimes seems that as soon as a great concept is given a label it is in danger of being misunderstood, misinterpreted and then executed badly. It is then too often dismissed by those it was intended to ‘engage’ as just another management fad – destined to wither on the vine.

I can testify to the high number of positive nods and groans I hear when I ask audiences if they have ever suffered from initiative fatigue anytime during their careers!

As a change initiative starts to gain momentum, many organisations underestimate the challenges and complexities. Senior managers often want to see lots of activity and rapid progress. From team bonding sessions, project teams, ‘back to the floor’ projects for CEO’s to newsletters, social media strategies, employee and customers surveys – all kinds of activities are implemented. Sadly many of these activities are more likely to result in cynicism than aligning people with the aims of the business and gaining commitment, particularity with people have ‘heard it all before’.

No silver bullets

Lots of companies want to be recognized as organisations that deliver exceptional customer experience and identified as great places to work – but too many want to find short cuts to getting there. They look for silver bullets or boxes to tick. But there are no short cuts when you need to address the fundamental employer/employee relationship and link it to delivering a great customer experience. People have to be properly aligned with the business strategy and values in a focused, congruent and mutually supportive way.

It’s not engagement or CX ‘initiatives’ that are needed – what works is the embedding of an engagement and customer experience philosophy that is lived by everyone from the bottom to the top of the organisation.

Great places to work with engaged employees who deliver excellent customer experience:

  • Are clear what they mean by engagement
  • Are clear what they mean about customer experience
  • Have a senior management team fully committed to it
  • Ensure that everything they do supports the core purpose and values of the organisation
  • Are clear about how they measure engagement and CX
  • Acknowledge that where action is required no single intervention is likely to succeed
  • Keep lines of communication with senior managers open
  • Actively encourage collaboration at all levels
  • Continually recognise, reward, celebrate and reinforce what is being done well
  • Look for and measure the impact of engagement and CX on business results
  • Recognise that employee engagement isn’t a destination – it’s a journey.

Many organisations are just not up to the challenge. They want rapid results based on short term investment and when things get a bit tough another initiative goes on the back burner – yet again proving the cynics right. Every one goes back to business as usual – until the next away day and the next management initiative.

You have to believe in and live the philosophy if you want to avoid initiative fatigue.

Attitude – the master aptitude

You need a positive attitude to win more business

By David Tovey,canIt might seem brutal to point this out but there are too many well-qualified ‘experts’ in their field who don’t have enough business to allow them to practise what they love to do. There are too many salespeople falling below target and too many great companies under-performing. The one thing they have in common is that they all need more customers to exchange money for their products or services.

If you are in business you are in sales. Sales = the exchange of good and services for money.

If selling is your full time role then you will no doubt have recognised that the way customers buy has significantly changed in recent years and the traditional approach to sales simply isn’t effective anymore. Having being trained in an outdated approach to sales and honed your skills over the years you are now faced with learning new ‘social selling’ skills and have an appreciation of content marketing. It’s a new world out there, we are in a buyer led era and there is a lot to learn for some salespeople (and their managers).    (Continue Reading…)

Leaders Cast a Long Shadow

There’s good and bad news about the shadow of the top team

By David Tovey

Shadow_1According to Forbes magazine, Webster’s dictionary stated that “culture” is the most popular word of the year and that for very good reason it has become one of the most important words in corporate boardrooms across Europe and the USA.

As the economy improves, employee engagement is once again high on the agenda of business leaders. Employer brand has become a critical issue for organisations seeking to recruit and retain the best people and yet according to recent reports by Delloitte and Gallup, many organisations have a long way to go to improve their reputation as employers.

With social media channels and on line review sites such as Glass Door making the reputation of employers easier to make public than ever, people find out fast if an organisation is not a such a great place to work.

The importance of culture and its effects on employee engagement, customer loyalty and organizational performance are by well-known and have been extensively written about. (Continue Reading…)

Employee Engagement? – It’s Up To You.


Engagement is down to the individual.

Great_workWithout doubt one of the biggest workplace issues of today is employee engagement. I regularly get invited to speak on the topic and there seems to be an endless amount of research reminding us about how poor organisations are at engaging their people.

Report after report tells us that fewer than a third of employees are actively engaged at work. This, they seem to claim, is the fault of employers or managers who just don’t care about the people stuff. If they only offered better benefits, or free lunches, a pool table, or allowed dress down days, employees would re-engage and give their best efforts – then all would be well with the world of employment.

I’m not saying that employers and managers don’t make a difference to employee engagement levels, they definitely do.  The mistake many managers make , however , is to believe that engagement is something you can do to other people via some sort of top down initiative.

The theory goes that if you act a certain way your employees will in return give you their (Continue Reading…)

5 things engaged sales people want

And money isn’t one of them!

By David Tovey


Love_my_jobIn this industry we just have to accept a high turnover of sales staff

That’s how a sales director responded after hearing about the result of a staff survey showing that less than 30% of the organisations sales staff regarded themselves as ‘actively engaged’.  She went on to say that this employee engagement ‘stuff’ wasn’t relevant to salespeople in a tough market place where only the best survived. The intense, foot to the floor, management style needed to keep sales people on their toes wasn’t conducive to having ‘happy’ people apparently.

There was an embarrassing silence when it was revealed by the MD that a more successful competitor had recently earned a ‘best company to work for’ award with over 90% of their staff ‘actively engaged’. The MD introduced a video of their competitor’s sales staff talking with passion about how great their employer was, about the competitive but energising atmosphere, the support they received, mutual respect, involvement and personal development. Following the video even the sales director wanted to know more about how this ‘employee engagement’ stuff worked! (Continue Reading…)

If you are in business you are in sales!

Can’t sell, won’t sell?

By David Tovey

In many businesSellses where technical expertise is at the heart of the product or service provided, it is probably fair to say that most people in the business did not set out to be involved in sales or marketing. I’ve had many conversations with technical specialists working in technology, telecoms, law, accountancy, engineering etc. who would never describe themselves as salespeople even though they are tasked with winning business.

But it’s not just about winning business, its about winning the right business, from the right customers at the right price. Those who sell well not only bring in business, it’s the right business won in the right way.

Over the last ten years or so I’ve found that those people with a technical ‘slant’  actually tend to fit into one of four categories:


  1. Those who sell well – a group whose numbers are increasing
  2. Those who sell badly – and unfortunately this group is also growing
  3. Those who can’t sell – or think they can’t
  4. Those who really don’t want to sell

1. Those who sell well

To discover the people who truly do sell well it’s important not to be focused purely on financial results.  Whilst outputs are obviously important, the way in which business is brought in and the activities that lead to the results are equally important.  For some, business development success is about being in the right place at the right time. They might have won several major customers or clients but then not formed long term profitable relationships. They might have made promises to win business that can’t be delivered on.

Whilst everyone is different; selling well (principled selling) is not a function of personality it is the result of implementing well defined and replicable business development processes, behaviours and skills.  The right role models are those who sell in a principled way, who build trust, demonstrate their ability to really understand their client’s business and deliver on their promises.  Their customers were chosen to be the dream clients of the future who profitably buy and re-buy products and services that deliver on promises made. Those who sell well in an organisation should be the role models, coaches and mentors.

2. Those who sell badly

Some managers say that it’s the income generated that indicates how good or bad individuals are at selling. Those who sell badly may bring in turnover along with non profitable customers, those who sell badly might miss out on lots of potentially highly profitable business. What on the surface looks like good results could be masking the real reason behind them. Being in the right place at the right time, being in an active buoyant sector or winning a single order from a customer does not necessarily suggest that those delivering top line financial performance are good role models.

Some in the ‘those who sell badly’ group will feel they are successful and can be resistant to change.

Others may be less successful financially and may come across as defensive – blaming everything and everyone other than themselves for poor performance. There is often resistance to doing things differently from those who see their customers or clients as their own and from those who may feel that their way has always worked in the past. Any coaching or development for those who sell badly needs to be focused on aligning individual goals with the organisations long term goals.

3. Those who can’t sell  or think they can’t

I’ve heard it said that there are those born with an ability to sell and those who are not.  There are probably some people that you would not want in front of customers and their talents are often best used back at the office!

Some people are condemned as inadequate when it comes to selling because they don’t fit the stereotype of what a good salesperson is like.  Some who think they can’t sell believe that there is a correlation between being an extrovert personality, being super social, having the ‘gift of the gab’ and being good at selling.  It’s not true but that is what they think and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (the Pygmalion effect).

Limiting our available selling resource to those who do it ‘naturally’ misses out on those who could be very effective if given the right opportunity to develop.  When I hear business people say ‘I just can’t go in to a room full of people I’ve never met and engage them in witty banter’ they are probably right.  However this doesn’t mean they can’t develop their own professional way of getting into dialogue with prospective customers. Many of those who say they can’t sell are really saying they can’t do it like their extrovert colleagues.

4. Those who don’t want to sell

I meet few people with a huge technical bias or love of what they make for instance, who do what they do in order to become great at sales or marketing. Some see sales as something they really would rather not do. Images of the stereotypical, pushy used car salesperson form in their minds and can strike fear of being unprofessional or tacky. Those who are good at selling know that any kind of pressure selling or ‘trickery’ is likely to be counterproductive and doesn’t work when we want long term relationships with customers who buy and re-buy.  People in this group need to be helped to understand two things:

  • Selling their products or services is a very professional and principled thing to do
  • They do have the ability to sell well

For mangers who want to build a business development culture, it means making selling important across the business and helping every client facing individual understand what good selling looks like.

Are your people natural born salespeople or do they need some help?

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