I’ve been in my current position as CEO at an online media company for just under a year, and things haven’t gone as well as I hoped. Our board and investors have high expectations and have set a high annual revenue goal, but I’m now concerned that my sales department will miss our numbers. I’ve even begun to question my own abilities as a leader and in motivating sales leadership, and it’s making some of my employees doubt their skills as well. How do I stop this from happening and get everyone – including myself — back on track?
Worried Executive Losing Poise, New York, NY
One of the most common reasons people begin to question their ability in high-pressure professional positions is that they forget why there were hired in the first place. They’ll focus and fret over one goal, overthinking that single responsibility to the point where insecurity seeps in and trickles down to the other employees. Instead of a unified company and a spirited sales force, you’re suddenly facing a company fraught with questions about their performance, their abilities, and even their job security.
As the CEO, it’s important to remember that leaders always lead. Insecurity often causes executives to forget that they are effective when they influence others to perform certain tasks and inspire them to achieve greatness. That’s the role of the CEO, after all, but it still frightens executives because they are not doing the physical task, but instead providing guidance and advice.
Remember, you certainly can’t do everything yourself, and there’s no way you can hit a multi-million dollar sales go all alone. The ability to guide others and share your experience to shape their actions and performance is a key ingredient to leadership.
With that in mind, one of the best ways to alleviate insecurity is to write down the most important goals and tasks and then consider how to inspire the entire team to achieve that goal. Think of this list as “three must-dos” — the three most important steps or tasks as the CEO and how you can achieve them.
Meet the sales goal.
This is the source of the insecurity in the first place, and an obvious place to start. But rather than think about it as an unachievable goal and a great burden, break the number down into manageable pieces. How many agreements does your sales department have to close each month to hit the goal? What kinds of clients can help you achieve the goal?
Perform only tasks that drive the goal.
Once you have a strategy hitting the goal, think of the tactics that are instrumental in following that plan. This may include attending more sales calls to close deals, and spending more time with junior members of the team to help them perfect their approach and drive the overall goal. Also, think about how the different departments can interact with one another to move toward the desired outcome. Can marketing help sales gain visibility? Can PR provide sales with material that shows how other clients are using your offering?
Hire and motivate only people that can do the same.
You’ll want to spend considerable time working with your staff to help drive the goal. As we said before, insecurity can trickle down through all the employees. By training them and motivating them to get better, you’ll have a much easier time meeting the goal. A team where everyone understands their value and shares a desired outcome is a much more productive team.
Finally, keep this list with you, revisit it often and revise when appropriate. Goals change in businesses, as do the things that make us insecure. Fortunately, every leader always has the ability to get back on track.
Have a business management question that lacks an easy answer? Tish Squillaro, the CEO and founder of CANDOR and the author of HeadTrash, has more than 17 years of experience advising media and technology executives in strategic planning, organizational dynamics and human capital allocation. Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Questions may be edited).