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by David Brock on July 28th, 2011

Management is about making choices and setting priorities.  We have to choose to do somethings, choosing not to do others.  We have to set priorities and maintain focus.  Choosing everything, setting everything to a top priority, consciously or by default (otherwise known as piling on), is a sure path to failure.

Having said that, there are areas in confronting “either/or” choices where the only answer is, we have to do both.  There’s a great discussion on Focus that surfaces this issue.  It poses the question, “Should we focus on A players or strong lead management engines?”  I think the answer to that is you have to do both-one without the other is meaningless.

To often, I see people making inappropriate either/or decisions.  They invest in strong marketing programs, but don’t have the sales capacity to execute on the results produced by those programs. They invest in building a channel, but don’t provide channel management, channel marketing or other programs.   They invest in sales training, but fail to invest in the coaching, tools, processes, metrics to reinforce the training on an ongoing basis.  They develop and launch new products, but the sales people don’t know the target markets, don’t know how to find, qualify, and sell to those target customers.

In the end, inappropriate either/or decisions produce poor results—usually wasting money, resources, time, and opportunity.

In the Focus question, the best A players will under perform their potential if they don’t have enough quality leads.  Likewise, the strongest lead management engine is meaningless if the sales force is unskilled in following up those leads.  One without the other is waste.  Yet, everyday, we see managers making these decisions, isolating the issue from everything else, without understanding the interrelationships and critical success factors in achieving results.  In every decision or initiative, we need to step back, taking a holistic view of what we are trying to achieve, making sure all the elements are in place.

Managers need to have a holistic view of what they are trying to achieve.  They must balance every decision within what is affordable.  Often the tradeoff is not either or, but how much do we invest in each element to have a balanced approach?  Using the Focus question as an example, we might reduce some of the investment in developing a strong lead engine, using that funding to develop a smaller number of A players to exploit the leads that are developed.  Managers may have to choose doing nothing, if they can’t achieve balance between all the critical success factors.  For example, a manager might not choose to invest in a sales training program, if the managers are not prepared to coach and reinforce it, if the tools are not updated to reinforce the training.

Sometimes we free up resources by choosing to do less.  Rather than trying to execute too many initiatives at one time, under investing in the critical success factors for each; perhaps it is better to choose one initiative, making sure appropriate investments have been made in each element critical to the success of that initiative.

Effective leadership is about making tough choices.  It’s about understanding the interrelationships and critical success factors in each initiative—-balancing views of the whole with specific initiatives.  It’s simultaneously be viciously focused and balanced.

Look at the decisions you are about to make.  If you are viewing an initiative or investment in isolation, step back and make sure all the other elements critical to success are in place.  If you are making an either/or decision, inspect it to make sure you don’t need both.

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