We had a great sales roll-out, and everybody seemed really excited about it. However, at the end of the day our results didn’t change – so we’re going to try something new!
As a consultant, I hear a million different versions of this story every single day (okay, slight exaggeration – but it SEEMS like that much). Leaders start off excited that some new project or initiative is going to be their fairy dust, and people are going to be as excited as they are about getting revenue lift. They’re sure that a good training class and some gift bags will lead this project to changed behavior and, even more exciting, elevated results. Well, the leaders might as well move to the land of fairy dust, because they’re living in a fantasy world.
Let me tell you about my first lemonade stand. I was six-years-old and informed my mother that I needed to make some money. I wanted to buy a new wallet at Stater Brothers (a grocery store that carried plastic wallets in aisle 5). The wallet was $3.00, and I had heard from my friend Beth that you could charge a nickel a cup for lemonade. I thought this sounded like a good deal. My mom set up our little red table (that I still have in our attic) and placed cups and a pitcher of lemonade in front of me. I didn’t really consider how many nickels it took to get to $3.00, nor did I think about how many cups of lemonade I could get from one pitcher. But I was gussied up and ready to go.
In honor of the lemonade stand opening I put on my old Sunday School shoes. They were one size too small, but they were white and the heels clicked on the sidewalk when I walked. Mom warned me that I might get a blister, but I didn’t care. I wanted to look fancy for opening day. Once my stand was ready to go, I stood and waited. I noticed a lot more cars going by than people, and got the sinking feeling that this might not really work.
People slowed down and smiled as they passed by in their Ford Galaxy 500’s, but they didn’t buy. Finally one woman walked by with her very large dog that growled at me while she bought a cup. I was thrilled for a moment (both because I sold a cup and the dog didn’t attack me), but at the end of the day I had only sold one nickel’s worth of lemonade. Had people not seen my white shoes? Had they not seen the wallet at Stater Brothers?
The next day, I told my mom I was going back out. I wanted that wallet and I wasn’t going to stop until I got it. Despite the blister that I refused to tell my mother about, I set up the little red table, put out the cups and pitcher, and proceeded to use the exact same selling model I had used the day before. In the next four hours I actually broke my previous record . . . by selling zero cups of lemonade.
Like so many leaders in organizations, I didn’t change my behavior but expected different results. Here’s what I learned:
* My passion for a new wallet didn’t inspire others to buy lemonade
* People in cars aren’t willing to stop and buy lemonade
* White shoes make absolutely no impact on sales
If you are rolling out a new initiative and everything’s moving but your people, think about the lemonade stand and consider:
Are employees as inspired about the change as you are? Or, are you as inspired as your leader is?
Does your strategy match the organizational set-up of your company? Is the strategic approach right for your market?
Is your kick-off as meaningless as my white patent-leather shoes? Are you dressing up another empty promise?
Change cannot be declared, it must be achieved. Change cannot be achieved by one person’s passion alone – there has to be communication that energizes the people involved. Think about these things, because if you don’t I’ve got to tell you it’s going to take a long time to convert zero nickels to sixty nickels :).