Question: What do these scenarios have in common?
- My wonderful friend recently lost her big job and her marriage in the same week.
- A technology sales team I work with lost their charismatic and brilliant leader. They are shaken to the core.
- The European head office has been giving my client, the president of the company’s US operations, a major headache over how to run the company. Employees are worried for their jobs and the president feels as if his hands are tied.
- My own business has been unusually quiet this month.
- As I write this post, I can hear thunder outside.
Answer: All of them are about disruption.
Some of these disruptions, like thunder, are minor; others are life-altering. The common thread is that we often don’t have control over the disruptions in our lives.
Dictionaries variously definite a disruption as:
- Any departure from normal
- Activity that is a malfunction, intrusion or interruption
- An outbreak of disorder (my favourite)
In the coaching world, we talk about “disruption as an ally”. What does that mean, and what does it have to do with business and sales?
Disruption as an ally
Like a clap of thunder, a disruption can make you pay attention. This “not normal” event can jolt you into looking at your life or your work, taking stock of what you do and how you do it, and thinking about what you might want to adjust.
- In the case of my friend who lost so much in one week: Is the universe trying to tell her to slow down and stop trying so hard? Is this disruption a signal that she needs to lead a healthier lifestyle?
- What about the sales team that unexpectedly lost its leader? As the shock waves and confusion persist, perhaps the members could each look at what the leader brought to the team – energy, passion, creativity, humanity, hope, humor – and learn how to bring more of these qualities into the team themselves.
- The disruption between the European and US company presidents has shown the US president that his team needs to work differently. They are now engaging in professional development exercises to help them create a new vision for how they want to operate and how they can create a stronger sales culture.
- Last year, I was working at a workaholic’s pace. It has paid off. I have a business I love, remarkable customers, deeply satisfying collegial relationships and a healthy bank account. However, I have recently had difficulty continuously producing fresh and innovative programs, articles, teleforums, proposals and all the other pieces that keep my business relevant and growing. Usually, I worry when business slows down but this time I decided to use this breather as an ally. I have slowed down, recharged my batteries, spent more time with friends and family, lined up interesting work for the summer and fall and developed some new approaches to helping clients.
A Disruption Joke
A religious man got caught in a major storm. A neighbor came by and offered to help him to safety. The man replied, “Thanks, but my God will save me.” The water level rose.
A boater came by and told him to hop in so he could take him to safety. The man replied, “Thanks, but my God will save me.” The water level rose.
The man fled to his roof. When a helicopter flew by and the pilot beseeched the man to get in and be taken to safety, the man replied, “Thanks, but my God will save me.” The water level rose, and the man drowned.
At the gates of heaven, the man asked God why He didn’t save him. God replied, “I sent you the neighbor, the boater and the helicopter. What more did you need?”
The Sales Connection
When disruption pays you a visit, don’t be like the man in the joke. Recognize it as an opportunity!
Here are some ideas.
Pause: Slow down your pace so that you can take advantage of the allies, ideas or people who appear in your path (like the neighbor, the boat and the helicopter). Don’t talk yourself out of whatever help arrives.
Do a brain dump: Start a list or a mindmap and just pour out whatever occurs to you. If necessary, speak your ideas into a recorder, then transcribe them. You’ll start to notice hidden connections that you can translate into ways to make your sales and business life more profitable, easier and fun.
Build a support group: By far the most useful thing you can do is to gather together a group of people who share your values and meet regularly to support each other. Between meetings, stay connected and accountable to each other through progress reports and check-in phone calls.
Orient yourself toward service: Your customers, team-mates and extended networks need your talents and skills. Be open to serving others and your disrupted self will feel a lot better.