16 August 2023 |

inspire confidence when underperforming

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

Command your business

The first thing to know when you’re turning around performance, especially when it requires more than one quarter’s worth of effort and work, is how important it is for you to own the narrative of what’s going on with your team. Otherwise, you’ll risk people coming up with their own narratives (*cough* you don’t know what you’re doing *cough*) of why your team isn’t performing yet.

You might think to yourself, “if I just work really hard though, people will see that I got this”. 


It’s not just about working really hard. You need to inspire confidence with your leaders and your cross functional partners. 

To do this, you’ll need to: 

  • Create a data practice
  • Report first, report best
  • Reinforce the vital few
  • Socialize your wins

Let’s break each of them down…

Create a data practice

Real life footage of a manager with no data practice

It’s okay to not be in a position to hit your number. What is NOT okay is NOT knowing why your team is pacing behind. This is where creating a data practice is 🔑!

Tips for creating a data practice: 

  • Map out your sales funnel
  • Identify the leading indicators of success, i.e. conversations had, demos completed, qualified pipeline generated, sales funnel conversion rates, etc. 
  • Establish benchmarks for each leading indicator 
  • On a weekly basis, monitor how your team performs against those benchmarks. Tip: If there’s an area where the benchmark standard isn’t met, consider what kind of impact you could drive by improving performance as that stage of your sales funnel

In doing this, you’ll more easily see and more quickly find and remediate the issues impeding your team’s productivity and performance. 

🏀 Assist: From this practice of establishing leading indicators of success and a way to monitor potential issues, consider creating an issue diagnosis guide. An issue diagnosis guide should outline ways to triage issues that get in the way of performance. Let me know if you’d like an example issue diagnosis guide I created for outbound prospecting. 

Report first, report best

I worked for a VP early on in my career who taught me a really important lesson; “(s)he who reports first, reports best”. That means being the person to alert others of performance problems before others find out about it and come up with their own take on what’s happening. 

When thinking about communicating performance problems, consider the following audience and setting:

  • Your manager – in your one-on-ones and asynchronous communication
  • Cross functionally – in your cross functional sync meetings and weekly updates
  • Your team – in your team meeting where team performance is shared

When you are the one who communicates what’s happening early and keeps everyone updated on actions you’ll take to remediate and/or drive progress, you’ll inspire greater confidence in your abilities.

🏀 Assist: Consider using a template or framework to communicate underperformance and your remediation plan with your manager/higher ups and cross functional partners. Ralph Barsi, VP of Sales at Kahua and last month’s guest on Coaches Corner, recommends using the SCR framework!

Reinforce The Vital Few

On Monday, Nate Vogel, Global Vice President of GTM Enablement at Gong, joined Coaches Corner and shared amazing tips on self management as a leader. The tip that resonated most was keeping focused on “The Vital Few” – the top handful of initiatives a manager should focus on to drive results for their team and the business

But having “The Vital Few” identified is just the start. 

Where you get the most out of identifying your key initiatives is when you communicate them out with your cross functional partners and managers. And in how you reinforce with your team. 

My Vital Few

Communicate with your manager: In every one-on-one I have with my manager, I set the stage by reminding my boss of my focus areas. This helps:

  • Ensure that my focus areas are aligned to our larger departmental and business objectives
  • Manage my boss’s expectations of my workload 
  • My boss connect me with the appropriate stakeholders to drive results against my key initiatives

Communicating with your cross functional partners: I meet with my cross-functional partners in marketing and sales on a biweekly basis and reviewing my focus areas helps in the following ways:

  • Identify areas where we can partner together to drive progress against initiatives
  • Strengthen the partnership; i.e. if I’m running trainings on business acumen and that’s an area a cross functional team also needs training in, this is where I can show up as a better partner
  • Inspire trust and show progress against initiatives while performance may be lacking

Reinforce with your team: There’s the phrase “inspect what you expect”, which simply means, reiterate expectations and reinforce the desired behaviors needed to accomplish your initiatives. This can look like:

  • Having a slide in your weekly kickoff meeting to remind your team of the key initiatives
  • Reviewing status updates and offering support in one-on-ones if reps are falling behind on initiative expectations
  • Setting aside time in team meetings to celebrate and recognize the team when an initiative is complete or ahead of schedule

Socialize your wins

The final step in owning the narrative as you turn around team performance is socializing progress. 

You’ve taken the time to come up with initiatives to drive positive change, owned measuring and managing it and you’ve achieved results! Everyone should know about the good great work you’ve done and will continue to do!

This means recognizing your team in your weekly meetings, one-on-ones as well as in more public spaces like department slack channels. 

🏀Assist: If you have a supportive boss, ask them how they can help you socialize your wins. For example, if one of your top focus areas can be linked to a larger business objective, which communication channels can your boss use to highlight you and your team’s impact?

🤩 Bonus Step: Recruit supporters

As a bonus step, consider who you can recruit to support your initiatives. 

Maybe there’s a senior leader at the organization who has been successful in rolling out initiatives like yours. Is this someone who can provide advice and/or act as a mentor?

Or maybe there’s someone in marketing who is developing content that your initiatives could make good use of. How can you create win-win situations for the two of you while flexing your cross-functional skills?

Look for 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn of people who are connected to your coworkers. Which coworkers can introduce you to people in their network who could be mentors and/or advisors?

Lastly, identify the people in the organization who can amplify your success. Your boss is a great start and, who else could be a great representative and sponsor of your work and impact?

Closing it out

Even if you take nothing else from this newsletter, remember this – in times where you can’t rely on performance to show your credibility, being in command of your business is a must!

When you effectively communicate what’s happening with your team’s performance, how you’ll remediate it, and what people should expect and by when, you’ll inspire confidence among your reps, your cross functional team, and your leadership team. 

You want people to feel confident in your abilities, and the guidance outlined above can help tremendously!