There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.
– Vladimir Lenin
Understanding Cadence and Non-linear Time
I don’t normally start an article about sales leadership with a quote from a Marxist, but several very busy weeks have me thinking about the concept of time, and the opportunities we miss to use it more effectively.
The ancient Greeks had two words for time;
Chronos = sequential and quantitative
Kairos = fluctuating and qualitative.
As a leader, it’s important that you understand Kairos.
Many managers are linear thinkers, and think of time as Chronos, a sequence of equal parts – each day is 24 hours; each of my 8 direct reports need one eighth of my time and so on.
But of course, we all know that time isn’t linear. Some hours are much more important than others. The hour of the birth of a child is clearly more consequential than the hour last weekend that you fell asleep on the couch during the game.
Kairos measures the importance of a moment of time, not its duration. It translates as “an opportune time for action” – and the most successful people turn up and perform when it really matters.
In the same way that we would segment clients and prospects, we should be actively seeking to “segment” the finite time we invest in our people. Focus energy and planning on those moments that give you the opportunity to do something consequential. And encourage your team to do the same.
Kairos measures the importance of a moment of time, not its duration.
Lenin understood the concept of Kairos
4 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time
And Be a Better Sales Leader
1. Drop Performance Metrics
Sales leaders should (immediately!) drop any performance metrics for your team that measure activity without looking at quality. It constantly amazes me how many sales leaders think that measuring “calls logged” or “meetings held” per month is worthwhile. Some even base financial rewards on these useless metrics. In my experience, sales leaders who believe that “quantity has its own quality” tend to inhabit the bottom quartile.
2. Insist on Pre-Call Planning
Complex sales don’t progress linearly. A small number of key meetings will advance the ball, or stop a deal dead in its tracks. Insist on quality pre-call planning for these major meetings, (it has so many flow-on benefits to coaching and accountability) but don’t focus on the number of call plans your team creates – you’re looking for quality at the right time, not quantity.
3. Focus on Kairos for Coaching
Front-line managers should be thinking about Kairos for coaching. Of all the conversations they have with their team, the pre-call and post-call discussions on field travel are often the most consequential. But a lot of precious field travel is wasted, without clear meeting goals or a focus on the difficult meetings that really build “muscle.” Train your managers to be really good at simple, block-and tackle coaching in the field.
4. Develop a Management Cadence
Time invested per direct report isn’t linear either. One of the most important words in a manager’s vocabulary is cadence. It’s critical for managers to learn to assess competencies and gaps for each direct report, and then create a different coaching cadence (frequency) appropriate for each different person on their team. Some reps absorb a lot of energy and attention as you help them build muscle – others don’t need much at all – for those reps blowing it out of the water, the occasional motivational chat might be all they need.
One last thought for any of you doing ten or more hours every day. As a leader, you’re not being paid by the hour (Chronos) – you’re there for results. One great decision that takes ten minutes can sometimes be more valuable than three weeks of hard slog. So if you’ve had a great week and achieved a lot by lunchtime on Friday, consider taking the afternoon off to see the family, throw a baseball or read up on Lenin.
Remember, Kairos time is not linear and nor are you.
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