A Simple Idea For Keeping Your Team Motivated To Achieve This Year’s Goals

According to www.statisticbrain.com, more Americans make New Year’s resolutions than watch the Super Bowl.  And we know from our conversations with clients around the world that this is not just a U.S. phenomenon.

Nor is it relegated to personal concerns.  Companies use the occasion of the calendar turning over to make resolutions in the form of annual and multi-year strategic plans.

Unfortunately, statistics also show that many personal resolutions have already been broken!  Statistic Brain reports that, historically, 36% of Americans surveyed have not been able to keep the discipline of their resolve through the month of January.

Many psychologists agree that the culprit is over-ambitiousness.  The resolutions are so big that people abandon them for the familiarity and safety of old habits.

Strategies Are Business Resolutions That Can Quickly Lose Momentum

The scene is similar in the corporate world.  While we certainly don’t observe complete abandonment of annual plans by February, often the shine of new ambitions is already being tarnished.  The pace and demands of day-to-day business dulls the excitement of a strategy that seemed so motivating just a little while ago.

Just like with personal resolutions, corporations lose momentum for new approaches because of over-striving.  Don’t get us wrong – we are definitely not advocating for status quo strategies.  Indeed, forces are causing companies to constantly change in order to stay ahead of trends, evolving customer needs and new competitors.

But these same forces are conspiring to cause all of us to have more responsibilities on our plates than ever before.  Corporate productivity is increasing, but it’s not entirely due to automation.  People are working hard.

The Power of the “Not Do” Strategy

This means that no matter how exciting a new plan is, it won’t be as enthusiastically supported if its not clear what the company is going to stop doing to make room for strategy-supporting activities and behaviors.

Time and again, we see these “not do” strategies creating space for new approaches – and unexpected profits – for our clients.  Here are three recent cases:

  • As part of an extensive plan to provide loyalty incentives to high profit and/or high potential accounts, a business-to-business supply seller also identified low profit/low potential accounts. As part of a “not do” strategy, the CEO decreed that no price concessions could be made to the lower tier accounts. A later analysis proved that this approach generated more profit and savings than the sexier strategies meant to drive high profit account loyalty.


  • A customer needs analysis uncovered two attractive target segments for a heavy industrial products marketer. Buried in the analysis was a medium-sized segment that was much less attractive to the company. Significant events within the company slowed the pace of improving value propositions for the attractive segments. But reps in several key territories began calling less on customers in the unattractive group, enabling them to spend more time with target clients. All such territories showed increased sales and profits at the end of the analysis period, despite little progress in improving value for attractive segments. Simply increasing the attention paid to target groups, enabled by spending less time with non-targets, led to better results.


  • A manufacturing company was analyzing its incentives to distributors and determined that their traditional 3% year-end rebate was not adding value. The passionate company president slammed his fist on the table and proclaimed that they would “not do” the rebate any longer. The result? Twelve months later their volume was consistent – no drop in sales. In effect, he had given the company a 3% boost to profits, without raising prices.

Clarifying what you are not going to do in a strategy sounds simple, but don’t underestimate its power. When you unveil a new approach, the question in most time-starved employees’ minds is “does this mean we are going to stop doing something else so that we can follow through on this plan?”  But they are afraid to ask it for fear of giving the impression that they aren’t committed.

Leaders Are Responsible for Developing – Or Making Room For – The “Not Do” Strategy

So the responsibility of clarifying the “not do list” falls on the shoulders of leadership.  When we tell leaders this, they are surprised.  It’s not in their nature to think like this.  But they must, as not do strategies are becoming more critical to the success of any plan as employees get busier.

And if leaders aren’t sure what the “not do” activities should be, they can delegate it as follows.  Insist that those responsible for execution of the plan spend some time to brainstorm and suggest things that they will stop doing to make room for the new approach.  Tools such as our own PrioritizerTM , featured in Chapter 7 of our book The Accidental Marketer, can really help with this.

It may turn out that these “not do” activities will be the strongest contributors to the plans success, even more than the new strategies.

Related Posts