Declining sales

Last Chance Saloon

The core of this story is true. It is based on a number of real experiences of effecting change within leadership teams.  

I’d been worried for quite some time. I’m the CEO of a group of companies. I was having one of my regular meetings with John, the sales director of our B2B division. The division had grown from nothing to £125m turnover in 20 years.  

The business was stalling 

The new objective was to increase this to £150m but the business had been stalling. There’d been no growth for a year, except I’d noticed a slight increase in the interim figures that had been produced a couple of weeks ago. We’d been in the meeting for about ten minutes and John had been quiet on the subject of Geoff, the B2B managing director. Usually John would start complaining about Geoff within minutes of the start of the meeting.  

“So how’s it going with Geoff?” I said.  

We were in my office overlooking green fields and hedgerows, not far from the airport. When we were looking for a bigger head office, I knew this was it when I saw the view. It has a panorama window, and the room was bright and warm from the Spring sun shine. At that time of day, it can get a bit too hot, but the air conditioning was humming in the background keeping the room at a comfortable temperature.  

We were sitting around the circular desk. Behind John was an orange abstract picture, that brings a splash of colour to the otherwise corporate looking room. On top of the bookcase, underneath the picture, are some photos of my wife and two young children, together with a couple of photos of me receiving some awards for the business, including Employer of the Year which we’d won last year. I noticed a Lego fireman by my foot on the floor. My four year old boy, Archie, must have dropped it when I brought him to the office at the weekend to watch the planes landing. It’s such a pleasure to watch those gentle giants landing. I don’t get to notice them very often.  

I’d been waiting for the usual diatribe about Geoff. I’d been worried about him for a while, wondering if he was burnt out. Although he’d built the business so far, perhaps it was time to bring in someone new. He was only forty, but he’d been displaying signs of being washed out. The team seemed to do nothing but fight among themselves and the business had been suffering as a result. Geoff seemed to be the main protagonist.  

A fresh approach to leadership development

 Someone had told me about a company that had a different approach to leadership development. It had made a huge impact on him and his team so I’d agreed to bring them in a couple of months ago, in one last effort to resolve the issue. I didn’t want to give Geoff the push, he’d been loyal to me and the business for too many years to not give him one last chance.  

“Well he gets caught up in his thinking sometimes, like we all do” John said. “We wait for the moment to pass and then we’re all good again.” 

 I wasn’t sure that I’d heard him right. 

“You’re all good again?” I said. 

“We wait till we go back below the line” 

“Yes, we realised that when we argue it’s because we’re caught up in our thinking,” John said. “We’ve gone above the line, so we wait until we go back below the line rather than get caught up in an argument.”  

Read more about above the line and below the line here. 

“And that works?” I said. 

“Yes, you should see the figures for the last month.” John said. “They’re going through the roof.” Well that got me interested.  

“You’ll have to tell me more about that another time.” I said, “but let’s take a closer look at those figures first.” 

I tell you, we looked at those figures and you wouldn’t believe how well that business had done in the last month. It was like the division had had a new lease of life.  

The division is doing great guns. Geoff is doing well, he doesn’t look stressed out any more. The team seem more settled. We’re in real danger of hitting our new objective, on time if not early.

I'm happy. The board’s happy. Everyone’s happy.  

If this story strikes a chord with you, contact us to discuss how to effect similar transformation in your organization. 


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