Share on LinkedIn

It seems to be human nature to take shortcuts.  We want results immediately, we don’t want to invest the effort normally required to achieve a goal.  We somehow think that we are the exceptions to the rule–while others have to make an effort, somehow we are different and can avoid all the work and effort to achieve the result.  In truth, sometimes shortcuts work.  They probably work often enough, that we continue to pursue them.

Shortcuts increase risk, very often profoundly.  Every day we see examples from industries, organizations, and individuals–BP wanted to get a well in production faster.  The finance industry wanted to make money faster, an athlete wanted to build performance levels faster–get caught taking drugs.  We see it every day, taking pills for weight loss/fitness, falsifying resumes, and the list goes on.

I wish it weren’t so, but too often, I see sales people succumbing to shortcuts.  We do it in little ways–we don’t do the research to approach a new prospect, we “wing it” on a sales call, we stretch the truth in talking about the capabilities of our products, the list goes on.  It works often enough, that we keep looking for shortcuts.  Managers stop listening, coaching, developing, organizations stop training, investing in tools.  We implement new software systems, thinking the system itself will produce results, forgetting the system implementation must be built on great process.

 We get caught up in the inertia we’ve created and don’t step back to look at what’s happening.  Surveys stating that 50% or more of sales people failing to meet their goals, customers who no longer trust us or want to see us, customers who won’t do business with us because we have failed to deliver on our commitments or their expectations…..the list goes on.

We confuse shortcuts with efficiency and effectiveness.  They are very different—taking shortcuts is about not doing what you know to be the right steps or actions to achieve success.  Shortcuts are about skipping these, jumping forward, consciously or unconsciously increasing risk.  No organization or individual can sustain high performance by constantly taking shortcuts.

Efficiency and effectiveness are different.  We can’t be top performers — on a sustained basis, without focusing on  efficiency and effectiveness.  Efficiency is about doing things in the shortest time possible.  Effectiveness is about doing the right things at the right time with the right people in the right way.  High performance in any field requires continued focus on efficiency and effectiveness.  Sustaining high performance is difficult work.  It demands constant focus on what you are doing, you need to look at how to improve, you must constantly redefined efficiency and effectiveness.  It requires discipline–it’s so easy to succumb to taking shortcuts.  It demands strength of character, particularly when all around you seem to be taking shortcuts.

High performers look at performance over time, they want to sustain and improve performance.  High performers don’t confuse shortcuts with efficiency and effectiveness.

What’s the foundation to your performance?  Are you taking shortcuts–constantly skipping the things you know you should be doing, but increasing risk of failure–for yourself, your company, your customer, the world?  Or are you focusing on constantly improving performance through improving effectiveness and efficiency?  There is a profound difference.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave,

    Your observations are accurate in my experience in many ways we (professional sales/marketing people) have indeed become lazy or look for quick solutions that often lead to mediocre results. The reasons for this are many and could fill a book but there is one overlooked factor missing in your commentary; competent, thoughtful, lead-by-example leadership. Whether we’re talking executive-level managers, or second tier directors and managers, often, these people are as apt to demand quick results without providing their subordinates clear, specific, tactical or strategic leadership.

    Some firms spend considerable sums in advanced sales training programs (Miller Heiman, Target Account Selling etc.) only to abandon these disciplines when quarter-end demands deal closure. I’ve worked for a lot of sales executives in my career but only one in the 28 years I’ve been in sales stand out as a truly disciplined do as I do not as I say executive. He was tough as nails, didn’t take excuses but when you needed help there was no better allay or support so we need to take responsibility yes, but where are the future leaders, how are they being coached, encouraged, trained, supported, educated, motivated? When we start to address this question consistently, we’ll see productivity improvements like you would not believe.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here