Numbers are an integral part of business. Numbers provide keen insight into every facet of business: service, sales, and operations. Reports, statistics, and analytics are routinely placed in the hands of leadership for evaluation. This process of evaluating numbers directly affects how leadership manages and motivates their workforce. It’s not too uncommon for leadership to incorrectly attempt to motivate their workforce as they perform conceptual tasks by using numbers.
In both of the best selling books A Whole New Mind, and Drive Dan Pink beautifully illustrates the dramatic shift in business from manual, industrial tasks to conceptual tasks and how it affects motivation. In short, numbers are ideal for motivating and managing the completion of manual tasks, however this is not the case for the completion of conceptual tasks.
There is no greater conceptual task than business development. There’s no magic button for making a sale or marketing your good or service effectively. The key challenge in business development is providing conceptual solutions while effectively managing social interactions.
Neuroscience and Numbers
The brain that currently sits inside your skull has been a work in progress for millions of years. Over that length of time our ancestors succeeded largely based on their intelligence and the ability to form social bonds. Our current brain is a masterpiece of higher level thought and the innate ability to connect with others to accomplish tasks.
Numbers have only been around a few thousand years. On the evolutionary timeline of human brain development numbers only occupy a tiny sliver space. Today’s economic environment is made up overwhelmingly of conceptual tasks. It makes sense to embrace our ability for complex thought and social interaction. Numbers, surprisingly can short-side our ability to successfully perform conceptual tasks.
The reason why numbers can undermine our conceptual abilities is that our brain, amazing as it is, is actually quite poor at multitasking (Brain Rules). We use different parts of our brain to perform social interactions than we do to evaluate numbers, and these two areas of the brain do not work well in concert. Studies have shown that just thinking about numbers, specifically from an economic standpoint, can actually make people more selfish. Since conceptual tasks rely heavily on positive social interaction, selfish thoughts can compromise ones ability to perform optimally in this area.
Management and Motivation Tips for Conceptual Tasks
- Lead your team by promoting social behavior that will further along the sales process. Keeping the focus on making a positive impact for your customers is the key to long term motivation and success. Always keep moving forward.
- Performance reports and analytics should be used in review of your employees, not as the main motivator. There’s no quicker way to strip your team of autonomy and motivation by saying you need to do x phone calls, x meetings, and x presentations to have success. Activity is important, but not the end all be all of business.
- Do NOT use your CRM to police your business development team. CRMs are meant to manage customer relationships, not harass your team. Trust the employees you hired, they all want to be successful.
- Allow your employees to set a trend in behavior, once that trend is in place evaluate it to see if their goal is being reached, if not adjust accordingly to help them reach success and keep the tone positive.
- Avoid falling in love with your reports. Remember, success is a byproduct of our behavior and a result of doing things the right way. The only number that matters should be the final sale, the result.