Begin With The End in Mind: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Leaders

David Marcum

begin-with-the-end-in-mindThe habit of Beginning with the End in Mind was introduced 25 years ago by Dr. Stephen R. Covey in his groundbreaking bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In our latest point of view, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Leaders: Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind, we discuss how this principle of leadership can help you take charge of what you create and make you more likely to achieve it.

I’ve talked with hundreds of sales leaders who’ve said, “I wasn’t trained to be a sales leader. I was just a good individual contributor hitting my numbers, and someone asked me to take on this role. I didn’t get the role because I was already a great leader.” A powerful first step in becoming one is to define your End in Mind by developing a mission statement.

Whether you’ve just been promoted to sales leader or you’ve been one for many years, the habit of beginning with the End in Mind involves setting your own goals and intended accomplishments, identifying the roles you play, fixing your priorities, and then sharing those frequently with your team. This is a best practice for success whether you’re leading a small salesforce or a larger regional organization, or you’re in a more senior sales executive role. Then periodically re-center to your mission to make sure you’re still on track.

Why have a mission?

It seems so old-school. But the inarguable fact is there are always two creations to everything you see or experience. The first creation happens in your mind—it’s where you envision what you want to accomplish. And the second is when you align your actions to your imagination.

Nothing happens without those two creations. If you ignore this principle, it’s essentially the same as passively letting everyone and everything else around you decide what you will be and what you will do.

Furthermore, it’s surprisingly easy to drift away from what’s most important to you. When your mission is written down and you review it frequently, it becomes a personal constitution—the benchmark against which you measure your actions and decisions. It helps ensure you don’t drift unnoticeably off course, just as an airplane can be blown off course unless the pilot (or computer) makes adjustments to arrive at the right airport.

Building your mission

There’s power in envisioning what you intend to accomplish and even more so when you write it down, whether you call it a “mission,” a “purpose,” or anything else. Research shows that you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down.

But how do you go about developing a mission statement? You can’t just go to an offsite and bang it out in half a day wedged between other agenda items. Among other things, a mission statement should be aspirational and inspirational—and it should be realistic. In our experience that takes time, including soak time. FranklinCovey has created a mission-statement builder that walks you through the process.

You may decide to create both a professional (team) and an individual mission statement. It’s a good idea to have your team contribute to your team’s mission statement—when there’s no sense of contribution, there’s no commitment.

Staying on course

I drafted a personal mission statement a few years ago, and writing this reminded me to check it and see how much I’ve drifted. It’s interesting—and alarming—to realize how easily old habits creep back in.

Social situations or day-to-day pressures can cause us to behave in a certain predictable ways, and unless you periodically check yourself against what you envisioned, chances are good you’ll drift from your blueprint.

Stephen Covey used to teach the principle of Beginning with the End in Mind every week. No matter where he was in the world, he would review his goals each week in the context of his mission statement. He set goals for each of the roles he played. And he reviewed his mission statement periodically to make sure his day-to-day actions and decisions were aligned to his mission. He also occasionally and purposefully changed his mission as the context of his life changed, sometimes affected by major events. Don’t hesitate to update or change your mission statement.

What’s in your mission statement? And how often do you review it? What other tools have you found helpful in setting and achieving your goals? Read our latest point of view for additional insights on how you can stay on course.

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