When Afterburner founder Jim “Murph” Murphy was in the Air Force, he learned that executing on high-stakes missions doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Instead, it depends on fighter pilot squadrons creating the conditions necessary to plan for their mission, get strategically aligned, and stay focused. If teams fall victim to distractions that prevent them from achieving these things – even for a moment – the whole mission can go bust.
The same is true of teams in the business world. When Sales or Revenue teams miss their quarterly or yearly targets, they often blame the product or themselves – but the real culprit may well be a workflow that allows the team’s focus to be disrupted by excessive distractions.
Now for the good news: Teams don’t have to simply accept a distraction-prone workflow as the cost of doing business. Just as corporate teams and fighter pilot squadrons are similarly vulnerable to distractions during high-stakes missions, they can benefit from a similar solution: cross checks. Let’s explore what cross checks are, and why they’re a crucial tool for teams looking to turn yesterday’s missed target into tomorrow’s direct hit – and get their revenue engine roaring again.
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What are cross checks?
Each time a fighter pilot hops into the cockpit of their jet, the first thing they see is an array of dials and gauges laid out on the instrument panel. Each of these has a role to play – but some are more essential than others. That’s why, when pilots are flying under pressure or in combat, they’re trained to focus only on the core gauges and dials showing the kind of information that they’ll always need to keep track of, no matter the situation: altitude, speed, and a handful of others.
“By determining which of the many inputs and factors in your situation need your immediate attention, you’re also identifying which ones don’t need it.”
When we talk about cross checks, that’s what we mean – the practice of identifying what you absolutely need to keep track of, and temporarily setting aside the rest, as a way of blocking out distractions and staying focused during fast-moving, high-pressure situations. By determining which of the many inputs and factors in your situation need your immediate attention, you’re also identifying which ones don’t need it. This is the difference between cutting through the noise and succumbing to the chaos.
What do cross checks look like in business settings?
Work can get chaotic these days. Inboxes are full of a million emails on a million different topics. Calendars are full of meetings. Whiteboards are covered in plans. When a team is missing their revenue target, all this chaos creates distractions that cause them to fall farther behind.
Using cross checks can help you turn the chaos into order. It can empower you to focus only on the action items that will have a direct impact on your most important mission objective – boosting your revenue to prevent another miss – without letting other, less impactful action items cause distractions you can ill afford.
When you’re halfway through the quarter and behind on revenue, would you rather see your top rep updating one of your team’s battlecards based on a competitor’s recent feature release? Or would their time be better spent boning up for the demo they’re giving a prospect tomorrow? Both of those tasks have value, but the latter has a definitively stronger impact on your ability to hit your target.
What challenges are involved in using cross checks?
At a glance, cross checks might seem intuitive. Focus on what matters, set aside the rest – what’s so revolutionary about that?
“When your team is missing your goals, you don’t have the luxury of focusing on anything but the need-to-haves.”
But the challenge related to cross checks is not grasping the concept – that part is easy. The challenge, particularly for teams who have missed their targets and are under pressure to turn things around, is one of mindset. It’s not easy, for example, for a Sales team to decide to cancel a prospect meet-and-greet so they can focus all their attention on closing leads that are currently in the funnel. When you’re coming off a target miss, your instinct is to leave no stone unturned. But using cross checks is about understanding that the meet-and-greet is a nice-to-have – and that, when your team is missing your goals, you don’t have the luxury of focusing on anything but the need-to-haves. When you get into a cross check mindset, you’re better able to make tough decisions that are nonetheless necessary if your team is to stay focused on what matters in high-stakes situations.
Afterburner specializes in helping teams of all kinds implement cross checks into their workflow, stay focused on what matters most, and hit their revenue targets. Reach out to learn how.