Obliquity (John Kay)

I’ve long blogged against the misguided pursuit of money as your primary driver. Better, I’ve always felt, to focus on success first. Financial reward then easier follows from your accomplishment.

I’ve come across an author who reinforces this stance throughout his promotion of obliquity. As defined by his original article (pre-dating the recently released book by five years), John Kay’s main thrust is that

goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly

He quotes numerous instances of people that lost out by the blinkered chase of cash alone, summarising that,

greater emphasis on corporate financial goals led to less success in achieving them

Which he later terms his,

… profit-seeking paradox: the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented

For those that like deeper thought provocation,

the attempt to focus on simple, well defined objectives proved less successful than management with a broader, more comprehensive conception of objectives

He quantifies that he’s not referring to the ‘average’, but for ‘most’ cases obliquity rings true. In other words, averagely profit orientated firms succeed more than those without profit drivers, whereas the most profitable are not the most profit driven.

So yet more evidence that the exclusive pursuit of profit renders true success elusive.

How then does this obliquity translate into a sales person’s optimum drive? I have heard a rep try to justify themselves by telling a prospect that they’ve smashed their quota. I have sensed the collapse of rapport from such self-centred boast.

If a prospect wants to know your best achievement, would you veer towards saying that last year you made a gazillion percent of target, or would you talk more around personalised tales of where you helped a customer complete a knotty challenge?

Following the obliquity logic, when you think about your goals, rather than making a squillion in sales by year-end, it’s clearly better to think in terms like that of helping a dozen people to fix a problem, for example. And articulate as such.

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