How to create a stress culture

It was twenty two years ago now and my first and last ever desk job.

My job brief was simple:

Call companies and ask them if:

a. they would like their empty ink cartridges collected or

b. they would like us to refill them at a cost lower than the re-purchase cost.

Now from a companies perspective this was a no brainier. It cost money to dispose of them themselves and it cost more money to buy new. There was only upside.

The sales brief however was to make 100 plus calls in one day.

We even had little work sheets to fill in that had a day structured on them complete with cigarette breaks, lunch and 120 call spaces.

The net result was chaos.

Pressure from above to get back on the phone.

To shorten the calls.

To hit the targets.

The staff were constantly stressed and overwhelmed and it reflected in moral, culture and the quality of the calls.

It wasn’t a companies run by idiots. [the 16 year old me might not have said this.]

It was a company placing its attention in the wrong place. Of course a blunt calls to sales ratio is not an unhelpful figure but when it’s the primary focus it can only breed stress.

Productivity or number of calls just don’t create certainty around sales. The data is at best coincidence when used as a stand alone.

Ultimately it was a relationship business. A customer service business.

Now I’m not a sales expert but companies like Zappos have created customer service businesses disguised as sales businesses.

They have found places to put their attention and data to track that makes a customer as excited by the call as they are around the product.

When we go relational in a world that is stuck being transactional we will always win internally and externally.

Where we place our attention and the data we track matters significantly. Our attention grows where it goes.

Whether we are trying to grow sales, internal culture or create habits in ourselves the data we choose to track and where we place our attention will be a determining factor in our culture and long term success.