The Go Factor

Promote a culture that encourages your employees to be proactive.

Ask your board, your executive team and yourself: Are we making decisions based on continued and future success, or are we making decisions on the here and now for now?

With advancements in technology and immediate feedback mechanisms readily available, business executives often get mired in the short-term details and in the “how-fast-can-we-fix-this” syndrome. Printouts and updates keep many executives glued to what is directly in front of them, and the “go factor” is lost.

What is the go factor?

The go factor is that innate feel for what should happen next. It's that instinct that tells a tuned-in executive what changes need to take place today in order to be properly positioned for the future. For many leaders, this instinct has almost been engineered out of their psyches in their quests to simply avoid failure.

The greatest go factor I've personally witnessed was at a law-firm client of mine in the mid 1990s when the top exec had a gut feeling that it was the time to take on the tobacco industry. For decades, Big Tobacco had never lost in court. Their lobbying efforts were at an all-time high. On paper it just couldn't be done. With disregard for history, the executive attorney decided it was the time to go, not a year from then, not when things started to feel better in the courts, but then!

The wheels began to turn immediately. Preparation quickly hit full stride — even though many in the firm thought he had completely lost his mind. We all know how that story ended — one of the largest class-action settlements in history, which was tremendously profitable for the firm. Whether you agree with the result or not, the executive achieved his objective because he trusted his good instincts. They had served him well in prior situations, and he wasn't afraid of the go factor's potential downfall.

The surprise

Most leaders don't recognize that big wins in business seldom are spelled out on paper. When the attorney decided to take on tobacco, he didn't know exactly how he was going to win, he just knew he could. When Bill Gates decided to start Microsoft, he didn't know how big it would get, he just knew he could beat IBM at its own game with a garage-based business.

Every exceptional leader has benefited from a surprise that came along, a surprise they never would have experienced or benefited from had they not had the go factor already in place and working. As someone once said, “luck” happens when opportunity meets preparation.

If a company's leadership is hesitant to take bold steps, that inability to “go” sets the tone for everyone within the organization. He who hesitates is lost. If a poker player shows indecision, he tips his hand to the other players by demonstrating weakness. If a golfer is indecisive about which club to choose or which shot to use, he is rarely satisfied with the action he takes because he isn't fully committed to the swing.

A salesperson or an executive is the same way. If there is doubt, hesitation or lack of confidence, opportunity can and will be lost. Playing it completely safe is actually among the riskiest steps to take in today's business environment. Taking measured risks is a safe way to experience growth and progress in your business.

A simple way to determine a company's go factor is to ask about its staff training. If the response is either of the two most common reasons for not training managers or staff people (we don't have the money, or we are so busy that we don't have the time to train), the company's go factor is probably too low to achieve lasting success.

The “we don't have the money” excuse is an easy decision delay and means a company doesn't have a well-developed planning tool for the new year. It also means the company's executives are not in tune with the organization. If the money crunch is a short-term concern, then be confident in the future and prepare for it now. Don't wait, because playing catch-up becomes a habit.

The go factor found in entrepreneurial leaders is typically much higher than in corporate executive leaders. Entrepreneurs invest themselves into the long-term future of the business. They are in business because it feels good and is exciting. They live for the thrill of growth and improvement and constantly look to take one more step toward the cutting edge. The corporate executive type has a more reserved go factor and typically plays to not lose as opposed to playing to win.

Proactive organizations have high go factors. They build for the future and are confident in their actions.

Reactive organizations have an inhibited go factor and typically spend the first few months of a new year feelings things out to see how the industry and the economy is going to react. They then cautiously move forward on the significant changes they hoped to accomplish, thereby forcing themselves to play catch-up because they waited so long to take action.

Raising the Go Factor

If you are interested in creating more of a go factor in your sales staff, leaders and executives, work toward creating the following mindsets within the organization.

Promote trial and error

Most salespeople are confined either by their own mindset or the mindset of their immediate boss. Instead, always try new things. Analyze what restricts salespeople from achieving their potentials. Is it a policy? A laborious budget process? A negative mindset?

Diversify your approach to customers and prospects to see which approaches work best. Success in any business is learned through constant trial and error.

Drive toward the edge. Most companies play to not lose rather than to win

Most stay in the safe mode and drive down the center lane.

Take a hard look at your company and define where the edge of the road is in as much detail as you can. Once you define it (such as 100 percent market share), the edge is where exponential growth in success exists.

Inspire your staff to drive the edge and push each other to get closer to the edge. Once you define your market and instill edge drive, your team will develop the mindset that they are not going to stop until they reach the edge.

Keep the energy fresh

Frustration and impatience are common traps of executives reaching for the go factor. Leaders need to keep a positive perspective, keep the drive going, and most importantly, keep everyone feeling energetic about what they are trying to achieve.

The author is president of Russell J. White International Inc., Lake Wylie, S.C., and is known in speaking and consulting circles as “The Big Guy.” He is an author, trainer and international speaker with 25 years of experience as a Fortune 500 manager and consultant. White is the author of “Debunking the Designated Decoy: Get to the truth in your organization!” and “Little White Truths: Lessons for Leadership.” His articles appear in national trade magazines and regional business newspapers. White can be reached at (877) 275-9468 or by e-mail at [email protected]. Visit his Web site at

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