By Jim Hughes
Founder and Managing Partner, Quick Start Strategies

In 1997 (yes, 26 years ago) I attended a guest lecture by John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins fame on what makes companies successful. He certainly did an homage to Andy Grove (Intel) his boss on OKRs – objectives and key results. Yet, when asked the 1 thing that dictates success he said: “Intellectual honesty.” He went on to explain that this is all about getting the entire management team aligned as to where they are currently with their growth objectives, and what they need to do to drive outcomes.

Fast forward to last week, I asked @chatGPT what key words align to intellectual honesty:  

  • Truthfulness: requires a dedication to conveying information and perspectives accurately. This involves avoiding deliberate deception, misrepresentation, or manipulation of facts.
  • Self-Reflection: assessing their own beliefs, biases, and reasoning processes. This self-awareness helps to maintain intellectual integrity.
  • Objectivity: setting aside personal biases and emotions to the best extent possible and evaluating information based on its merits rather than preconceived notions.
  • Open-mindedness: being open to considering different and diverse viewpoints and being willing to change one's position in the face of compelling evidence.
  • Acknowledging Limitations: recognizing their own limitations, both in terms of knowledge and cognitive abilities. They are open about what they do not know and are willing to learn and grow.

So, what does intellectual honesty have to do with revenue performance (near-term), revenue predictability (3 quarters and on), and revenue insights (where do you win versus lose)? Based on 10 years of working with more than 200 growth companies I would suggest intellectual honesty means a great deal.

High performing companies – those with sustained revenue growth of more than 30% for 3+ years – consistently align all-key ‘client facing’ stakeholders in delivering revenue. They understand what makes a great opportunity across the entire lead-to-cash lifecycle. They have a consistent view of the minimum viable information (MVI) required by sales stage to optimize success. They are not afraid to admit to missing, bad, or incomplete data – and willing to work as a team to correct it. They establish their CRM platform as the only source of truth to delivering revenue.

If you admit you are not a Top Performer, what can you do?

Step 1: Uncover your level of intellectual honesty.

Create a simple anonymous survey to gather input from all-key ‘client facing’ stakeholders that have a role in delivering across your 'lead-to-closed/won' lifecycle. This step is about self-reflection to uncover individual stakeholder beliefs. Your survey should aim to capture a multifaceted view of your revenue team’s perspectives on revenue performance, predictability, and insights.  The main focus is to create a safe and anonymous space for respondents to share their truth. However, not everyone will answer each question with an eye on the truth, but rather with convenience or a desire to influence the results.  These will be uncovered during the consolidation process.

Step 2: Consolidate survey results.

Each response represents a data point, that when combined, reveals the bigger picture. Start by searching for patterns and trends that establish the consistent themes in your results. By comparing answers to similar scenarios, you can assess the consistency of intellectual honesty in different contexts. The contradictions in responses will paint an intriguing picture, showing you gray areas in intellectual honesty where the line between honesty and dishonesty often blurs.

Step 3:  Determine the what and the why.

In reviewing your results with your team, set out to explore not just the what, but also the why. What are the questions that respondents answer differently? Why do they choose these answers over others? What factors influence these choices?  Your goal is to determine if the results truly represent your current revenue performance, predictability, and insights situation.  This discussion will provide you with a solid foundation on which you can base further discussions, debates, and decisions.

The outcome achieved by improving intellectual honesty in your revenue team is to limit false assumptions, misconceptions, and decisions based on faulty information. The pursuit of intellectual honesty becomes crucial to gaining insights that are trustworthy, valuable, and actionable.  It's critical to understand that intellectual honesty isn't a one-time act. It's a continuous commitment, a conscious choice to uphold truth, even when it's uncomfortable or inconvenient.

Let’s get going. To begin understanding your team’s level of intellectual honesty get several members of your revenue team to take this quick self-assessment survey. Upon completion of the survey, you will immediately be supplied with your results benchmarked against all other survey participants.  

2024 Sales Performance, Predictability, and Insights Study

About Quick Start Strategies

Founded in 2014, Quick Start Strategies is a boutique consulting and technology firm focused on helping under-or erratic-performing companies improve revenue performance, predictability, and insights. Since our inception, we have analyzed and worked with companies of all sizes around the world to benchmark and improve revenue performance.