Flightless flapping wings: Activity and action are not the same

Myers Barnes new home sales action and activity
Action and activity are not the same. Action is a movement that is done with purpose, intended to generate a reaction. “If I do this, then that results.” Activity is bluster— movement with no particular direction. Wandering through a mall is activity. Brisk walking for your health is action.

Activity can appear valuable in an organization. The energy expelled leads you to believe results are going to occur. But look closer. 

You see your sales team busily tapping away at the computer or smartphone screens. What result is produced by this effort? 

You know how many homes they’ve demonstrated on a given day or week. How many browsers did they convert to buyers?

If you’re confusing busy work with results-driven action, you’re contributing to the problem.

Flightless flapping

Busy work—the concept of expending energy on tasks that deliver no result—is counter-productive. The activity is like a penguin flapping its wings. No matter how fast the bird’s wings move, they will never lift him off the ground. 

An eagle, however, can glide on air currents, without flapping its wings to stay aloft. It conserves energy as this regal bird zeroes in on its target—whether that’s hunting its prey or returning to the nest. 

I often see people who hurry about, seemingly busy. In most cases, the people who appear the busiest are actually the least productive. They are not overworked, just disorganized. They are putting all their energy into motion rather than seeking results. They might not even realize their own lack of effectiveness. Disorganized people rarely see themselves as such.

Sales leaders need to pay attention to the action and activity occurring within its group. 

  • Who is perpetually behind on hitting goals but the first one to deliver an excuse? 
  • Who skitters around, always in a rush? 
  • How do the actions of a successful team member compare to those of a merely active one?

Results occur from focused thought and effort, not frantic flapping of flightless wings.

The price for lack of lift-off

Remember that you are paying for that wasted energy. They are costing you sales, and potentially grounding the action of your better sales professionals.

As a sales leader, pull these penguins aside and give them guidance for better organizing their time and applying their talents. Review the motions that commonly require their effort. 

  • Do these activities guide you closer toward achieving your sales goal? 
  • What is the intended outcome of the activity? For example, is it a lead generator? 
  • Do you spend a lot of time calling prospects but not achieving results? 

That’s activity, not action. 

Analyze the cost of the efforts across your organization. What does one wasted hour a day mean to your organization’s goals? And one hour is a conservative guess, because office penguins likely waste more time than that.

There may be tasks that could be done more efficiently, delegated elsewhere, or simply eliminated. Imagine if you could create an extra hour a day by converting activity into guided action. What would your outcome be? If you spent one hour a week training others to be more productive, the benefit of that action would resonate across your group.

I recently saw a sign that said, “If you fall into a rut, don’t furnish it.” Following the status quo by letting fruitless activity continue is most certainly turning that rut into a comfy place to be. 

Don’t do it.

Aim for purposeful action and you’ll see positive results.


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