January 24th, 2014
I sometimes am asked what it takes to be a successful sales leader. Notice, I say leader, not manager—I would rather be known as a successful leader versus a successful manager. Stating it a different way—are there leaders of nations or managers of nations?
Leadership has evolved over the years. It used to be the person “in charge” held all of the “power” all to themselves. There was no sharing of ideas, no working as a group to solve challenges and certainly was there no looking better than the boss. There may be some organizations that still run this way. However, the growth organizations such as Apple, Google and Facebook have embraced more team approaches that have led these organizations to be extremely successful.
I have been fortunate for the majority of my career to be with an organization that appreciates a team method/style. So what types of things do I practice for leadership success?
First, it is important to hire people that are better than you—you want them smarter and better able to present—if you work with this type of premise, your organization will grow successfully and not stagnate. You will also develop very talented people who will be extremely loyal.
Communication is another cornerstone to successful leadership. This is a two-way street. It’s so important to make sure the team understands what the goals are, what the potential hurdles could be, what the measuring of success is for an organization. Along with this, it is important to listen much more than you speak. This helps eliminate/reduce something called the “me’s.” As a leader, there is no “I” in team. When someone in your team makes you look good, make sure you let the appropriate people know that this person was the reason this got done or this idea was that person’s. It wasn’t your idea or you didn’t think of it—our marketing team did or this person thought out of the box and came up with this.
As I have grown as a leader, I also have grown to trust my co-workers. As a result, I will delegate different projects and priorities. You have to trust the people to whom you delegate. And here is the deal, if the person you to whom you’ve delegated messes up, then you are the one that has to accept responsibility up the organizational chain of command. Conversely, when someone to whom you delegate hits it out of the park, that is the person who gets to bask in the glory, not you.
Along with delegation, it’s also important to ask the team members when they come with a challenge, come with an idea or solution as well. This will give everyone a good starting point to solve challenging situations—it also encourages problem solving by the team not just you (two heads are better than one) which is good for talent development.
Finally, all of this is easier said than done. If you are insecure in your ability or not comfortable with letting go of some control, it will be difficult to be a successful leader, sales or otherwise. It will be difficult to find enough time in the day to take care of your own core responsibilities and projects. Also, you won’t develop your team and organization as quickly as you may need. But if you can let go of some control and overcome some insecurity, potentially you could become the next Apple or Google. At the very least, you will have developed a motivated working environment that will bring out success.