“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” Pree’s Max.
I continue to be amazed at leaders who want to see the world through rose-colored glasses and not face reality head-on with their Teams. While these people are likely to exist in all areas of the business, it’s especially apparent in a sales environment.
If it is the manager who cannot or will not define the reality of working in a team environment and the basic responsibilities expected (and as a result, does not hold people accountable in the same way across the team, seemingly playing favorites when they are simply avoiding a potential conflict) or the sales leader who continues to believe that because of the brand they represent, customers will come running for their services: many leaders fail to define reality for their team.
Time and time again I have walked into organizations and shared the most basic information with sales teams only to be surprised that they were unaware of things like the goals of specific products or services. In fact, they had been a team in name only, but in reality they were very focused on their own results and contributions. In effect, a collection of individuals who only shared their reporting structure.
The second responsibility of the leader is to be a servant of his people. As leaders (especially in sales), we need to focus on what obstacles we can remove for our teams. How can we help our people advance their agenda and remove obstacles from our people?
Unfortunately, this rarely happens either. Leaders don’t spend enough time meeting the needs of their Team and too much time looking for ways to deflect blame/make demands (Yes, I know that’s a big generalization).
I can think of a case where a friend of mine (who is a great and experienced salesperson) was put in a position where the leader couldn’t define the reality of his team or be a servant and really help move the business forward. . In this case, the leader refused to accept the flaws in the product set and pricing policies that his company was bringing to market. Instead of fighting internally (which he should have), he spent time refusing to listen to his team and not representing his team to senior management. This ‘Teflon’ behavior rarely serves the Team well and, in fact, undermines a Leader’s credibility with their Team. As a result, a downward spiral begins where salespeople become disengaged and disenfranchised and then end up leaving the organization in search of a more supportive leader and organization.
The last piece, thank you, is also something that few leaders do well. A well-placed thank you and public acknowledgment go far beyond anything else to acknowledge and support the work Team members do.
To all the leaders out there: remember the formula. Define reality, be a servant of your people and thank them over and over again. Do this and your team will support you and soar to great heights. You will get up with them, without your team you cannot fulfill your mandate.