Go there first
This morning I heard a sobering statistic about the number of suicides in one weekend.
It stopped me in my tracks. Literally took my breath away.
If that stat was about COVID-19 deaths, we’d all know about it.
But it in a way, they are related. While many of us feel more connected than ever and more aware of the importance of caring for one another as a result of lockdown and having the luxury of spending time with those we care about whenever we want to removed from us, others in our community are clearly suffering in silence from family violence, disconnection, poverty, homelessness and by extension, mental illness.
Our government has noted this health crisis and has paid heed by appointing a Deputy CMO whose focus is exclusively on the mental health crisis emerging from this pandemic. While suicides aren’t reported in our news, we must find ways to talk about prevention more frequently and in forums that can take considered action around this.
So, what’s this got to do with selling?
But as sales leaders, we are responsible for the well being of our teams. WFH will remain a reality for thousands – even when we’re “allowed” to return to the office. During lockdown, WFH was a novelty for many, while for others, work was the place they went to escape home.
And for a whole host of reasons….
…they may be living in a share house where the only place that’s theirs is their bedroom – not necessarily conducive to spending 20+ hours in every day for weeks on end….
…they may be in an abusive environment where there is now no respite as nobody is leaving the house!
…they may be preoccupied with fears about the security of their job and the closely connected financial security it provides…and their head is playing this reel in loops….
…or maybe it’s a reminder of how tenuous their connectedness is outside of work. Confronting their very real loneliness.
We only see the mask that our teams present.
Not everyone needs a mask, and not everyone wears one all the time. The trouble is, how do you know?
One sales leader I have the privilege of working with has demonstrated his understanding of the importance of bringing his team together with frequent touch points, including informal, silly gatherings to enable the team to bond and get to know one another outside of their roles at work. He’s made this his priority because he understands that without this, nothing else really matters, and nothing else will last. He’s creating a solid team foundation and culture. It’s taken time but it’s working.
Another sales leader I work with has supported a team member struggling with mental health issues by steering them towards professional counseling. He recognised that behaviours like aggression, inaction, and withdrawing were signs of something deeper. It takes a “present” leader to have a different conversation about what’s really going on, rather than just attending to the surface behaviour. He’s one of those leaders.
Relationships matter. How well do you really know your team? If you’re trying to drive better customer conversations, are you modeling that behaviour with your own team?
As leaders, we must go there first.
How well do you listen? Do you hold the space to receive not just the facts but the emotion that lies underneath? Or are you just waiting for a space to give advice and tell them what they need to do so you feel better that it’s fixed? It’s cringeworthy but that’s what many of us do. We offer advice because we think that’s our value as a leader: if we don’t have the answers, what then?
Building our capacity to be more as leaders, coaches and managers is possibly some of the most important work we can do. As we grow, we become more aware and able to handle whatever comes our way smoothly and with a different level of consideration. With different perspectives and options. We have more to offer, and we’re able to hold more.
If we want our teams to be open with us, we as leaders must go there first. While it’s over quoted, “Be the change you want to see in the world” is nevertheless true for us all. By going there first, we change the dynamic and allow for new behaviours – the ones we want.