The state of sales leadership
We’re witnessing and living through a time we’ve not experienced before.
A phase of constant uncertainty about the future – even with “re-opening pathways out of lockdown”. In Victoria, we were told our 4 month lockdown in 2020 was to end all lockdowns…only to still be in lockdown in 2021.
My point is that even when a pathway forward seems certain, things can and do change in ways that we can only do our best to deal with.
Sales leaders are human beings. We’re prone to the same human frailties as the team members we lead and are just as guilty of experiencing fear, frustration, resignation, and fatigue. One side effect of the last 2 years is the fall out of this prolonged period of uncertainty in our sales leaders.
And some of it isn’t good.
Here’s some of what I’ve seen emerging:
The Checked Out Leader
As much as we’d like to hope that our leaders have the skills to dig a bit deeper, many leaders depending on where they’re at in their careers, in their personal lives and on their professional journeys will fall into this mode if only temporarily. Because significant change may be on the horizon for many organisations, these leaders have opted to take a foot off the pedal, ride things out and wait for a probable redundancy.
Passive, right? Harmless, right?
Regardless of how justifiable, succumbing to the temptation to do nothing flies in the face of true leadership as it is self-serving rather than team serving. It is typified by a mood of resignation that the future is inevitable and inevitably does not include them the way they’d like it to. And rather than take action, they opt for opting out with a payout if possible!
Not only does it disempower them as leaders it also leaves their team members to fend for themselves, and what can go wrong in that scenario?!
A leader in name only, they’ve entered the waiting room of their careers.
So what’s the remedy?
Please remember that there are team members who still need support, hope and direction. Leadership is always about supporting your team: it’s work, alright, and when we haven’t got much left in the tank it can feel like too much work.
But I urge any leader with whom this resonates, to stop and think about those you’ll be leaving behind and ask yourself this question instead: how can I leave my team in the best possible condition to thrive even when I’m no longer here? If you must walk away, what is the legacy you want to be remembered for?
The Jostling for Position Leader
When there is change a-foot in an organisation, survival instincts kick in. Some leaders know there isn’t room for everyone so they begin to compete with one another. Sometimes that competitive spirit doesn’t bring out their best: instead it sets in motion an elbowing of sorts that attempts to brings others down. Intentions to expose the weaknesses of the “competition” in order to put themselves in a better light with those deciding the new structure.
Understandable for sure. Unhelpful? Absolutely!
When it comes to job certainty which has personal and familial ramifications people want to secure their current role or the best possible one. Like the checked-out leader though, this behaviour is also self serving. While they’re out playing mortal coroporate combat, the team isn’t at the forefront of their minds.
The modelling behaviour alone signals similar dog eat dog behaviour in the team flows on to the customer experience.
Regardless of who “wins” what shape will your team and your sales pipeline be in?
Instead, ask yourself a different question: What do I need to do now to showcase my ability to lead from strength, to set myself apart by highlighting my leadership capabilities and by shining a light on how well our team performs in adversity – in spite of the considerable challenges?
How can I “up” my communication, my stewardship and the value I deliver to the organisation, to my team and to my customers?
I don’t know about you but THAT’s the leader I’d be selecting
The “Stepped up“ Leader
This is the one I’ve been most impressed with.
This is the leader who is looking after those to the left and to the right of them. They may or may not have the word “leader” in their title but they’re more concerned with the well being of the organisation, its reputation, each other, their teams and their customers. These leaders focus on what they CAN do rather than pointing out the obvious limitations that everyone is all too aware of.
Colleagues and team members feel safe with them, which inspires them to dig deep, take action and be more willing to go above and beyond.
The only downside to these leaders is their humility, which actually isn’t helping anyone. It’s now that we need more of these leaders than less – we just need to hear from you!
So I ask these leaders for only one thing: simply speak up and demonstrate what you’re doing so that more people can benefit, those who need to see will and to inspire others who are similarly inclined to step up and do the same.
Teams will perform better because their needs for psychological and job safety are there, customers will have a better experience as a result, your actions and sales results will speak loudly and suddenly the organisation has a new breed of leader to invest in and select from. Please ask yourself: “How can I communicate the approaches I’m taking in order to benefit people across the organisation more broadly? How can I look at what I’m doing more objectively in order to enact them more deliberately?”
Self-awareness is important right now. Know your strengths and elevate your principles and your actions.