The Most Rewarding Words to Hear as a Leader

A leader is best when people barely know (s)he exists, when his(er) work is done, his(er) aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu

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Changing roles, whether within a company or to another company, is a time for reflection. As an early mentor of mine taught:

Company loyalty does not exist. You are a number and if it in the best interests of the company, you will be removed without a second thought. The only loyalty that exists in business is to people, those around you.

When you make a change, it is a time to reflect on what those people, team members, peers, customers and senior leadership, taught you and what they share as you exit.

There are the usual comments of “it is a loss for the company”, “we will miss your (insert personal trait)” and from others a heartfelt congratulations on the next step in your career. From those who have become friends or close colleagues, there are commitments to remain connected. At the same time you will probably reach out to scores of people that you built close relationships with, to thank them for their support, feedback, guidance, friendship and motivation.

If you are a leader who believes that you should invest in the success of others to be successful, what is most rewarding is an unsolicited note or phone call from those who’s career you impacted. There is nothing more gratifying than a team member, peer, customer or leader sharing how you helped them develop, take risks, learn and achieve a new level of success. A call from those you inspired.

When the time comes for your next transition, listen carefully to what people say at that moment. To them, this is a time of purest motivation. You no longer control their review, stock grant, product discount or bonus. They are sharing how they feel about you as a leader and teammate. It is a time of honesty that can never be captured in an employee or customer survey. At the same time, ensure that you reach out to thank those who helped you succeed.

Of course, you do not have to wait till the moment you exit. As you contemplate your development plan, goals and progress through the year, ask yourself – what would people share if you left today?

Hopefully, it includes the word inspired.

My Top 5 New Sales Leader Books

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books

Those who have worked on my team or who I have mentored know that I encourage self-paced learning. Learning is a choice and in our ever-connected world, books are at the learner’s fingertips in all imaginable formats – hard copy, Kindle or as a recorded version via services such as Audible.

This approach often leads new sales leaders to ask me the question: which books should I read?

Here is my list. In no particular order other than the first two books are my all time favorites and absolutely-read-before-starting recommendations:

  • Becoming a Manager by Linda Hill – a step-by-step handbook on transitioning from individual contributor to manager. To this day, whenever a salesperson tells me that they are interested in moving to management I give or recommend this book.
  • The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins – Whenever I start a new role I re-read this book. As you can see by the picture above it is well worn. Covering topics such as assessing a business, building a plan, working with peers and managing stakeholders. It is invaluable. I own it in all 3 formats – hard copy, Kindle and Audible. Too few leaders enter a new role with a plan.

 

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen – in a mad world with too much information, Allen provides the reader with structure through an organized inbox. This method is hard to adopt and keep implemented, but it works. It also helps new leaders make sense of their workload and manage stress.
  • Coaching and Mentoring, Harvard Business Essentials – too often coaching books are filled with useless sports metaphors. A compilation of top HBR articles, the book helps the new sales leader learn how to coach and mentor like the best. I add my favorite personality analytics tool, Predictive Index, to the mix to give the new leader insight into where they can start coaching.
  • Major Account Sales Strategy by Neil Rackham – This is a sales strategy book. The pages of my book are falling out as the binding disintegrates from use. Why would a sales leader need to read this? Because it is all about strategy and to be a good coach, you need to understand strategy. It is also filled with key insights that many micro-managing sales leaders do not understand such as activity does not lead to success in high-value sales, and one of my favorite quotes:

A measure of the health of a sales organization is the amount of time it spends relating to customers compared with the time it takes relating to the internal needs of the company. By this measure many organizations are sick, and we’ve seen some that are boarding on terminally ill. So our first piece of advice is usually cut the paperwork.

 

My other reading suggestions are the all-inclusive Harvard Business Review subscription. I have been a subscriber for a long time and it is cheap at $99 a year and … to not stop reading.

The world is full of great books. Always keep learning.