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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Leadership Lessons: Leaders Eat Last


As the son of a Naval Commander, I heard my fair share of military wisdom and leadership advice from my dad as I was growing up at military bases around the world. We were stationed at the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and in Rota, Spain, and when he wasn’t flying a reconnaissance mission I would regularly hear him say, “Wake up, it’s Zero-Dark-Thirty”, “What’s the sitrep on school?” and “Straighten up your quarters”. Most of the time it went in one ear and out the other as it would with any child or young adult. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, when I hear retired military personnel like Admiral William H. McRaven (retired) give the commencement address at the University of Texas and provide leadership tips to recent graduates, it’s usually advice that I find worth listening to.    

Topics: sales culture leadership

Grow Future Leaders with Socraticship


I have noticed that many leaders I work with tend to retreat, decide, and dictate when the stakes are high and the stress is intense. True confession: I actually do this as well, but it’s easier to see how screwed up it is when I see others doing it! Right. I’m talking about times like budgeting for the new year or creating a new compensation plan to drive intended behaviors.

Here’s the irony. One of the common needs I hear expressed by those in the top sales leadership role in a company (business owners, VP Sales, Director of Sales, etc.) is how to develop the other sales managers in their organization. The ironic part is the greatest growth opportunities are these high stakes moments that fall on the top sales leader. Instead of retreating, deciding, and dictating, consider Socraticship. I know Socraticship is not really a word, but maybe it should be. Socraticship is Leadership that leads with questions, instead of answers.

Topics: Sales leadership

Improve Sales Performance with Inside Outside Leadership


As a leader, I am regularly called upon to make clear, focused decisions. I am also called upon to constantly survey new information to determine if anything might call recent decisions into question. I bet you find yourself in the same situation. Leaders have to learn how to live in this space.

Topics: sales management Sales leadership

How to Start an Argument
You Don’t Care About Winning

great-leaders-argue-but-dont-winGreat leaders need to learn how to start an argument they don’t care about winning.

If your leadership team never argues or debates, that’s a good sign of harmony.

False harmony. It takes time and energy to argue well. It’s easier to avoid it. But the best leaders don’t—they ignite it.

When we think of harmony, we think of calm. But if arguments are rare in your organization, that calm you’re creating just might be the calm before the storm.

It’s healthy to challenge one another’s thinking. It forces you to own your opinion well enough to make a case for it (even if you’re wrong). The final decision will be a better one if you hear more viewpoints and a greater number of options.

Topics: leadership

How to Spot a Future Leader

spilled-candy-future-leaderI have been enjoying short stories from Twitter lately. The latest comes from Sean Hill, @veryshortstory.

I love this story:

Jack threw a piece of candy on the floor and watched his three children fight for it. The winner was groomed to protect Jack as he grew old.

Over the last few years, I have been helping one particular client completely transform their sales department. The change has been challenging to many in the organization. Some didn’t make it. Many of those who did make it struggled at first, and even after some time, they only embraced the change as much as necessary. But one person on the team embraced the change wholeheartedly. He was able to thrive—and even helped others on the team get on board.

Topics: Management leadership

When was the Last Time You Admitted Ignorance?

admit-when-you-dont-knowIf it’s been a long time since you admitted ignorance, you might want to be worried. I was talking to a client the other day asking questions about their plans for sales enablement and he said he had to admit his ignorance on the topic.

Wow. How refreshing. You have to be smart and confident to admit ignorance. Get the irony? That made me stop and try to remember when the last time was that I was willing and able to admit ignorance. I hope you stop and do the same now.

If you have not had this experience lately, you probably fall into one of two camps:

  1. You’re not challengednot talking to enough smart people or reading interesting books and articles.

Topics: leadership

Next Time, Try a Little Gratitude

try-a-little-gratitudeI heap a lot of praise on my kids. I point out when they do something I haven’t asked them to do, and I make a big deal about it. When they are extra helpful, I heap it on even more. Sometimes I wonder if they hear me because they may or may not even say thanks. And I’m okay with that. 

The other day I asked my 12-year-old son to take out the garbage, and when he came back in the house, I said to him “I want you to know, I really appreciate you.” And he stopped and said “Mom, I like it when you tell me that.” I was taken aback. I pointed out that I give him lots of praise, and he said it was something about the words “I appreciate you.”

Topics: Management leadership

What’s Your Company’s Reason for Being?

companys-mission-statementCan you complete this statement? We exist to…

If you run your company or a business unit, or even just a sales team, there is surprising value in completing that statement—it helps define your reason for being. I have experienced first-hand the benefit that comes from knowing our reason for being. Here’s how we complete the statement at The Center for Sales Strategy:

We exist to turn talent into performance.

It wasn’t a forgone conclusion that we would define our corporate purpose in that way. We considered other possibilities. We could have said we exist to help companies hire the best people and train them well. Or, we exist to help companies increase sales. Both would have been pretty good, but not as good as the one we landed on. Our final choice got to the essence of who we are, what our passion is, and the greatest value we deliver.

Topics: Management leadership

You Can Smell a Good Leader a Mile Away

smell-a-good-leader-a-mile-away"Shepherds ought to smell like sheep."

-Allan Taylor

That’s one of those quotations that slows you down and makes you think. It got me thinking about how important it is for sales managers to be in the field with their people. Sales managers ought to smell more like the funky field than the sterile office. 

It’s tempting to want to continually shut your door, block out distractions, and catch up on email and paperwork (it’s probably time to start calling this screen work, don’t you think?). Yes, there are times where you need to stop down and do some of that. But if you want to be a good leader and stay connected to your people and their work, to encourage best practices, and to spot opportunities for skill improvement, you need to get out there!

Get Out in The Field

Topics: Management leadership

What Redemption Looks Like for the Beleaguered Sales Manager

what-redemption-looks-like-for-a-sales-managerWith the great religious holidays about redemption—Easter and Passover—both happening this weekend, we thought it would be fun to think about what redemption might be like for an earnest, hard-working sales manager. This is the manager who works his or her butt off to get it right, but life being what it is, still has plenty of near-misses and disappointing outcomes.

When that redemption day finally arrives at the sales manager’s office, it might look like this:

  1. Staff turnover is reduced to zero for one full year. No one quit, and no one needed to be sacked.
  2. An entire week goes by with no emergency emails after 6pm that “absolutely have to be dealt with right now.”
  3. A year of bliss in which the sales team makes budget in every category and on every line the company measures.
Topics: Management leadership