One thing I have always strived for in my career is to build an organization that doesn’t need me there to run it. I know that sounds crazy on some level, but it’s true. I don’t want to have to be there to make things go. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the competition and effort it takes to be successful in sales… “the game” if you will. But at the same time, if as a leader I am needed at all times at the ground level to make things go, how can I possibly look up to see where we are actually going?
Of course, a high performing team is what I want, what leader doesn’t? It is the “how to make this happen” part that is hard. For me, it boils down to 3 Cs: Cadence, Communication and Culture. As a leader, you must be intentional in how you build these things. That is the key. You cannot accidentally build cadence. You cannot lack thought in how you communicate. Many people think culture is the outcome of others but, as Stephen Covey said, if you don’t begin with the end in mind – you will fail. The beautiful thing is if you do these things on purpose, you can create the high performing team you want.
Let’s start with cadence. Cadence is the rhythm of your organization. When you do meet, how do you meet, what are the purposes of your meetings? How do you make sure that whatever you are doing actually adds value to the frontline sellers and if it doesn’t, that you stop? These are all elements of cadence. A consistent cadence that provides value will be adhered to, and will give the people on your team that element of consistency that almost all humans crave. We like our schedules. It is hard wired into our brains. I build my cadence out over the course of the day/week/month/year, and I keep all elements in mind.
I like to start the day with a huddle or stand up meeting with my direct reports. I can hear quickly what is going on that needs attention and they can communicate with each other as well. I believe this reduces hundreds of emails over time. I expect that every person in my org has a valuable one on one each week. This is simply that focus time for each person. For some it is deal review, or career building time. Whatever it is, it needs to be meaningful.
I hold a longer meeting with my leadership team once a week to address any major issues at hand. In the middle of each week I hold a department wide (my department is about 180 people) meeting that we call a Scrum. It is 15-30 minutes in length and a stand up in a common area. It is only ever as long as it needs to be. The Scrum is a key component of the cadence in that it binds all the people together with the same message and direction. That is of course, communication. The modern employee wants to know how everything is going, and they want to trust the person who is leading them. The only way to do this is by regular, genuine and transparent communication. People see through fake. If things are good, I tell them and I tell them how to keep it going. If things are bad, I tell them, and I give direction on how to change it. Because I do this consistently through our cadence, people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
In a sales org where quota and individual performance is heavily weighed, anything you can do to bind people in a tribal way is crucial. I believe very strongly that if someone is doing poorly they need to know NOW. Not at an annual review. Not when you put them on a written warning, but NOW. Give them the chance to fix it. Oh, and if they are doing good? Let them know that too. Find public and private forums to praise those that are getting it done for you. Sales is hard, be loose with the love you show your team.
The final C is culture. This is such an important word that has come to be used too loosely. Culture to me is a very deliberate and intentional thing. I have a saying that “As a leader it is not my job to motivate you, I can’t do that as motivation is something you have or you don’t – but it is definitely my job to create an environment where the motivated can be successful.” This saying defines my culture. I want my team invested in the outcomes of what we do. I want people to feel like if they were to no longer work for my team they would be missing out. I want them to crave the culture we have. And that culture is about performing at the highest levels they are capable of.
None of this is easy. If it were, everyone would do it naturally. It takes thought. It takes effort. You need to know where you want to be, and what that high performing team looks like when you get there. You have to be intentional about the way you set your cadence, communicate with your team, and create your team’s culture. It won’t be a simple thing to do, but if you can do it right, you will have the high performing team you want and suddenly, everything won’t depend on only you.
Rob has over 23 years of experience in sales, the last 13 serving sales teams at Thomson Reuters, first as a Manager, then as a Director and now as a Lead. His teams consistently achieve and exceed their goals in spite of whatever market conditions they face. His current post has him leading a team of over 180 people going after new sales, cross sell, up sell and retention. He was named the 2018 American Association of Inside Professionals Executive of the Year.