Good sales leadership skills can engage and retain sales talent even in the most difficult of times. The converse is equally true, poor leadership skills can damage moral and ultimately be the cause of your best sales talent leaving. How many times have you heard someone say in private – “I left because I had a bad boss”?
The problem is that many new leaders were promoted because they were good at what they did, not because they were good at leading. Many new leaders flounder in the leadership role. Some common faults I see with new or even established leaders are:
Being the boss and being a leader are two different things. If you control every decision, big and small, eventually your reports will become “order takers”. This creates a low-performance team. You need to let your team members develop decision making skills and encourage recommendations. High performance teams can make many of the day-to-day decisions themselves and a strong leader needs to encourage that behavior. I am not suggesting that a leader delegate all decisions, clearly there are critical strategic and operational decisions that need to be made at the leadership level. Ask yourself, are you a micro-manager?
Leaders do not have to know everything. Strong leaders add smart people to their teams. It is essential to realize that there is always something else to learn and you should actively seek out new knowledge. Your smart team should also be tapped for insights and ideas. An engaged team feels that their knowledge and skills are valued. Ask yourself, could you come across as a know-it-all?
Executive leaders and your team members take a holistic view of you as a leader. They are watching you all of time. They expect to see consistent and authentic behavior, values and style. If you behave one way at work and in a different way in social settings, collegues may begin to question whether you are authentic. This will reduce your ability to lead. Ask yourself, could my many personas be interpreted in a way that creates dissonance?
Leaders sometimes can be so full of themselves because as leaders they forget the prime role of a leader is to build a high performance team. Remember there is no need for a leader if there are no team members to lead. Strong leaders make it about the team not about themselves. Their focus should be to create conditions where their team can flourish. Ultimately they will be measured on how well their team performs. Ask yourself, am I doing enough to make my team successful?
Have you ever played the game “Telephone”? Remember when what seemed like a simple communication was completely transformed after being relayed between a few people. When leading, expect your communications to misinterprepted. Not deliberately of course. It is essential that you verify that the communications were received and understood. Team members who are unsure of what you want will not be high performing. Ask yourself, could what I am saying or my actions be misinterpreted? Remember in the absence of information, team members will fill in the blanks themselves.
When your team is doing well, it is easy to enjoy the praise. When things are going well all leaders appear to be doing a good job. It is when difficult times arrive that the true leaders need show their colors. They will be asked to step up and make the tough calls and take ownership of the situation. Not making decisions will be viewed poorly by your leaders and your team members. Not making decisions is often worse than making wrong decisions. It is during tough times that leaders earn respect and their stripes. Ask yourself, am I shirking my responsibilities?
Leaders build self sustaining teams, they develop team members who will do the right thing regardless of whether you are there or not. If you create a dependency then it is unlikely that your team performance will remain high when you are not present. Remember, in order to progress in the leadership ranks you need to build high performance teams. Ask yourself, when you are not there will your team performance trail off? What is causing that?
Blind to Feedback
As a leader if you do not ask for and accept feedback from your peers, team members and your leaders it is easy to be completely unaware of both your weaknesses and strengths. Remember feedback is a gift and should be valued. It provides a valuable insight into how others perceive you. It is ultimately up to you what you do with that feedback. But remember your collegues and customers peception is their reality so you need to know what their perceptions are! Ask yourself, do I create a environment that solicits feedback?
Leadership can be very rewarding and is difficult. Some argue that some people are born leaders and that leadership can not be taught. I believe that some people are natural leaders but that leadership can also be developed.