ATM Unplugged: Rise as a True Leader
Embracing Servant Leadership: Putting Your Team First
Being a leader comes with its challenges, and one of them is shifting from being in the spotlight as an individual contributor to becoming a background figure. Instead of being recognized for our own achievements, the focus is now on the success of our team.
One helpful strategy is to place the leader at the bottom of the organizational chart, below the account executives and BDRs. This visual representation reinforces the idea that the leader serves the team. By openly acknowledging this, both internally and externally, we can foster a unified message and prioritize the needs of our team and customers.
“Leadership is a Choice, Not a Position.”
Leadership is more than just a job title – it’s a conscious decision. Simply being in a managerial position doesn’t automatically make someone a leader. True leadership comes from embodying certain qualities and motivating others to share a common vision. As Stephen Covey said, “Leadership is a choice, not a position.”
The common misconception many people have is that once they become a manager, everyone will automatically listen to them. They believe that a title like manager, director, or VP gives them a natural aura of leadership. However, being a manager and being a leader are two separate roles.
While it’s true that people prefer to be led rather than just managed, management is still crucial.
As a leader, there are certain things you need to understand:
- You will have less personal freedom as you will now be working for your team instead of yourself.
- Job security is also less stable for leaders compared to high-performing individuals.
- While leaders have the potential to earn more money, their income depends on their team’s performance, not just their own skills.
Inspiring Teams to Run Through Brick Walls
Transitioning into a leadership role may come with challenges like reduced freedom and job security, but it also offers significant rewards. Leaders have the opportunity to lead a company towards a common goal and contribute to substantial growth. Witnessing the transformation of team members and helping them achieve their dreams can be incredibly fulfilling and something that only leaders get to experience.
To be an effective leader, it’s essential to inspire and motivate the team to fully commit to the vision and direction. A great analogy, shared by my favorite VP of sales, is that a leader’s role is to motivate people to run through a brick wall for them. It’s about instilling a sense of purpose and confidence, not only in the company but also in each individual team member.
Authentic Human Connections
To cultivate a positive and productive work environment, it’s crucial to blend work and play and develop a genuine understanding of your team members. This entails recognizing their motivations, preferred forms of acknowledgment, and feedback preferences. By promoting authenticity and embracing diversity within the team, leaders can build a group of unique individuals who drive better results and ensure greater success.
Here are some helpful strategies:
- Foster human connections: Practice empathy, flexibility, coaching, and a focus on diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI).
- Embrace radical candor, responsiveness, and follow-through, even when it seems challenging.
To create real human connections, you can make a simple change in how you interact with every team member and cross-functional partner. Instead of responding with generic phrases like “That’s awesome”, “Sounds cool”, “Congrats”, delve into the details, express genuine interest, and ask follow-up questions. I refer to this approach as the “Tell me more” methodology. For instance, instead of just saying “Congrats!”, you can say “Congrats, tell us more!” or “That’s awesome, how did you go about it?”.
Balancing Boldness and Diplomacy
Being a leader goes beyond agreeing with higher positions. It involves having your own opinion and the willingness to push back when necessary. However, it is important to distinguish between advocating for your team and making decisions that benefit the company. Balancing these responsibilities is difficult yet crucial for effective leadership.
Managing up is not just about reporting upwards but also about building credibility, influencing decisions, and securing resources for your team. Leaders must articulate their team’s needs, achievements, and challenges to upper management in a way that aligns with the organization’s objectives. It requires diplomatic skills to present ideas and feedback, which may involve tactfully challenging the status quo. When managing up, leaders should focus on being solution-oriented, offering well-thought-out solutions instead of merely presenting problems. Disagree with something? You cannot simply tell your manager “You’re wrong” or “no” without providing context and data. Think you have a better solution or answer than your manager? Don’t show them up and make them look bad. This is what is known as a “CLM” or a career limiting move.
Here are some tips for managing up:
- “In data we trust”: Have a data source to back up the story you are trying to tell.
- Over-communicate the “how”: This is how you build trust, show how the sausage is made.
- Document, document, document: Frameworks and playbooks will be your best friends.
- Understand the “why“: When you receive direction from above, going at it blindly is a recipe for disaster. It is important to understand the “why” behind the “what,” similar to how we talk about leading with “why” when giving your team directives.
- Don’t present problems without solutions: This is why you are a leader. This is what you are getting paid for. Bring options to the table.
- The devil is in the details: Know your stuff!
Embracing Diversity in Leadership
Leaders should encourage their team members to be authentic and play to their unique strengths, promoting diversity within the team. Creating a team of individuals rather than a group of identical copies leads to better results and greater success.
Ultimately, leadership is not about dictating what others should do; it’s about developing the team and empowering them to achieve their potential. Leaders should focus on inspiring, motivating, innovating, and creating a vision that everyone can rally behind. Without the support and growth of the team, a leader cannot succeed. So, it’s crucial to appreciate, acknowledge, and truly know your team members and align their success with that of the company as a whole.
Developing a Compelling Vision
As a leader, it is your responsibility to provide a clear and inspiring vision that gives meaning to the work your team does. By explaining the “why” behind the “what,” you can unite your team towards shared goals and create a sense of purpose. This vision must be compelling, making your team look forward to coming to work every day and fostering a deep connection between their efforts and the overall mission of the company.
Nurturing Emotional Intelligence
Leaders should show emotions but manage them appropriately. Being authentic and human is essential, but being unhinged is not acceptable. Leaders must be self-aware, understanding the impact of their words and actions, and embrace change management effectively.
- Emotional Intelligence Development: It is the capacity to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. Leaders should invest time in learning and improving their EI. This involves enhancing their skills in empathy, self-regulation, motivation, social skills, and self-awareness. Leadership training or coaching, books, online courses, or even meditation and mindfulness practices can help enhance EI.
- Authenticity and Vulnerability: Being authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do, and who you serve. In an environment where everyone is competing for the attention of followers, it’s those leaders who speak from the heart that truly stand out. Leaders should be encouraged to share their struggles and successes equally. This honesty can make them more approachable and relatable.
- Regular Self-Reflection: Leaders should frequently self-reflect to stay aware of their emotional states, behaviors, and their impact on others. This could involve maintaining a daily or weekly journal, seeking feedback from team members, or working with a professional coach.
- Managing Stress: Leaders often face high levels of stress which can impact their emotional wellbeing. They should adopt stress management techniques like regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and time off work.
- Understanding the Context: The appropriateness of showing emotions can vary depending on the situation and cultural context. Leaders should understand these nuances and adapt accordingly.
- Adopting a Growth Mindset: Embracing change is easier when you view challenges as opportunities for growth. Leaders with a growth mindset are more adaptive and resilient in the face of change.
Effective Leadership Communication: Words and Beyond
Communication is key in effective leadership, and it encompasses more than just verbal exchanges. Nonverbal cues can greatly impact how your message is received, making it crucial to be aware of your words and actions. Understanding how to communicate upwards to your boss and sideways to your peers is just as important as managing your team. By mastering various forms of communication and emphasizing nonverbal cues, you can enhance your effectiveness as a leader.
- Mastering Active Listening: Effective communication is not just about speaking; it’s equally important to listen. Active listening involves fully focusing on the speaker, understanding the information, responding thoughtfully, and remembering the conversation. By mastering active listening, leaders show their team members that they value their input, which can improve relationships and trust.
- Understanding Body Language: Non-verbal cues such as eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, and posture convey a lot about our emotions and attitudes. Leaders should be aware of their own body language and how it can affect the message they are trying to convey. Equally important is learning to read and understand the nonverbal cues of others, which can give leaders important insights into team morale and individual emotions.
- Emphasizing Clarity and Brevity: Leaders should strive to communicate their ideas as clearly and succinctly as possible. This reduces chances of misinterpretation and confusion. Also, using language that is simple and straightforward makes your message more accessible to a diverse audience.
- Adapting Your Communication Style: Different situations and people require different communication styles. Some people prefer direct communication, while others respond better to a more diplomatic approach. Leaders should be flexible and adapt their communication style based on their audience and the context.
- Practicing Empathy: Communicating with empathy involves understanding and acknowledging others’ feelings. When leaders communicate with empathy, they show their team members that they value and care about them, which can foster a positive work environment and improve team morale.
Make Every Minute Count
Every meeting you schedule should have a clear purpose, a well-defined agenda, and a topic that requires dialogue. Avoid scheduling meetings just for the sake of having them. For example, in sales meetings, it’s unnecessary to go over numbers and reports that can be reviewed individually. Instead, focus on discussing outliers and creating action plans to address them.
The Power of Deep Focus
Multitasking may seem like a valuable skill, but it actually detracts from the quality of your work and can be disrespectful to others. True leadership requires deep focus and giving your undivided attention to those you interact with. Minimizing distractions and actively listening demonstrates respect for your team members and allows for meaningful connections.
Serving in a leadership role goes beyond having a job title. It requires consciously choosing to recognize team accomplishments over personal efforts, understanding team members and promoting diversity in the workplace, crafting and delivering a compelling vision of purpose, exhibiting an appropriate balance between advocating for the team and making decisions for the company as a whole, mastering effective communication techniques both verbal and nonverbal, spending time on meaningful conversations, and providing necessary feedback to superiors. This combination empowers leaders to motivate teams towards achieving their ultimate goals and cultivate a positive work environment. It is not an easy ride but it’s worth it!
ATM Unplugged is the new content series by Adam Jay where he delves into the art of successful selling. From mastering sales processes to fostering a thriving sales culture, he shares unique learnings that are exclusive to this series. Adam believes in empowering the next generation of sales leaders to set new standards, and he’s here to support you every step of the way.