How to Be a Good Leader

how to be a good leader

“How do you get a sales team to execute on their commitments?”

I’ve spent countless years coaching sales managers. This is one of the most common questions I hear, and with good reason. It is arguably the most critical issue facing most sales managers. Yet another important item to consider is how to be a good leader.

I have to say, both of these topics are rather loaded questions. Countless blogs, papers, and even entire books have been written on these subjects. In fact, I often discuss how to create a team environment that creates peer influence. Additionally, I address how to find the root cause of behavior problems. These issues can usually be addressed through meaningful coaching. Moreover, I often focus on how to get sellers to internalize ideal behavior.

All of these are great discussions. But I read a quote the other day written by John Maxwell. It got me thinking…

“Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

This quote comes from the book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.¬†Specifically, it was sourced from the chapter, “The Law of Influence”.

I have come to realize something important. Management must ensure that sellers/teams operate within company policies. If the rules are broken, managers dole out the discipline needed to correct the behavior.

How to be a good leader, on the other hand, is having the ability to influence the behaviors of people who are already operating within the rules of the company. The objective of leadership is not to drive compliance. Contrarily, it is to help sellers reach their highest potential. A leader evaluates the results of current behavior. Meanwhile, they identify gaps between these results and the seller’s personal targets.

Sales leaders work with sellers to identify the root cause of gaps. Together, they define appropriate corrective actions or “developmental assignments”. This leader then evaluates the completion of any developmental assignment. Doing so ensures it has actually helped the seller improve his/her skills. In the event that it has, future performance will also be improved. Sales leaders repeat this process until little or no gaps exist, either in behavior or results. It is critical to note that NONE of these leadership activities occur without influence.

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a Maxwell seminar. During this lecture, the Law of Influence was discussed in great detail. John expanded the discussion to define 3 questions a follower will ask of a leader to determine if they allow influence.

To learn how to be a good leader, consider these common questions:

  1. Do you care about me?
  2. Can you help me?
  3. If so, can I trust you?

Now to be clear, a would-be follower will not necessarily ask these questions outright. However, it’s vital the seller believes that the answer to each question is yes. If not, the leader will lack the influence necessary to impact the seller’s success.

I can hear the snickering of some sales managers now, especially at the first question. I get that. If you were promoted into a management position from a sales position, you may very well be managing your team much like you were managed. Perhaps you grew up with the Monday morning “motivational” meeting designed to recognize those who achieve. And moreover, humiliate those who are not by publicly reviewing each person’s performance.

In many cases, these discussions bear no resemblance to coaching. Rarely any influence is gained. The company laid out the rules (sales quota). You broke the rules (missed quota). Now, your manager enforces the punishment (public humiliation).

If you want to be a sales LEADER, you must examine your ability to INFLUENCE the individuals on your team. Don’t punish them.

If your sales team were to swallow the honesty pill, how would they answer these questions?

  • Firstly, do I truly believe my sales manager cares about me? Not just for the numbers I produce but as a person. And does he/she care about how my job will help me to achieve my personal goals and ambitions?
  • Secondly, do I truly believe that my sales manager can help me? If I were to open up to you with my weaknesses and/or fears, would you have the skill and knowledge necessary to actually help, or will you just give me meaningless assignments and tasks or simply insist that I improve my results?
  • Thirdly, do I truly trust you? Will you maintain confidentiality and focus your energies on helping me, or will you use what you learn to humiliate or control me.; When people open themselves to influence there must be trust. If I am going to consider changing my behaviors and/or beliefs as a result of your influence, I must trust that you know what is best and have my best interest at heart.

If the answer to any one of these questions is in doubt, you may have identified the root cause of your problem. People on your team may be telling you what you want to hear in order to operate with the company rules but not allowing you to influence them beyond that.

How to Be a Good Leader

If you want to be a better leader, start by laying the groundwork with each person on your team. Work with each individual to better understand their personal goals and objectives and commit yourself to help them achieve THEIR goals. Build your skill and knowledge with whatever sales methodology you expect them to employ so that you can add value and impact their success.

Finally, engage them in meaningful conversations that will help you determine what you must do in order to earn and/or maintain their trust. When your people believe you care, you can help and you are worthy of their trust, you have a tremendous opportunity to influence them and deliver exceptional results.

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