Leadership's Three Outcomes

Categories: Sales Leadership

At the start of 2018, I was in a place of reflection. I had lost two very important family members, a few friends and it sparked a few thoughts for me. I ended up posting it on my LinkedIn profile. It received a lot of comments, as it clearly resonated with my network. So this year, I wanted to build on that perspective, as I think many of you are in a place right now where you are charged with leading an organization to great success. 

What Happens After Your SKO? 

So, SKO is over. The stage has come down. The lights are off. The music has faded. You raucously fist bumped each other, networked, and made lots of commitments as leaders about how you’ll approach the market, take care of the customer and create new successes together. Now, it’s just you, the ringmaster, standing in an empty circus tent. I bet you’re asking yourself, “What now?”.

Well, the standard answer is, “Go make the first quarter.” I’m in violent agreement with that sentiment. There’s more than enough evidence to prove that making Q1 creates the strongest launching pad for full year success. You’ve already got that figured out, but if that is your only goal, then you will likely fall into the trap of focusing so much on the short term that the long-term outcomes get missed. In my mind, the outcome that really matters is your legacy. Let me try to put that into perspective.

For a moment, imagine this scenario. It is five or even ten years down the road and you have moved on to the next couple of roles in your company or your life. You might even be getting ready to attend your retirement party. Whatever the case, while you are in this moment, there are others talking about you. In fact, they’ve been talking about you for some time; five to ten years specifically, and there are only three potential conversations they’re having:

In the first, you were the leader who was truly there. You were not focused on one quarter only. You were focused on creating a team that could create sustained success. You were a coach who developed skill in your team. You had an “everyone does the work” mentality and you led through your actions, not your speeches or fist pounding. You created followership and are the leader the people aspire to be because you were action-oriented and focused on creating outcomes for your team and your clients. For me, in my career, those leaders were people like Jeff Canada and Brian Leedy, managers I worked for and Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox. In this conversation, in short:

You are remembered for what you did FOR people

In the second conversation, you’re remembered as the manager who led from behind the desk. You were always there, and ready to give advice and direction. You were great at managing the business from the most updated spreadsheet or Salesforce dashboard. You were known for “screaming at the scoreboard”. You focused on telling people what they already knew instead of helping them find the unseen aspects of a deal. You did not them move it through the funnel to a faster and better outcome for your team and the client. Your focus, instead, was on the personal and career outcomes that you could gain for yourself. You’re probably thinking I’m going to name names here, and I could, but that serves no purpose. Suffice it to say, I’ve worked for some of these people. They weren’t remembered for what they did for people. If this is the type of conversation people are having about you, in short,

You are remembered for what you did TO people

And then, there is the third and final potential conversation. It’s the conversation that happens when people talk about ten years ago and your name isn’t even mentioned. You weren’t there. You were effectively George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life); you didn’t even exist. You brought so little or no value at all that people don’t even think it’s worth mentioning your name, and yes, there are a few names that I literally can’t remember. In short,

You are simply forgotten

As I think about this in relation to this time of year, there are two key messages that jump out. First, I can’t believe that anyone would ever consciously choose anything but the first outcome for their personal legacy. Second, your opportunity to create that legacy starts today. No matter where you have been as a leader, take ten minutes once a week and ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I doing that is creating value for my team (coaching skill, helping them find the unseen, getting my hands dirty with them and creating action)?
  • What will I purposefully do this week to create more value?
  • What will I take off my calendar because it doesn’t help me achieve these outcomes?

This isn’t easy, but leaders must often choose between what is right and what is easy. Choose what’s right, be the leader that people remember because of what you did for them.

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