Editor's Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on May 18, 2020. Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography.
Book Review 3/25: The great poet Maya Angelou famously said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”. This phrase is so easy to intellectually understand, but so darn tough to live in everyday life.
In his book A Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl articulates that the greatest power we have as human beings is our power to choose. Regardless of the environment we are living in, or the conditions we are facing, every human being has the conscious ability to choose: hope or despair, happiness or sorrow, empowerment or victim-hood. There are no legitimate reasons to complain.
Frankl has earned the right to take this stance for two reasons. (1) He is a renowned neurologist and psychiatrist, and (2) he is a holocaust survivor and endured three years of living in four different concentration camps during WWII.
While ones propensity to complain is always relative to their particular time and space in life, after reading this book it’s hard to get on board with almost any reason to complain. Building on Bilyeu’s first two book suggestions (Mindset by Carol Dweck and Extreme Ownership by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin) the through line of this book is once again focused on the power of the mind, and how the right mindset can help anyone persevere, overcome, and succeed any goal imaginable.
Frankl talks about how important it is for every individual to understand their personal “why” in life. He quotes the great Nietzche in saying “He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how”.
Frankl explains how the prisoners in concentration camps that were most likely to live, were the ones who knew that there was a task waiting for them to fulfill in their lives once they survived. For Frankl, at the time, it was his unrelenting desire to finish his personal manuscripts and perhaps reunite with his family.
While Viktor Frankl suffered a great deal during a portion of his life, he made it clear that human beings do not need to suffer in order to find their meaning and true purpose, they just need to be intentional. One does not need to hit the proverbial rock bottom in order to achieve all of their desires, and maximize their talent or capabilities.
As for Frankl, he ultimately found that idea as his “why” in life. He was put on this earth to help others find the meaning in their lives. If you are the type of person that is always looking to find perspective in your life, I would highly recommend this book!
3 takeaways from “A Man’s Search For Meaning” that apply to Sales Coaching
1. Understand each salesperson’s “Why”
Do you ever wonder why employee engagement always hovers around 30%? By in large, most people just aren’t that engaged in their work, or the work their organization is doing. You might have the best company mission ever, but there is still a good chance that your people still don’t truly care enough to be actively engaged. Do you know one thing everybody cares a great deal about? Themselves. They likely care about themselves more than they do your company, or even your clients, although they may not dare say it out loud.
The National Institute of Mental Health sponsored a survey of almost 8,000 students from 48 colleges. 78% of students said their first goal in life was “finding a purpose and meaning” versus 16% of students that said making a lot of money was most important to them. If you want to get your sales team’s maximum discretionary effort, dig deep to either understand, or help them understand, their why in life. Then commit to helping them fulfill their purpose and see what type of engagement, commitment, and sales results they achieve.
2. Don’t complain about your team
Ultimately how much gets sold, or how little gets sold, falls on your shoulders as sales manager. Reverting to Angelou’s advice, it is up to you to change the situation — help the sales person improve and develop, recast them to a new role, or if necessary let them go. If none of those options seem feasible, then it is up to you to change your attitude, but certainly don’t complain.
My advice; if there are nine things that drive you crazy about a person on your team and one thing that you find valuable, focus on that one positive attribute nine times a day and watch what happens to your relationship. Being a great sales coach can be hard, but that’s why you are in the role.
3. Learn — don’t dwell on past mistakes or losses
As a psychiatrist, Frankl used a method he termed Logotherapy, which in simplistic terms, teaches individuals to focus on their meanings to be fulfilled in the future and does not spend much time analyzing their past as in traditional psychotherapy. By continually looking forward, and not dwelling on mistakes, a person can end the vicious cycle of paralysis about what went wrong and what could have been. This forward thinking allows a person to jump right back in to action, focusing on the goal at hand or continuing to strive towards that salesperson's “why”.
In short, put a huge emphasis on where you want to go in life and very little emphasis on where you have been. This will also help you avoid the trap of resting on one’s laurels or riding the wave of past successes.
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