A new coaching exercise for sales leaders: Think about the most impactful people in your life. Those who you might say “I wouldn’t be where I am today without these people”. Teachers, coaches, bosses, mentors—just no family (will assume parents or brothers/sisters had a positive, significant impact on your development). Write them down along with why they were instrumental in your growth. I will lead by example…
Scott Yahnke: My 7th grade “core courses” teacher. He didn’t put up with my crap, and saw something in me the other 99% of my teachers couldn’t or didn’t wish to see. While the 99% were busy giving me detentions, sending me to the principal’s office, and telling others I was a behavior problem, he found a way to tap into my talent. He created a culture where I wanted to walk into his class and perform at the highest levels. Mr. Yahnke helped me realize I wasn’t dumb and he was also the first person who planted the seed about human performance, how we can make a choice to build people up or tear them down. Though I could not have articulated it in the 7th grade, what I was thinking was “how do you get so much discretionary effort from me?”
John Templeton and Ed Johnson: My high school football and basketball coaches. They both had the opportunity to be memorable and life changing, and I am forever thankful they selected such a positive route. I certainly can’t say this about all my past athletic coaches, for some chose to create miserable experiences, but not Coach Templeton or Johnson. The way they coached made for the most idyllic high school experience one could have hoped for. We certainly weren’t high performance athletes, but we competed, over achieved and exceeded the town’s and perhaps even our own expectations.
Bill Schoenberger: He has been written about before, as my boss when I obtained my first role in sales management. Tapping into EcSell’s performance definitions, he was truly a catalytic coach, one that wreaked of c-factor. Bill taught me how to be a better sales coach in many ways, several of which were not understood until years later. He held me accountable to how my team performed, and made me understand that there were never sales rep issues, there were only sales leadership issues. Because of him I learned how to balance the emotion and logic of decisions and how to truly drive sales performance from individuals and teams.
Bob Hansen: My best friend’s father, was and still is the wisest owl I’ve ever known. I’ve known him as long as I‘ve been alive and was my surrogate Dad any time I walked out my front door. Mr. H invested in me his wisdom, logic and I always felt like I was one of his own. He let us be rambunctious boys, but when he drew the line we snapped to attention. I loved, and still do, being in his presence. He asks more questions than provides advice, he is forever curious, but always with “why” and not “how”, and beyond my parents he is the most impactful role model I’ve ever had.
So, there it is. Out of the hundreds of teachers, coaches, bosses and mentors I’ve had, there are only four that are worth writing about. And, if you do the same exercise my guess is you won’t find many more, and quite possibly, less. This is not to say we can’t learn from those who didn’t make the list, for with the proper attitude one can learn from any horrible boss, coach or teacher. I had a horrible 7th grade football coach where I learned coaching techniques and behaviors I’ll never use regardless of age, and my first real world boss was a wonderful man, just not a game changer. They all contributed to my development in some way, just not on the list.
Now, think hard about why one made the list. What behaviors did they display? What actions did they take with you? What “one-worders” would you use to describe why they were so impactful? If you answer these questions, what you will discover more than anything else, is beyond their knowledge of a topic, or their expertise in a field, they were invested in you. You will also learn they likely pushed you, held you accountable and expected more from you than you expected from yourself—all traits of great sales coaches.
Final question: have you made anybody’s list? Have you invested in someone to the degree they would write about you (if you have ever been in a management role and can’t answer in the affirmative, then shame on you)? Regardless of how you answer, take the time to list the names of your difference makers and write about why they were so important to you. Then, make sure they all see what you wrote so that you can make someone else feel great during this season of thanks.
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