What makes a sales leader great? For that matter, what makes any business leader great?
I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately and talking with sales teams and their leaders to gain more understanding. At the same time, I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite books, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, by Dr. Robert I. Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University.
Sutton’s book is full of great insights into what makes the best bosses great. It’s no surprise that many of those insights are as true today as they were when he wrote the book.
I’ve combined the best of Sutton’s ideas with my own observations as a leadership coach and Master Trainer into a list of 11 key beliefs that the best bosses hold and the worst bosses reject or, more often, never even consider.
The bottom line? All the management technique and behavioural coaching in the world won’t make a boss great if that boss doesn’t also possess a certain mindset.
Here’s the list of what the best leaders believe:
- I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
- How I do things is as important as what I do.
- My success – and that of my people – depends largely on being the master of obvious, mundane processes, not on magical or “breakthrough” ideas and methods.
- Setting ambitious and well-defined goals for my people is important, but I also need to focus on the small wins they achieve every day to assess their progress.
- One of the most important and difficult parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
- My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe. That idiocy also includes my own.
- I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am sometimes wrong.
- One of the best tests of my leadership – and my organization – is the answer to the question: “what happens after people make a mistake?”
- Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. My job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off the bad ideas, and many of the good ones, too. Sometimes good ideas aren’t aligned well with what we’re trying to do. And sometimes there are just too many good ideas to be able to implement them all well.
- Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk, and not realizing when I cross the line.
- My job is to pay attention to, and continuously elevate, the culture of my team. I need to keep asking questions such as: Is our culture all about ‘me’ or ‘we’? Do team members have each others’ backs? Does my team work collaboratively or as a bunch of lone rangers? I regularly take time with my team to figure out what’s working, what’s not working, and how to fix any problems.
Words for the wise. How do you or your boss measure up?