Leading By Example

By Tracy MacDonald
Aug 2016

Most people appreciate the differences in roles and responsibilities between themselves and their leaders, but that recognition needs to be continuously nurtured and acknowledged in order to avoid feelings of animosity or disrespect. For example, a leader may have slightly different working hours from the rest of the staff, but what may not be known is that the leader spends a lot of time working on large scale projects away from traditional office time. Perceptions exist and whether right or wrong, still need to be managed. One way to manage them is leading by example in the areas in which we have control.

It’s important to note that when it comes to leading by example, we’re not talking about simply arriving to work on time, taking or not taking lunch, or sending out inspirational emails. Leading by example, to us, means never being unwilling to do something that you’re asking your team to do. It means adopting an attitude where regardless of title or salary there is a spirit of teamwork and collaboration, which can be demonstrated in such a way that people don’t feel inadequate in their roles. While the scenario below may not be appropriate for all industries, some form or another of it may work in yours, and may be worth exploring if you find yourself in a position of needing to motivate your team.

Leading by example
Leading by example

If you’ve ever been in a sales role, or responsible for any level of reaching sales targets, the end of month and end of quarter pressure may be familiar. The last week before numbers are due can be loaded with pressure, not just to close out any outstanding proposals, but to keep the pipeline filling up for future sales. This requires phone time. Since the customers are not focused on the end of month intensity, any incoming phone call can be a new opportunity and may be time and labor intensive as it’s the early part of the sales cycle. With new opportunities, one of the most important things to do is be as kind, helpful, and as interested as possible because that’s your next round of new business. And so, sales people can end up feeling “stuck” between closing what is pending to reach targets and making the best impression possible for future business.

From the management side, all too often during this last push to get the numbers in, management is asking “what” not “how.” Those questions come from the top down, and can be especially intense when it’s also the end of the quarter.
What is your biggest deal?
What will your final number be?
What is on deck for next month?

In one particular scenario, the leader of a sales team dropped the “what” questions and instead asked, “How can I help you? How can I help you manage your day so you can follow up on what’s outstanding and close it?” The solution was simple and yet unheard of in this environment. The manager asked the salesperson to forward her phone to the manager’s office extension for a few hours. Any incoming calls would be handled by the manager who quoted prices, explained process, and started some new projects. During that time, the salesperson made the necessary outbound calls to close the pending sales without the pressure of her own phone ringing.

Considered completely radical at the time- no manager would have willingly taken incoming sales calls- this method proved not only incredibly helpful, but well respected among upper management and the rest of the sales team. The sales person felt helped, not inadequate. There were no titles or questions of who does what- there was only teamwork and partnership to reach common goals. Additionally, the manager heard from clients first hand in a “boots on the ground” way. The office hit its monthly sales target with new business in the pipeline.

In the end, everybody won. Just that shift in showing partnership between leadership and the sales team proved that the manager was not above doing the same work she asked of her team. The manager’s true role is not just numbers, but to build and lead a successful team that wants to perform well. That level of community and collaboration also set a precedent and new model for the rest of the leadership team, ultimately changing the culture of the office as a whole.

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