Promoting Your Superstar to Manager

You are a business owner or leader, and you are looking to hire a sales leader. You might be thinking, “This is a no-brainer. I’ll promote my top performing sales rep. He’ll train everyone to do what he does, and sales will go through the roof!”

Not so fast. More often than not, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen, as the two positions require very different skill sets and motivators.

Over the years, I have known many highly successful salespeople who have jumped into a sales leadership role thinking it to be the “next logical step,” and quickly found it to be the wrong fit.

“All I do is deal with drama…I didn’t sign up to be HR.”

“Why don’t they just listen!”

“I’m tired of being a babysitter.”

“I just want to be responsible for myself.”

I’m not trying malign salespeople. I love the selling environment for many reasons and have surrounded myself with these folks my entire adult life. But let’s face it, many salespeople march to the beat of their own drum, like to create their own rules, and are a bit egocentric. Those qualities, while extremely helpful in sales, do not an effective sales leader make.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before making this jump and potentially putting the right talent into the wrong seat.

Does s/he find joy in helping others? A strong sales leader loves to teach and relishes in the success of his/her direct reports.

Is s/he a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person? I’m not looking for Pollyanna, but sales leaders must be optimistic and solution-oriented. No whining and no dwelling on problems.

Does s/he build genuine credibility with others? A foundation of trust is critical. This person tries to do what is best, and not just what is in his/her best interest. S/he is known for “having everyone’s backs.”

Is s/he self-aware and able to self-regulate? People are people and people have personal “stuff.” It’s essential for a leader to understand this notion and take things in stride without displaying frustration.

An effective sales leader learns how to amplify the employees’ strengths and mitigate their shortcomings. S/he wants the best for his/her people and makes them want to give their very best in return. Doing so requires advocacy, optimism, humility, and emotional intelligence. These words may or may not describe your sales superstar. Proceed judiciously.

"Take A Load Off, Inner Roommate..."

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We all “get in our own way.” We all, consciously or unconsciously, engage in behaviors that hinder our effectiveness, our results, our level of satisfaction…you name it. People do this to themselves in a variety of ways.

If we try to give constructive feedback to an employee when we’re angry and irritated, we’re getting in the way of our message.

If we do not return the phone call of an angry customer because it is uncomfortable, we’re getting in the way of resolving the issue.

If we make a batch of brownies when we’re trying to shed pounds, we’re likely getting in the way of our weight loss.

Often, we get in our own way by letting our mental chatter or head trash get the best of us. “That person seems annoyed. You must have done something wrong,” I tell myself. Or “you’re never going to get that proposal out in time!” We talk to ourselves all day long, often with a very critical voice.

I recently came across a mantra. “Take a Load Off, Inner Roommate,” it said. How profound!

The way that we talk to ourselves has a tremendous impact on how we show up, how we perform at work, and how we parent our kids.

If we can quiet, ignore or better yet, laugh at that inner roommate when he/she not serving us, we will find ourselves in a much happier and more productive place.

Interested v. Interesting


In July, for the first time EVER, I attended my high school reunion. It had been 30 years since I had seen most of these folks, and the contact was limited to Facebook. During my formative high school years, I never really “gelled” with my class, which undoubtedly contributed to my choice to forgo previous reunions. Now, in 2018, thanks to a family vacation in close proximity to the event, as well as plenty of coaxing from my mother and sister, I decided to attend. I was pushing far out of my comfort zone and I.WAS.NERVOUS.

After some thought, I realized that my nervousness could completely derail any enjoyment of the event if I were not careful. I made a conscious and deliberate effort to shift my perspective. Rather than worrying about whether it would be awkward, people would remember me, etc., I decided to set a goal of making every conversation at the event meaningful. I would approach each interaction with a purpose—to learn all about the adult version of the person I knew in 1988 and to make each feel like the most fantastic person in the room….no matter what vibe I received. I would use the same level of engagement, curiosity, kindness and thought that I strive to bring to my coaching and business life.

As we approach opportunities and contacts, we are at our very best if we focus on being interested rather than interesting. Whether it be a sales prospect or a new colleague, we should let our curiosity guide us and seek to understand. In so doing, we facilitate a deeper personal connection, naturally build trust and transfer positive energy to the other party. The higher the stakes, the higher the importance. If we lay the right foundation, we always have the opportunity to follow up and continue the conversation at a later date. If we make the wrong impression? Not so much….

As for my reunion? Not one regret. As it turned out, there was no reason to be nervous.

Leadership: Why I am Grateful to Millennials—Part Deux


A few months ago, I wrote about my appreciation of the millennial generation, and how their needs (purpose, authenticity, clear expectations) and their critical mass (38% of the workforce as of 2017) are requiring us to be stronger, better leaders. As the self-proclaimed “leadership safety patrol,” (I possess zero tolerance of poor leadership), I am thrilled to see that leaders need to step up their games to attract and retain talent.

From time to time, I speak to groups about Leading Millennials. Recently, I “spruced up” my talk to starting discussing the entry of Gen Z into the workforce, and how they are similar to/different previous generations. Some distinguishing characteristics of Gen Z include the need for security, strong work ethic, and competitive drive. As I discussed these traits, someone (Gen X) in the audience gave an audible sigh of relief. “You mean they are more like us!”

I am sorry, fellow member of Gen X…but you are missing the point! No matter the generation and their defining characteristics, strong leadership is simply non-negotiable.

This means:

1. Leaders clearly state expectations.

2. Leaders are authentic, transparent and selfless.

3. Leaders communicate and provide ongoing feedback

4. Leaders provide learning and development

For companies to grow and sustain results, they must lead in a way that is meaningful and motivational to their talent. Do so, and the results will reflect it.

2018 Goals...It's Not Too Late!

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My “New Year” commenced a little bit late this year….on January 16. On the one hand, it was fitting, as I was celebrating the one-year anniversary of Thrive to Lead.  On the other hand, the truth is that I just was not ready to rock on January 1.

I fully intended to begin the year on January 1. Earlier in the fall, I thought that I would use the last two weeks of December reflecting upon the year, internalizing my lessons learned, and using them to formulate my goals for 2018. Not my idea--I had read it somewhere. Perfect!

Lesson learned.

I surmised (around December 27) that originator of the two-week reflection period was not a mom with two school-age children on winter break, was not hosting multiple Christmas gatherings, and did not have obligations to clients during these two weeks. I had no time for reflection during the final 14 days of 2017. Going forward, I will select another time.

Fortunately, thanks to a fantastic peer group, I had drafted and refined my goals for 2018. I only needed to ink them. Once on paper, I broke the goals down into quarterly chunks and weekly benchmarks (with accountabilities) for vital activities.  I took this from Gino Wickman's book, Traction.

Finally, thanks to a weekend retreat with my dear college friends, I was able to slow my pace to reflect on 2017 and re-energize myself for 2018.  The time with these girls made me laugh and fed my soul. The slower pace and lack of demands brought reflection and rejuvenation. I got out from under the “OMG it’s January 12, and I’m already behind!” I was ready to go!

My advice to you: If you raced into 2018 without a chance to reflect, to set a few well-thought goals and determine how to measure your progress, it is not too late. You need not wait until 2019 to hit the reset button. Carve out a few hours, breathe and be intentional about what you want to accomplish this year. Put it in writing and break it into chunks.

You can always start your new year on February 1.

If you would like help setting and achieving your 2018 goals, I’m here to help!


Hiring in Sales? First, Some Dos and Don'ts


Looking to hire a salesperson or sales team to grow your business?


Hiring the right salesperson, even for the experienced hiring manager, can be tricky. After all, salespeople SELL….so it stands to reason that they should be pretty darned good at selling themselves.

When interviewing a candidate for a sales role, consider the following “Dos and Don’ts”:

DO ask questions about the following:

1.       Drive/Motivation—why does s/he get out of bed in the morning? Does s/he exude energy? How does s/he set goals and plan to achieve them? Consider using a high-quality assessment tool to measure drive and motivation.

2.       Work Ethic—does s/he do whatever it takes to get the job done, or do they take the easy road? Most candidates will tell you that they have what it takes to get the job done. Probe about difficult experiences and how they handle adversity.

3.       Curiosity—the easiest way to evaluate this is the caliber of the questions s/he asks YOU about the role and the company. If s/he does not ask thoughtful questions, s/he will not do so with a potential customer.  

DO ask about track record. Dig in. Check for missing data. If the performance includes a downturn, is there a solid explanation? How did s/he perform compared to peers?

DO ask for specifics and examples in every question. “Tell me about a time when….” is a great way to frame each question.

For example, use “tell me about your greatest sales achievement and what you did to secure the business,” instead of “why are you successful in sales?”

Listen for specificity and for “I” rather than “we” in the response.  If you hear “we” follow with “tell me about your individual contribution.”


DON’T gloss over the tough questions (or worse yet, hire) just because the person is “likable.”

DON’T rush the process because you want to get somebody in place. Hiring the wrong person is NEVER better than hiring no one. If you find yourself thinking “s/he will probably be fine,” it is not the right hire.


DON’T forget to ask for references. By all means, call each source!  Does a former boss give a glowing testimonial? Awesome! Conversely, if the reference is vague, or if the person does not call you back, it is a bad sign.

Consider asking for references from their two most recent employers. Be sure to speak directly with their direct supervisor.

Finally, DON’T hire unless the candidate asks for the job, or closes you. If he/she does not ask for the job, s/he will not ask a potential customer for the business.

Making the wrong hire is costly. Consider the time lost in onboarding, training, recruiting, morale, etc. This can cost up to three times the annual salary.

For professional guidance in hiring top performers, I highly recommend Alec Broadfoot at VisionSpark.

If you would like professional support in getting your salesperson off to a fast and $$$ start, give me a shout!

Good luck!

Why I am Grateful to Millennials....

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“Millennials in the workplace” has become a very hot topic in the business community, and for good reason. In early 2015, the millennial generation (born early 1980’s-1995) surpassed Generation X (born 1965-early 1980’s) as the largest population in the U.S. labor force. The percentage will keep growing. By 2020, this generation will contribute 46% of all individuals in the workforce.

For those of us who are GenXers, or Baby Boomers, we can feel the our work world changing, and let's face it....there is resistance. When the word “millennial” is mentioned in a group of GenXers or Baby Boomers, it is usually met with a collective groan, followed by a story about someone at the office who set up a hammock in the break room, brought a dog to work,  or asked for a 30% raise and two additional weeks of vacation on day 12 of employment. 

Having managed folks from this generation for over a decade and armed with a few lessons learned, I recently gave a talk about millennials in the workplace, discussing the factors that have shaped millennial perspectives, what this group as a whole wants and needs from work, and what leaders need to do to bring out the best in their millennial talent (which, of course, is of benefit to both the employee and employer).

My four “must do’s” are as follows:





In the absence of the four "must do's", millennials will not stick around, and a company will not retain its top millennial talent. Period.

The irony is that the four items above are all critical components of strong leadership. In their absence, NO ONE should stick around. We all look to our leadership for these things. Millennials are simply more likely to leave a company because of poor leadership, and they will do it without hesitation. 

No matter your age, no matter your perspective, the critical mass of this generation and the attention placed on retention is forcing better leadership: honesty, caring candor, and accountability to their people.

Pervasive strong leadership will make the WORK PLACE a BETTER PLACE. And for that, millennials, I am grateful.  

Navigating Difficult People with Grace and Ease

EVERYONE deals with someone that they don’t like in the workplace from time to time. For some, it’s all the time. Whether it be the client who always has an “emergency,” the boss who is on a mood swing pendulum, or the colleague who is making a career out of self-promotion, these relationships can raise our blood pressure while simultaneously zapping our energy. If we let them.

Early on in my career, I had a colleague who I’ll call Fred.  Fred monopolized every meeting and promoted his “good works” incessantly. Also, he always had stains on his shirt, and for some odd reason, carried his printer EVERYWHERE (or so it seemed). I have no idea why. What I did know is that this confluence of personality traits and attributes ANNOYED ME TO NO END. What I didn’t realize was that I was making a hobby of being irritated by him, and, in so doing, was wasting precious energy.

In dealing with difficult people, we do our best when we remember that we can’t control the other person’s behaviors. We CAN control how WE show up and how WE respond.

Some tips for making it better:

1.       DON’T PROJECT—take the Fred example. When Fred would sent me an email, I was annoyed before I even opened the message. If you find yourself assuming a message from (INSERT NAME HERE) means “more work,” “bad news,” or the like, stop yourself. You are projecting. It could be a message that says “thanks for the help” or “happy birthday.” You can’t know until you open the message, so don’t waste energy getting annoyed.

2.       SHOW UP FROM A PLACE OF NEUTRAL—if you have a meeting or engagement with this person, get your head in a neutral state before you do so. Whether it’s a quick meditation, reading something that makes you laugh, or just taking a couple of moments to BREATHE, do it. And don’t tell yourself that you don’t have time. If you needed the bathroom first, you’d take time for that, right?

3.       THINK OF 3 POSITIVE THINGS ABOUT THE PERSON—empathy is a powerful tool. If you find your blood pressure beginning to rise, try this. You will feel yourself calm down immediately, and you’ll be in a much place to interact.

4.       LOOK FOR COMMON GROUND—on some level, you have some common goals, yes? You may not agree on the best way to get there, but remembering the end goal will help you to weed through.

5.       “THANK YOU, FOR YOU ARE MY TEACHER.” I learned this from my own coach, Regan. It has served me very well in the most trying of moments. If nothing else, the difficult person is teaching you what you DON’T want to do. Or be. And that is a reason to feel gratitude.


You Can't Manage Results....Only Behavior

Success in sales, or lack thereof, is easily measured by looking at the results of any sales professional or team. The same goes for any goal--you measure the result. BUT...what we need to remember, is that you cannot manage that result. You can only manage what you do to get there. Over time, results are a reflection of what we do day in and day out. But this isn't necessarily the case in the short run, and if we fixate too much, we can even hinder our success. Consider the individual trying to lose weight. If this person eats an entire box of cookies, the scale the next morning probably won't reflect it. It may even show a weight loss. Does that mean that should he/she eat another box of cookies?


BE RESULTS-DRIVEN. BUT NEVER PANIC ABOUT IT. I learned the hard way that obsessing about a sales result can be counterproductive. In one selling period that was a “nail-biter”, I made myself physically sick in worry. My worry about the result forced me into a position that I could not TAKE ACTION that would help to reach my goal.  

THIS GOES FOR LEADERS TOO. If a leader is worrying too much about the result, the effectiveness of that leader will be hindered. A team can feel it and they will not respond positively.

ONE GOOD RESULT DOESN’T MEAN THAT EVERYTHING IS OKAY. I remember a case where a new rep started in a sales territory where all the stars were aligned—she had a huge first year without having to do too much. Because the numbers were good, no one really realized that she had major gaps in her skills and behaviors. Until year 2. Sometimes, businesses fail to examine the day to day activities until the numbers show that there is a problem. Focusing on the activities is the important step in making sure that the numbers stay strong. 

A wise manager friend once told me “you can’t manage results....only behavior.” The desired result should always be our starting point in mapping out a plan. But then, we need to break it down and do what is needed each day. The “day in and day out” is what we can truly manage and the only clear path to our desired result.

Fear of Failure or Potential for Greatness?

Potential for Greatness or Fear of Failure?

This was a big week for the Schmitt family. My daughter, Allison, who began taking horseback riding lessons in September, moved off the lunge line and to full control of the reigns. (Note for those with less equine knowledge: up until now, her teacher had the horse on a twenty-foot rope when Allison rode—a safety net of sorts). In this first “free reign” lesson (pun intended), she executed flawlessly.

Remembering that animals, especially horses, can “smell fear,” I asked Allison if she had been scared for this big jump. She told me no; she knew this to be the first big step and that she was ready to do it. It’s no coincidence that her absence of fear played a huge role in her success.

Allison’s story is not unique. There is a lesson that can be applied each time we take a new step, speak up boldly in a meeting, or otherwise approach “uncharted waters.”

I remember a mentor once telling me that people are primarily motivated by fear of failure OR potential for greatness. Fear of failure can be a great motivator, but it can only get you so far. Potential for greatness knows no limits. Allison approached free reigns with the confidence that she could succeed, rather than letting the fear of the “what if’s” enter her mind.

I think about this within the context of presentations that I have conducted over the years and the difference that it makes. Many times, I would think about things like “what if I forget what I was going to say?” or “what if they don’t laugh at my joke?”  Now true, major disaster never ensued in these cases.  However, once I could let that all go and focus on what I wanted the customer to think and feel rather than what I was going to say, it made a HUGE difference. A huge difference in my energy, in the audience’s level of engagement, and in the smiles and nods.

Failures are episodic. We fall, we get back up, we move on. Greatness is an aspiration. The potential for greatness is ongoing and sustainable. And it’s a much better place to live.