Holding Time and Space for Your Team


In the educational publishing world, where I spent the first 20+ years of my career, we would generate almost 70% of the business for the year during the spring. January through April was like running a marathon, necessitating 60 to 65-hour work weeks. It was the nature of our sales cycle.

The first week of March represented the halfway point in this race. It was also the time of our “spring meeting,” where we would convene to review what was/was not working and map out our strategies for the rest of the spring.

Some years, at the same time in my northern geography, the weather would break, and the smell of spring would permeate the air.

Unconsciously, I began rewarding myself in some way each March. The first year, I purchased a Coach station bag, classic black with the aroma of good leather. It was an extravagant purchase for 24-year old me, but carrying it put an extra skip into my step. A friend of mine planned a 3-day ski weekend each year to accomplish the same.

As I grew into a leader, I, even more, appreciated the spring “midpoint” and the accompanying spring meeting. We would spend a precious couple of days, not just strategizing, but slowing down the pace, recognizing our hard work, and celebrating our team. A nice dinner, lots of laughs, and “let’s make sure to wrap up by noon so that you guys are all home to start your weekend early” demonstrated that I valued their well-being and had their backs.

As a result, they, too, had a bit more skip in their step during the second half of the race.

The most talented and dedicated teams, when immersed in a long and arduous project, will be laser-focused on the prize, and will work, work, work, even to the point of exhaustion. Holding time and space for folks to come up for air and experience joy reinvigorates the team so that best results ensue, while morale and loyalty build.

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.