The Drift

The Drift

Window of Opportunity.

This is the first Drift I’ve posted in a few weeks. The reason – I’m happy to report – is that the opportunity to reinvent and rebuild our business through a combination of Zoom, phone and other platforms… is working! Our sales training practice is very strong right now: it’s not uncommon for me to host two remote sales workshops on the same day. We’ve morphed from a 95 percent IRL company to a 100 percent remote provider, and are helping and influencing more teams and more sellers than we were pre-pandemic. I’m telling you this with 100 percent pride and zero arrogance.

While there is still work to be done and business processes to be evened out, I thought it might be a good time to write a personal post about why it’s working… ideas that can perhaps translate to your own business, career or customer presence. Here are some of the rules, values and norms that have helped us make the turn.

Serve. A core value at Upstream Group is service. We obsessively empathize about not just the customer who hired us, but for the team members we’ll be working with. Keeping it about them is great insurance against complacency or entitlement.

Be real. In the Zoom world we share with kids, pets, front porch deliveries and loud roommates, shit happens. Vulnerability and authenticity are the answer. The experience will never be perfect, so don’t be afraid to talk about it, and let you customers know you’ll do what it takes to adjust and make things right.

Optimize. It doesn’t take much to organize your Zoom space. Put your camera at eye level, make sure the light’s in front of you, organize a decent background, get an external keyboard so you’re not hunched over your laptop. And while you’re at it, get a wired headset so that your computer mic isn't swallowing the beginning and end of every sentence.

Be the host. You gotta take care of people. Make them feel welcome, call them by name, give them a good reason to be on camera and then invite them to do so. Tell yourself you’re not there to entertain or present, but rather to include and engage. Then keep your word.

Invent. Once you decide to be generous and creative and committed to screen sharing environments, you start inventing stuff. We use Zoom breakout rooms for Virtual Study Groups, which I can pop in and out of as the host. We use chat for pop quizzes, submission of homework and distribution of materials. My associate Liza is inventing the role of Producer in our workshops. Cool stuff in there once you start playing with it.

Mix it up. As good as I think screen sharing can be, different jobs call for different tools. Look at your whole digital arsenal and break your day into the alternating use of different applications. A 20-minute Zoom meeting now… an organized Slack debate after that… a planned phone call with a customer later.

Lead. I personally believe that the distribution of the workforce, relationship to the office, access to conferences, and policies on office visitors have all changed permanently. And now we all have the same choices: (1) grudgingly get by until things magically snap back to normal; (2) wait till the dust settles and see what everybody else is doing; or (3) lead. Decide to be great at what’s next and then start acting on your decision.

Nobody ever says I just wish I’d waited longer to change. I’m glad we didn’t.

More Posts

You Already Know.

It’s been said that learning is finding out what you already know. So what is it that you already know that I’m likely to remind you of?


Evidence is everywhere. But we only get what we look for. And when we examine it – thoughtfully, critically, unsentimentally – it tells us where we really stand… what needs to be done… how to move forward intentionally. We become better forecasters, better time managers, better teammates, better stewards of company resources – better sellers.

Ecosystem Leadership.

Empathy is the oxygen of your ecosystem. It sustains people and relationships and also acts as fuel for the fires of creativity, production and perseverance. You are A leader in this ecosystem, not THE leader. You'll lead by constantly referencing a very short list of recurring questions.

Stay In.

Right now, there’s an awful lot of showing up. There have been some immediate moves on diversity hiring, and a whole lot of public statements being made — including my own. But showing up is one thing: staying in is entirely another.

Everybody Knows.

The now-famous New Yorker cartoon told us “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” On Zoom, everybody knows.

The New Story.

I do not know what it’s like to navigate life and business as a woman or an African American or an immigrant. I never will. I probably can’t ever really understand the micro-aggressions – the small acts of humiliation – that people who don’t look like me suffer every week. But I can and must take account of the micro-opportunities that have been there for me all along.

If I Only Had the Time.

Not obsessing about time is one thing: re-imagining how we use it is entirely another.

Alone in Space.

You're not alone if you're feeling overwhelmed and broken by the perceived enormity of the challenges. Indeed, if you find yourself struggling intellectually with the entire issue it will, in fact, break you. But the best managers and sellers - the best executives of every stripe - all seem to have the same rhythm. They slow it down. They break it down. They solve one problem and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

Inside the Box.

At the end of this stage there won’t be a return to normal or anything close: there will be a transition to a brand-new era. And none of us will ever say, "I wish I’d waited longer to change."

We Can Do This.

Here at Upstream Group, it’s day 50 of The Siege. Having looked back over these weeks of recovery, reinvention and writing, I’m sharing my bullet list of ideas that have sustained and invigorated me. Hope you find them helpful.

Stopping the Clock.

Stopping the Clock breaks the tyranny of the calendar. It allows us to start living again in the present… to focus on the next hour. We can now start visualizing what productivity and joy and excellence look like in our altered world. We have only now. Stopping the Clock let's us make the most of it.

The Plan.

Dwight Eisenhower famously said "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." Today I think rather the opposite is true. As we navigate the disconnection, isolation, disruption and anxiety of today’s pandemic and tomorrow’s shattered economy, I think The Plan is what matters. Let me explain.