Chief Leadership Officer.

With the possible exception of the most cynical, we'd all like to work for mission-driven companies with a strong, clear leadership vision we can rely on every day. Statistically, I'm guessing maybe five percent of us are working for one of those companies today and 10-15 percent of us will get the chance sometime in our careers. If you're working for one now, feel lucky.

This leaves the chief revenue officer and other sales leaders in a bit of a bind. Sales and account management live and operate in very close proximity to the customer. And when those close to the customer become disillusioned, dysfunctional or disengaged, there's an immediate and very damaging set of outcomes. Sales and account management just can't have a lot of bad days; your company can't afford it.

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The answer is to create a culture within a culture. In the Army, G.I.s understandably joke and complain about their bosses and the stifling bureaucracy and wacky decision making by "the brass." But within that same army there are Special Forces units like the Rangers and Green Berets. (And to be clear, I am in no-way diminishing the military or suggesting that what we all do for a living has any parity with the lives of soldiers.) Within our companies, it's up to the CRO to become the Chief Leadership Officer for those under his or her care in sales and account management. This means fostering a sense of mission for those who drive and activate revenue and customer relationships even when the larger sense of company mission may be absent or unformed. It takes creativity and discipline, but I've seen it done. Here are a few ideas.

  • Spend time and effort getting meetings and communications right. Focus on recognizing, rewarding and - if needed - enforcing standards for internal meeting preparation and respectful exchanges. The rest of the company may keep each other waiting or look at their phones during meetings, but our people don't.
  • Foster a Culture that Leads and Collaborates through Intent. Watch this video. If you've got 100 people in your department and they're all waiting for 5 people to tell them what to do, then 95 of them aren't thinking - or making good mistakes or taking decisive action.
  • Eat Lunch Together. This sounds a little nuts in our multitasking, make-every-second-count world. But as Brian Wansink of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab found out, "Workplace satisfaction is so much higher if you eat with your colleagues. You like your job more - and you like your colleagues better." Firefighters understand this.
  • Dress a Little Better. No, this is not about bringing back the suits and ties. But within the cultural norms of your company and industry, many team members - especially us men - could step it up a little. Publicly let your people know when they look especially sharp, and privately give them the advice they need about not looking shlubby at work. It matters and you'll be doing them a favor.

There's obviously much more to it. But start here. At the end of the day, this is the culture you own and must rely on. Start creating it today.

60 sales leaders will be gathering on September 14th to talk about these issues at the Seller Forum. There are four spots left. If you're qualified and haven't been invited, request your invitation today.