Many years ago, a great mentor taught me a valuable lesson that I draw on every day. His name was Bob Gosdeck. At the time, I was a new sales leader, and Bob was Vice President of Sales. The lesson came during a tense time when Bob and I were in his office hashing out some very tough details during a very tough day. In the middle of what appeared to me to be the most important meeting in the world, Bob’s phone rang… and he answered it.

“Bob Gosdeck speaking.”

“Hey, Rick!!! How are you doing? I’m great! Really?!! Sure – I have time. Tell me all about it!”

I sat and listened, somewhat perplexed. The Bob that just answered the phone certainly didn’t seem like the Bob that was in the middle of a very tough meeting, in the middle of a very tough day. After he hung up the phone, Bob noticed the look on my face and passed on a little piece of wisdom to me.

Always avail yourself for your people and lift (aka, inspire) at every opportunity.

Sure, Bob was having a not-so-great day, but Rick didn’t need to know that. What Rick needed was for the Vice President of Sales to answer the phone and celebrate the business he’d just closed. That’s exactly what Rick needed, so Bob wisely and enthusiastically afforded him that.

Whether you’re leading salespeople, accountants, doctors, or lawyers, the same principle applies. When you interact with people on your team, it’s a big deal to them; and it’s an even bigger deal for you to interact with them in the right way. If you do not, they will eventually leave you.

Consider for a moment the times when you’ve interacted with your boss, your boss’s boss, or even your boss’s boss’s boss. How does your mood, confidence, and outlook change based on the way they make you feel? Do they tear you down or lift you up?

The difference in good management versus great leadership often comes down to how well you lift. Keep the following things in mind during every interaction with those you lead.

Begin with the end in mind. When starting a conversation with someone, consider how you want him or her to feel when you’re done. Do you want them to feel great about their interaction with you, or do you want them to feel beat up and defeated? Hint – you never want the latter.

Crucial conversations don’t have to be negative. In fact, your goal should be for even the toughest crucial conversation to be positive, because you are helping the person get better. If you find that your crucial conversations end badly, take an honest look at yourself and your delivery.

Morale is your accountability. Leaders sometimes tell me how bad morale is on their team, as if they expect me to fix it. My reply is always the same – the morale of your team is your accountability. Period. Then I turn my attention to helping them lift.

Your problems are your problems… not theirs. Just as Bob Gosdeck taught me many years ago, there is nothing to gain by letting your bad mood/bad day rub off on anyone else. In fact, there is only downside in this. Make the decision – are you going to be someone who charges people’s batteries or drains them? It’s your call.

Lifting is free, but the returns are immeasurable. It’s hard to stop a team flying high with confidence, optimism, and a belief that they can win. Lifting is free, so the only reasons not to make it common practice are selfishness, laziness, or simply not caring.

I am reminded of a poignant quote from Maya Angelou: “People will forget almost everything you say to them, but they will not forget how you make them feel.”

Answer this question honestly – how do you make people feel?

Lead (and lift). Courageously.

Doug's Signature


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I am the Chief Sales Officer at McGraw-Hill Higher Education. More
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