Sales Case Study | Transitioning from Peer to Leader
One month before the global pandemic rocked the world, Clark was made the chief sales executive of a respected organizational consulting firm. As the business climate worsened, his sales teams were fighting to stave off the tide of customers who were pulling back, canceling existing engagements and postponing new projects. Not the best time to be on the hook for the financial success of the company.
Historically, the company looked outside to bring in fresh sales leadership. Our client had been with the company for over ten years and was always a top performer. He had long argued for a succession plan that drew on the deep expertise of the existing regional sales directors instead of external candidates but that never happened.
"Be careful what you ask for" he thought as he was asked to lead the team. Clark now considered the daunting task of earning the trust of former peers, mitigating interdepartmental tensions and living-up to management expectations. Complicating the situation was the emergence of new competitors with deep pockets and a hyper-focus on stealing key accounts from his sales team.
Connective Conditions Challenge
Transitioning from peer to head of sales was not going to be easy. In the past, co-worker conversations were casual, informal and unguarded. Additionally, looking internally meant some of his colleagues were passed over in favor of Clark’s selection to lead the team. Some of the regional directors even openly vocalized a “wait and see” approach to the success of his tenure. Winning over these seasoned veterans would not be a simple task.
Further complicating things was the natural tension between sales and marketing that many companies face. The relationship was not bad but it wasn’t great either. Clark wanted to fundamentally change the relationship dynamics of his new team and how they interacted with other departments.
Connective Conditions Solution
In the past, weekly management meetings resembled speeches with the VP of Sales doing most, if not all of the talking. Real conversations were so infrequent that occasionally the former executive would pause, asking “anyone still there? anyone listening?” The most unfortunate casualty of these one-way conversations was that no real exchange of ideas, learnings or best practices were being shared across regions.
Shortly after engaging with UMiiConnect, Clark began kicking off key meetings with a SeeMe moment. Depending the need, Clark chose which SeeMe principle to deploy in order to create connective conditions for meeting participants.
During the first quarter of each year, Marketing and Sales held their yearly kick-off meeting. Instead of the typical agenda, the newly minted sales leader put time for a SeeMe extended activity at the top of the agenda. As the connective experience began, he was surprised to see the company president drop in to observe the proceedings.
Given UMiiConnect was new to him, the president was not sure what to expect. Before long, he was pulled into the connective experience and shared a very humorous experience from his youth. To top it off, the marketing director told Clark “wow, that went well” at the conclusion of the meeting.
Weekly sales meetings changed dramatically as well. With the first five to ten minutes being devoted to SeeMe moments, the gatherings transformed from monologues to robust dialogues. Instead of being treated to tops down monologues, an environment was created enabling sales directors to share advice, best practices and learnings. These collaborations spilled over to ad hoc interactions outside the weekly calls. Sales directors would call each other directly to seek and give insights, jointly work deals and even selflessly transfer accounts, all because they felt part of something bigger than just their region.
This feeling of esprit de corps was borne out simply being more purposeful about creating conditions where stronger connections could flourish. The impact of trying this unique approach to connectedness may be best summed up by this quote from a former peer who said this about Clark taking the helm:
"I can’t say enough of what an amazing leader you are! I’m so proud of you and how you’ve stepped into this role in such a natural way! You’ve clearly been born for such a time as this! We are so fortunate to have you lead our team!”
Ultimately, given the intrinsic flexibility of the UMiiConnect modalities, Clark was able to customize content specific to his organizational culture creating optimal conditions of connectedness. In Clark’s own words, he encapsulated the impact of incorporating UMiiConnect into his leadership practice by saying:
"Using UMiiConnect has not just changed our meetings, it has transformed our team relationships and performance. We're not just co-workers; we are friends who have each other's back and now cheer each other on."