INITIATES : Does the right thing without being told and empowers people to do the same

INITIATES : Does the right thing without being told and empowers people to do the same

“Your choice is baffling” said the Chief of HR “And your follow up recommendations are even more stunning” . “I agree, I’m puzzled too” said the Vice President Sales

XYZ Ltd wanted to fill a Area Sales Head position by promoting one their front line Relationship Managers. These were Senior RMs working with Zonal Heads.

To make the selection process objective, XYZ asked their external performance improvement partners to interview 3 potential candidates and recommend a name.

Now with the interviews over, the selection panel’s recommendation was a shocker. It ignored the front runner who had had 5 dream quarters.

The selection panel leader smiled. “We can understand your horror at our recommendation . But they are based on sound logic. Let me explain”

"We carefully went through the performance records of all 3 candidates. We asked them to do a 5 minute presentation on the SCOC model, a less known cousin of SWOT"

"Made popular on Internet by a group for mindful and positive leadership, this model involves identifying your unique strengths that you can use to master present and potential internal challenges. Then you assess how you can use these unique strengths to make the most of external opportunities and overcome external challenges”

“This approach is based on Drucker’s timeless wisdom that “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths, making our weaknesses irrelevant.”

"The presentations by all 3 potentials were a revelation. The star candidate with a record of 5 fantastic quarters kept going back to how grateful he was to his Zonal Head. We asked him about new initiatives he had started to get his sales engine firing”

“All his big wins were from referrals and intros he had got from his boss. He wasn’t initiating anything much on his own. He was waiting to be told what he had to do and doing it diligently. He was priding in getting his manager’s ok before starting anything. So, we suggest you place him under a Zonal Head who lets him exercise initiative and see how he fares. Meantime his present boss needs a leadership refresher too”

“Candidate no.2 was better as a self-starter. He could list several new efforts he had initiated on his own. But he also seems to be given to checking frequently with his manager on his own decisions and choices. Such ‘look-over-the-shoulder’ style will need to change to prepare him for leadership roles. May be he too carries the imprint of his manager’s style of not letting go fully”

“Our choice is Candidate no.3 who has turned his performance around after 3 difficult quarters. He was working in the toughest of the 3 territories. What impressed us was that all his stories showed us how he was acting on own and routinely reporting on things he had initiated. He is given to doing the right thing without being told. His boss also deserves compliments. You need more such leaders for true organisation development to happen”

“That makes sense” Chief HR agreed.

The VP Sales grimaced “Now you have presented me with a new set of worries about our Zonal Heads. Please give us a plan to train them in grooming their reports”

Initiative: The Hallmark of Extraordinary Sales Leaders

One hallmark that distinguishes extraordinary sales leaders is their initiative. Ability to initiate right actions without being told and empowering their salespeople to also do so, has a profound impact at three levels.

  • First, initiating actions because they are right for business, Customers and people unleashes creative energies that achieve ambitious goals.
  • Second, it creates a steady and dependable pipeline of younger sales leaders.
  • And third, it has a dramatically positive impact on the personal productivity and time management of the sales leaders. You no longer feel grounded because you start things on your own when they feel right.

3 Types of Management Time: How Initiative Promotes Personal Productivity and Achievement Orientation

William Oncken Jr and Donald L Wass explain this connection between initiative and leaders' personal effectiveness in terms of the following 3 types of management time.

  • Boss Imposed Time – If the Head of Sales wants something done, that gets priority over everything else
  • System Imposed time – This includes “time- used to accommodate requests from peers for active support”
  • Self Imposed Time – This is time meant for the leader's chosen priorities. A certain portion of this time is taken by the subordinates and could be called subordinate imposed time. In our story, the managers of Candidates no's 1 & 2 must be finding a lot of their work time being gobbled by subordinate imposed priorities.

What the sales leader is left with after all these time demands are met, is ‘discretionary time’ required for accomplishing important goals.

Extraordinary sales leaders use and encourage initiative to free up more of this discretionary time for creative action that makes them successful

Unsurprisingly, sales leaders who exercise initiative and empower others do so, score high on personal productivity and goal achievement. They are the ones who accomplish extraordinary goals

Pause to reflect: “Sales leaders who exercise initiative and empower others do so, score high on personal productivity and goal achievement. They are the ones who accomplish extraordinary goals ”

Action Question:  Review your current set of priorities. Can you identify and delegate 3 things where you still direct your team members what to do or expect them to come to you for directions?

Related Readings: Mercuri Mail Sept 2013 Focus feature on Management Time - Who's got the monkey

Takeaway Quote: “Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.” — Sheryl Sandberg

About the series:  This is the 66th in a series of 100 Posts that seek to build your #Sales Resilience ... as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.


67.PERSONALISES : Recognises that managing people is a lot more than managing headcount

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65.EXPECTS: Stokes hunger in people to strive for more

Inspiring sales leaders accomplish seemingly impossible feats with their teams simply by narrowing or bridging the gap between what their teams are and what they can be. Their secret formula ...

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