If you happen to be a leader with or without a title, or „alpha“ male or female or wish to become some of those, please halt for a while, think a little bit and ask yours when did you last inspire someone around you and in which way?
And I am not talking about motivation, but inspiration. I have never met neither Đorđe Balašević nor Simon Sinek, but if you look at the titles of my posts like „Leaders eat last“ or „The night I swam across the Danube“ as well as the one you are reading now – you will realize they are both my constant inspiration.
Why am I asking this? If we agree that big companies do not hire people with skills and motivate them later but hire already motivated people to further inspire them, than it seems quite logical that the main role of leaders in such companies is to inspire people they lead. People are either motivated or not. If you do not offer to motivated people something they will believe in, something bigger than their daily job, something they will be ready to work for – they will motivate themselves in finding a new job, and you will be left only with the remains. For instance, I like my job very much, especially the part related to constant work with people. I enjoy visiting the front lines, talk to people and exchange ideas and experience with them. This motivates me very much and I even manage to inspire some of them by my actions – which is not easy at all. Simon Sinek dedicated his book „Start with Why“ to this topic and I warmly recommend it to everyone wishing to deal seriously with sales and particularly leadership.
One of many examples of inspired people who found their „why“ in comparison to those who have not – is the story of Samuel Pierpont Langley. Do you know who he was? He was the secretary of Smithsonian Institute, a Harvard assistant and math teacher on The US Naval Academy. His friends were people like Andrew Carnegie and Graham Bell. He also had, for his time – a giant sum of 50.000 $ for the project he launched where he gathered the best and most intelligent people of his time. New York Times closely monitored his activities. Everyone knew Langley, supported him and wished him success. he had all but a clear vision „Why“. More than anything he wanted to be the first. He wanted to be rich and proud and was driven by his motive. You still do not know what project I am talking about?
Here is little help: just a few miles further from the place where Langley worked with his scientists in Dayton Ohio, two young enthusiasts had a vision. Actually, they had nothing else except this vision – they had no resources, nor any of them had a university degree, not even a high school education. In reality, they did not have anything, but practically – they had everything, they had „Why“. They believed that if they succeeded in making a flying device – this would change the whole world. They thought of a global welfare their success would bring. Of course, you know now – I am talking about Wilbur and Orville Right. The aforementioned Langley did not have a passion for flying, but passion for achievement, he wanted to be famous, to be the first and to get rich. On the other hand Orville and Wilbur stood firmly behind their vision and thus inspired many to join them. On 17 December, 1903. on a field near Kit Hawk, the Right brothers took off. They reached the hight of 36,5 meters and the flight that could be compared to a light run lasted for 59 seconds, but this was enough to launch the technology that would later change the world. Are you ready to change the world?
The world is too big for me to change it, but I can certainly influence my immediate surroundings, and stretch my influence a bit further. If we take into consideration the fact that I am responsible for over 750 people in two states and over 120 leaders, it is obvious that my surroundings, regarding only a business one – is pretty wide. If we add here my colleagues, who are not part of my team – but work with me on daily basis, as well as my friends and relatives – there is over 1000 people I can influence by certain degree.
However, I would like to get back to those 750 people who are my immediate responsibility. I personally think that people in retail do not have easy job at all. The fact that they work with different customers who have different wishes and problems on daily basis, as well as the fact that my people are burdened with large number of goals and targets to fulfill on daily and monthly basis – certainly makes their job pretty stressful. It is however true that this is a dynamic job which enables you to meet new people and widen your horizons, which enables you to grow and develop yourself, but we have to live with the fact that the counters reset every month and that everything starts from the beginning. We have a saying: „All things must pass“. On the other hand, this job will help you develop a working habit, widen your horizons, and teach you to treat your customers with lot of respect and understanding, to fight for their hearts, because the only thing that determines where your sales counter will stop at the end of the month – is the quality of your relationship with your customers. This is the factor your variable fee depends on at the end of each month.
This is what Simon Sinek calls „a good system“. The company you work for also teaches you some real values such as: Be respectful, Make it easy, Be inspiring, Keep promises, Here to help…(These are Telenor values – difficult to translate in Serbian with the same impact). As I said, these values are not only the company ones, but can be applied in life in general – and if you live them, there is a huge probability you will share them with your family, friends and surroundings, that you will eventually, teach your children to live those values too. And thus, those 750 colleagues from the beginning of my story – have grown to 4 x 750 people – that we directly influence, and change their behavior in one way or another. Some among them are leaders, some are to become so, some have friends on leading positions…etc.
I believe we all meet with examples of state bureaucracy in various public institutions on daily basis. Imagine people working there would act in line with the above mentioned principles and environment. Imagine if their variable fee would depend on their attitude to clients, imagine if their clients could simply go to another civil servant if they are not satisfied with the current one. Imagine they have targets and imagine their counters reset every month. What kind of treatment would you have in those institutions? The worst of all is that both – people with or without targets – at the end of the month get their salary, paid by those very same satisfied or dissatisfied clients. So where is the catch then? The environment. It is the environment that defines how people will behave, and it is the leaders who are directly responsible for it. The environment they create will directly impact behavior of the people within their team. An interesting phenomenon is the one related to medical doctors working in public and private clinics. When working in public clinics, they tend to be arrogant, often rude in communication with patients, but when working in private clinics, you cannot believe with how much respect and understanding they approach the patients. Good system. Of course, as well as in my sales team where I witnessed some negative examples, there are on the other hand both in public institutions and clinics – civil servants and medical doctors who do not let themselves be overcome by the surrounding. What is in common for those people is the fact that they can not be more astonished when they withes examples of behavior opposite to their environment. This tells us that different environments create different expectations from people.
This is best explained in a psychological experiment with five monkeys and a banana. It is performed by putting 5 monkeys in the cage on top of which are bananas. The only way a monkey can reach them is by climbing over the wooden cases stacked within the cage. Every time one of the monkeys would try to reach the bananas, the other four monkeys would be sprayed by the stream of cold water. After a while, based on the experience they survived, each of the monkeys trying to reach the bananas would be prevented by the rest of the group in order they avoid spraying by cold water. The most important part is when those carrying out the experiment started to replace monkeys within the cage one by one, to pull out the current ones and change them with newcomers. The new monkey in the cage would of course, try to reach the bananas, but the rest four monkeys would jump on him and prevent him from doing so, owing to the experience they had. At some point, all the monkeys left in the cage are the ones who did not have negative experience with spraying of cold water at all, but they will still prevent any newcomer from reaching the bananas.
When I spoke with some of my colleagues who left Telenor and went to work in some state-owned companies, they shared with me a similar experience. In the beginning, the others looked at them scornfully, calling them nerds and out of their mind for working so much and trying to change and improve things, and in a short period of time – those newcomers would completely blend into the system following the pattern „whether you work hard or not – you will earn your salary anyway“
Why am I telling you all this? It is because I strongly believe that by proper people management in the right surrounding and by applying the right values – we create a generation of new, modern leaders, who will grow beyond the corporation boundaries at some point and take over the responsibility for the people and environment they live in. They can change the environment I have described above and do much more for their community then running a single shop, a region, or a sales channel within a corporation. This is my WHY.
This is why I like this job, this is why I wake up every morning and go to work with great enthusiasm, and this is why I decided to start this blog after all.
I hope this will inspire and motivate some of my associates. Nevertheless, we have gone a bit far from the initial topic and the title of this blog. Why I named this blog after Djorđe’s song „Once they planted a linden tree“?
It is because of the following stanza:
Thou shalt first understand a tree
and only then shalt plant it thee
for nothing good can ever be
nor any shade you’ll ever see
if opposite is done by thee.
If someone would ever ask me to describe the essence of human errors , I would put them all into the above verse. There are so many leaders around me trying to plant a young linden tree, hoping it will immediately give them so needed shade. Some of them would gladly cut the old trees, regardless the fact they have not watered them a single time , but they do not understand that they should first know the tree and only then plant it. What does that mean? Among other things, this also means to listen in order to understand. Recently, a colleague of mine told me openly what she tough about a certain product we were to launch. I listened her carefully, understood her concerns and included her into workshops that were related to the development of this product prior its launch, in order to address and overcome all the potential challenges. Later, pressurized by the others, she tried to justify herself, without being conscious at all how much she helped exactly those who judged her.
My colleague Miloš said in his comment what he tough about the performance we prepared for one of the sales rally: „ Those act with dancing and singing convinced me there were no leaders there, nor serious people doing serious business, but just those taking care only of the financial aspect of their work. It is not quite clear to me how this act made him think so, but however I want to share with you what was the idea behind the act with singing and dancing.
One day, I came to my team meeting and when brainstorming about our annual sales rally, came up with, as I thought, a brilliant idea that we from retail management, at the end of our rally prepare some music act where we would rap at the same time. My idea was to show people from the front lines that we, as their managers, are ready to step out of our comfort zone and do something for them. Considering the fact that we ask of them almost impossible endeavors and that they step out from their comfort zone on daily basis, I simply wanted to show them that we are also ready to do so, even by coming out to the stage. And once we already rap with the music, I wanted to make it educational, so the song we prepared was about our Retail map and sales methodology. I assumed this would be both fun and educational and send a strong message to all our colleagues from the front lines. However, I quickly realized that the whole idea was great and inspiring only to myself. Not only I did not inspire my team members, but I actually caused a mini rebellion within the team. I certainly did not inspire my aforementioned colleague Miloš, on the contrary. At the end, I said to my colleagues that if they were not ready – I still intended to do it by any means, even it meant my being alone on the stage. However, there were some people in the audience that day, who understood the message I sent them. Besides, our performance inspired them to do much more. Our dear Spartans, inspired by our performance, made a professional music video about their team, for the first anniversary of Soho Sparta sales channel. When I say professional, I think of music production, direction and all what goes with it, including the video of themselves proudly running towards their goal made by a drone. Everyone who saw the video remained both speechless and breathless and they were invited to sing their song in front of all the colleagues on the annual sales ralley. If there is a team who knows its WHY – it is the Spartans.
Last but not least, I would like to share with you something really inspiring. Southwest Airlines is the most successful airline in the United States. When they created the company, the owners did not think only of 18% of Americans who used to fly at that time and how to conquer a part of that market, but about those 82% of the people who have never flown. This is where they focused from the beginning and that is why they made an incredible success. They were different in every single detail to the current competition and trully inspired their users to fly with them. Below is one of the examples how different and inspiring they are:
Have you recently inspired someone from your surroundings and how? If not, do it as soon as possible, because this is something that separates leaders from the bosses.