Leading Through Tough Times

In the summer of 2002, I started my first business: a painting company. The business concept was simple. As a college student, I could learn how to run a business and make a little money. It was an incredible experience and I learned valuable business lessons I still use today. One of the most important lessons I learned regarded leading a team.

Setting The Tone

Before the busy summer season, I attended a franchisee training. The trainer taught us how to manage our employees and paint. He repeatedly said throughout the training, “You set the tone!” While rapidly shimmying up the ladder, he’d say, “You set the tone!” While cleaning the equipment, he’d say, “You set the tone!” While painting a hard-to-reach spot, he’d say, “Remember, you set the tone!”

After a few minutes, the trainer explained what he meant by setting the tone: “Your employees will meticulously watch everything you do and how you do it. If you take your sweet time climbing a ladder, they will do the same. If you seem nervous reaching out to paint a hard spot, they will be nervous. If you are sloppy when cleaning the brushes, your painters will be sloppy. You set the tone!”

As sales leaders, you set the tone. Your salespeople are studying your every move. They observe your pace and your attitude. You are always on display. During tough times, your team will face setbacks and failures. As the sales leader, you, too, will face setbacks and failures. If you’re not happy with how your team responds to failure, look in the mirror! If your sellers witness the slightest glimpse of self-pity in your reaction to failure, they take it as bonafide permission to act in a similar way.

Check Your Actions and Attitude

As the leader, you need to do as you say and say as you do. Check your actions before you check your words. Your attitude and behavior are what drives your team. Therefore, before checking your team’s attitude, check your own attitude. When your team is struggling, they may challenge your belief, but your belief must be unwavering.

Your team’s performance directly relates to your belief. You are the beacon of hope for your team. Your hope and your belief in your team’s success must be deeper than the doubt your team experiences. Hope may not be a strategy, but it is a philosophy. Believing in your team and a hope-filled future creates a belief within themselves. If you act in a certain way, your team will follow suit.

Try viewing yourself through your team’s eyes. What is their perception of how you act? Are your words and actions consistently aligned? Stepping outside of your comfort zone and pushing yourself encourages your team to do the same. If you demonstrate the qualities you expect, your team is more likely to follow. Your behavior either motivates the team to extend beyond their boundaries or provides the excuse they need to stay within them.

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