Mad Journey #2: Understanding that People Leave People Not Companies (Pt. 2)

(Most people read Pt. 1 before they read Pt. 2 but just in case you didn’t:  I left a solid position as the number one Sales Exec at a company.   After doing so, I took time to review the impact that my manager had on my decision).

Quitting

Marshall–the CSO–wasn’t a fan of salespeople and where they were concerned he lacked vision.  Long term perspective would have allowed him to nurture his team, treating them as commodities to be nurtured and developed over time.  For him, support team members weren’t individuals with great potential for contribution so he couldn’t acknowledge any idea that wasn’t his own as one that could be successful.  If this isn’t enough for you to get that people leave people not companies, read on.  You understand?  Read on, anyway.  Humor me.

I left him because he was like living with a drunken parent.  I know, it sounds harsh, but imagine coming home from school and not being sure of just what will set mommy or daddy off (ironically he referred to himself as a “step dad”).  I left him because he called others liars while lying himself.  Not lying just through direct verbiage but through manipulation and this for me is professionally unacceptable.

I left him because he couldn’t give anyone credit for being knowledgeable in their role except in a backhanded manner.  When I accomplished a major sales goal, he pointedly ignored any celebration of it.  Why?  I have a few thoughts about that.  Marshall would never congratulate someone on something that he perceived as their responsibility but placed very little value in.  The value was the dollars that I drove, not me, and showing any appreciation would be recognizing an individual and perhaps inflating her confidence unnecessarily.  Little did he know that confidence is like a sales warrior’s genetic marker and attempts to damage it are futile (this is where my partner would have inserted an evil laugh).

I left him because he consistently ran off mentors, successful people in sales management that could lift production and career value of my colleagues and me, because he wasn’t comfortable being challenged and his selfish nature led him to believe that they didn’t bring HIM value.  He once referred to a prove industry leader as being lazy as a way to dismiss the fact that he didn’t like this gentleman and knew that his C-level pedigree was greater than his own.

I left him because he assumed that being smart in SOME areas made him above challenge in ANY areas.

I left him because he considered salespeople as plug-n-play options, necessary but expendable.  An example was that when his #1 producer put in her notice (yes, me) he reassigned my territory without acknowledging my resignation.  A “we don’t really need you” gesture that made me laugh and one that he tried to refute when he asked me to stay two days later.

I didn’t want to be begged, it wasn’t my intention, and truthfully I have a rule about counteroffers, and accepting one from someone I don’t trust would definitely go against that rule.  However, a true sales leader or visionary would not let their ego get ahead of the success of the company.  Salespeople with documented success are hard to come by, you don’t let them walk without discussing the whys or being open to seeing your part in it.

I left him because insecurity is not a trait that I value.  My best mentors have all been men, including my current leader.  I’ve gravitated to the amount of leverage that men are able to drive in companies without appearing overly emotional, since many of us women get a bad wrap and unfortunately I haven’t had great success with female bosses.  I say that because my male mentors were all very confident.  Their belief in their own backgrounds allowed them to push me to grow and focus on my career without feeling as though it would diminish their ability.

Marshall’s insecurity was consistently exhibited.  Whether it was bad mouthing previous/current employees and leaders or confronting me for having a recorded conversation in which he felt a colleague and I were “talking about him”.  That day felt like a high school lunch room conversation with the petulant teachers pet and stuck out in my mind as behavior unbecoming a true leader.  It was additional confirmation that I needed to seek another environment.

I left Marshall because his ambition was eclipsing his aptitude.  Sure, he was smart but he wasn’t smart enough to realize that you can’t do everything yourself and that surrounding yourself with people who are afraid to challenge you doesn’t mean you are creating a collaborative environment.  Rigid ambition motivated purely by the need for power is damaging to everyone and everything it touches.

The above paragraphs all include “I left him” because at the end of the day my clients, success, and paycheck were not enough to trump the fact that working for Marshall was teaching me more negative than positive.  I COULD work for him but I WOULDN’T.  I would not give him the satisfaction of claiming my success as a result of his leadership.  I had no interest in confirming his management style as relevant to someone with my level of talent and self-directed abilities.   Additionally, I didn’t respect his lack of first hand sales knowledge and unwillingness to admit it.

For those who may think so, I’m not sour grapes over the situation.  My feet landed on solid ground and I walked away on my terms but, more than that, I’m grateful to Marshall.  He confirmed that my career and personal growth should be my greatest priority (as was his) and that WHO I work for/with is just as important as where I work and what I’m doing.  I made a mature decision and in doing so proved that while money is important it isn’t my sole motivation and that the risk I was willing to take would be the type of thing that will make me a great entrepreneur in the future.

Without changing the title of this piece, I’ll admit that I could be wrong in throwing out the old cliché.  Maybe people do leave companies but only because of the environment created by the people who lead them.

The Mad Journey #1: I Now Understand that People Leave People Not Companies (Pt.1)

I quit

Resigning isn’t an easy thing to do when you like your job.  While salespeople are often though of as easily bought for a dollar, it’s not true.  When you’ve built a strong book of business that recurs, have contacts and relationships in your industry and know that you have reliable commission coming your way because you’ve done the heavy lifting, walking away to something less “sure” is a tough thing to do.  Trust me, I did it!

I walked away from being the top dog.  You don’t go into sales without wanting to be number one or you can’t last, so giving it up when you get there is uncomfortable.  I left, certain only that I was going to have to develop a new book of business in a nearly 100% cold prospecting environment and work without the benefit of immediate commission on a longer sales cycle.  I had a Tina Turner moment, you can keep the money and the territory but I’m walking away with my name!  Crazy? Only if you don’t believe in yourself.

Before leaving I spent time reviewing the why’s, how’s and where’s of it all.  Sales is my career, it’s not a job so I had to be smart.  I reached out to experienced mentors whose opinions I trusted and I weighed their advice.  My long-term plan is to move into the realm of sales consultation and run a major firm but being fully self-employed at this time in my life doesn’t make sense so change had to be good for my current lifestyle and support my future mission.

Needless to say, I did what I needed to do and walked away knowing that I wasn’t running from something but to opportunity.  At least that’s how I kept it initially.  Notice that above I didn’t mention the word “who” in any of my review on why I was leaving.  At the time, it was relevant, not powerful, so I kept it out of my decision making  process.  Today, it’s relevant AND powerful.

Who you leave behind at a job is significant, yet often ignored.  I left a role that I was passionate about because I didn’t trust management with my career.  It had been clearly and repeatedly demonstrated to me that development, encouragement, stimulus and growth were at the bottom of the list of priorities for the people who wanted to be attached to my success.  What I could do for them was paramount.  This could be said for any company in a capitalistic society.  I’m sure some of you are reading and saying, “What’s she complaining about if she was getting paid?”  That could be seen as a reasonable response, if you weren’t speaking to a responsible career woman.   Let’s assume for the sake of this piece that you are.

Every day corporate executives renegotiate their salaries or leave companies to pursue the opportunities that allow them to expand their knowledge base and further their careers as well as make more money while salespeople or support team employees that do the same are thought of as money hungry, disloyal and sometimes irresponsible.

I view myself as the CEO of my career.  My office space within the company is my “practice” and my role is a “contractor”, even if I am   The terminology keeps me on task and helps me to treat my job like a small business so that I focus on driving my success and avoid the pitfalls of being an employee.  I worked for someone who underestimated the importance of this behavior and disregarded the value that I place on my responsibility within a company as mere egotism.

This particular manager, we’ll call him Marshall, had a poor perspective of salespeople.  His best idea was that we all should be non-commissioned, clock punchers and treated like telemarketers (while he purported to understand sales).  Overpaid divas with over inflated expectations, that’s what we were.  To the company’s credit they understood that you couldn’t remove commission structure from current salespeople but I’m sure that any hiring in the future by this “manager” would be under a bonus structure rather than a commission plan.  By nature Marshall was a tactical number cruncher yearning to be a strategic visionary so, of course, true creatives—a  natural trait of successful salespeople–were in his mind “Un’s”….unstructured, unruly and unproductive unless they kept their heads down all day and functioned like robo-dialers.

Long story short, I left him.  Spending months observing Marshall and his behaviors were enough to confirm that people do leave people. I broke this post into two parts to give you time to grab a drink, Marshall’s an interesting character, you’ll need one.

Get Your Hands Off My Intellectual Property

A good friend and respected colleague contributed to my professional library by providing me with a book that I’ve come to value called, Linchpin: Are you Indispensable by Seth Godin. The book, in a nutshell, discusses the decisions you make, your future, your potential and how you make yourself relevant. That’s a really brief, almost vague nutshell that doesn’t do it justice so GO BUY IT! At the end of the day the book is only as valuable as its impact on each reader and this one had significant impact for me.

One of the major takeaways while reading it was that my Intellectual Property  is the thing that makes me valuable everywhere that I go.  I have gained more career opportunities and professional experience based on my differences from other potential hires than by how closely I match the job description posted. What great employers come to realize as I go through a hiring process is that my mind is my greatest asset. Once I’m hired if they’re smart they take advantage of it. If they are insecure they attempt to cage me in via micro management and other useless tools of the fearful leader.

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My well used, dog eared copy of a great book!

Creativity in thought and action has been a major component to my success over the years. While other sales reps relied on high-priced degrees to show their value, I entered the work world without a piece of paper validating that I could read a book and pass a test but competed and frequently surpassed those who were institutionally educated. I don’t say that to argue the value of a degree, I’ll spout my feelings about that in another post, but rather to show that the thing that has made me a “player” is something that can’t be duplicated easily or sometimes at all. By the time a competing salesperson has “pulled my card”, I’ve moved on to another trick or I have so many cards in play simultaneously that I don’t have to worry about being directly replicated.

My Intellectual Property is the thing that galvanizes me when I feel unappreciated or have effectively outgrown my position. It gives me the confidence to efficiently review my successes and determine my value so that I can present it well to others and open new doors. In a recent experience, my IP proved to be the thing that kept an employer from showing me the door when I gave two weeks notice (a rare occurrence in a book of business oriented sales world). Asking me to stay through the two weeks was less about their love for me and proof positive that I was indispensable because of what I knew and even more significant hard to replace.

Ultimately Intellectual Property, if focused on and developed, can offer you a level of assuredness in a world that offers very little job security and shows even less appreciation for the person that can follow directions, manipulate a computer, and tow the corporate line. It should give you the feeling that you are “KING/QUEEN of the world” because it sets you apart. My recommendation, push yourself to the most painful points of honesty and growth so that you can walk into any situation confident that you are truly an individual because of what you can offer. For a person whose IP is acutely developed they can put someone in your chair but you can never be replaced.