The action or state of including or of being included
within a group or structure.
The stimulus for my blog articles lately seems to be running in a common theme. My inspiration is radiating to me from the sky, from some old friends and mentors. Their voices and words bounce around in my head, won’t go away. These are people that were very important to the formation of my original thoughts about sales and leadership. These teachers have been on my mind a lot lately.
Their words and examples have aged very well.
Before we get started, I want to tell you that there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to do just about everything in sales and sales management. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of the latter as of late. Leadership incompetency is far more common than leadership mastery. I spoke to someone recently that simply didn’t feel a part of her chosen organization any longer. Her lack of feeling like she “belonged” was a huge contributing factor in her decision to leave that organization.
Now, I have to tell you, she wasn’t a slouch; she was a top producer and a solid manager with a great track record. She was hard to replace and the fact is that the person that replaced her was less experienced and less effective in the role—and he’s already gone! A talented person was slowly run off, replaced by a person that fit more of the organization’s idea of what a good ole’ boy looked like.
Last week I told you about a lesson handed to me by Tom Smith. This week I’m going to tell you about one thing I learned from a gentleman named Bill Krzciok.
Bill K. was old school for sure. He believed in creating a thick cult of personality, that is to say that he ran a PERSONALITY driven organization.
But the key was that it didn’t have to be just like HIS personality.
He wasn’t big on systems—probably a weakness I’ve been accused of at times—but he always seemed to hit his numbers when others around him did not. He also stayed in one place long enough to create traditions, a few legacy teams and a few legacy leaders.
There were many leadership lessons passed on to me by Bill K., but I will just focus on of the more pertinent ones for the sake of this short blog article.
This example is one of INCLUSION and the power of it.
From the very first time I observed Bill K. running a sales meeting, I noticed how he handled himself. Some leaders and managers that I’d previously worked with would waltz in to their meeting, ignoring some, patting others on the back, generally aloof to those that they didn’t hang out with outside of the office. These leaders would come late to their own meeting and leave early. I watched certain mangers visit a satellite office and do the same thing—they’d walk right in the front door past the receptionist and newer sales people with little acknowledgement. I’d even seen some leaders avoid calls from certain people—making themselves conveniently unavailable.
Bill K. was different.
When Bill K. ran a meeting, he was there early with his wife, Diann. They’d both be at the front reception table shaking hands and hugging people. They knew EVERYONE’S name…they knew every spouse’s name! They asked about kids. During the meal at his meetings, Bill K. would visit each table. He’d make sure to shake hands with each new person and welcome them to their first sales event.
He was also the last one to leave the event.
When I opened a new sales office in the Valley, he showed up unannounced. It was while we were still unpacking boxes. He rolled in a box of his own. It was a small refrigerator. It fit perfectly in our kitchen, under the counter. To this day, I’m not sure how he knew what size fridge to buy or how he knew we couldn’t afford one after the lease security deposit and the first month’s rent was paid! That wasn’t all…he went back out to his car and brought back a 12-pack. We cooled it down and all opened up a Corona, (at 3:00 PM in the afternoon) and toasted our humble new office.
While Bill K. was with us that day, he spent five or ten minutes with each sales associate, asking them questions, getting to know them better. He even helped us unpack a few boxes and then he dragged a few of the empties out to the dumpster.
You see, Bill K. wasn’t a big shot—he was one of us. He didn’t SEPARATE himself from the team; he bonded himself to the team, and the team to him. He did this with his inclusive actions, not empty words.
Bill K. didn’t play favorites. If you were on his team, you were on HIS team. He made the newest person on the team feel a part of something special.
If somebody left Bill K.’s team, it was usually because he had taught them all that he knew and had recommended them for a promotion—which he did for me in October of 1995, a story for another time.
If somebody left Bill K’s team, it certainly wasn’t because they didn’t feel included. It wasn’t because they were in a ‘cliquey’ environment. Bill K. wouldn’t have any of that.
Bill once said to me:
“Joe, everybody on the team needs to be invited to the party. They are all out there working hard and they all have something to offer. They also have their own dreams and deserve to have the proper support to pursue them.”
I visited Bill K. a few weeks back. He was in the hospital. His damn ticker is giving him problems. He had some recent surgery in the area of his throat and his vocal chords don’t work so well anymore.
Bill K. and Diann were excited to see me. After an hour or so of sitting on the corner of Bill’s bed, I was sad to have to go. I tried to thank Bill for the things he gave me, but I don’t think I did a very good job of that. We talked about old times and all of the old people. His ticker may be on the fritz, but his mind is razor sharp. He recalls everything. All of the details of the meetings, trips, people…everything. He whispered to me. He told me to say “hello” to all of the folks I still stay in touch with. He is still including them in his thoughts.
Bill K. has no idea the impact he had on my leadership style.
Before I left he encouraged me in my new venture with his barely audible words. His whispered inspiration in my left ear was volumes louder than any other words I’ve heard lately.
Are you an inclusive leader? Or are you playing favorites, omitting someone from the party because they aren’t exactly like you?