Great Leadership Is About Relationships and Reinforcement

By now you know that leadership and management can learn a lot from sales, and you’ve already got the sales skills. No matter what business you’re in, you’re selling on some level (if you weren’t capable, you wouldn’t still be in business).


Even though you know how to sell, it can be tough to think of transferring those chops into the leadership arena. But when you think about the core elements of sales -- which include realizing it’s about getting people to buy, having a strong belief in yourself, serious preparation, and engaging others -- they start to apply naturally to leadership.


Then you can add in finer points such as getting in the habit of observing everything, all the time, and then applying the knowledge you gain to your interactions with your team. It helps to practice strategies for recording or memorizing details, because that information can’t do a lot if it isn’t accessible.


Those practices are just the beginning. As with sales, leadership has a thousand moving parts and exactly the right approach varies depending on the people and the situation. In every leadership situation, though, two key concepts tie it all together.


Every Person, Every Role, Is a Relationship


Your company might work on high-volume retail, or you might undertake years-long projects. Either way, every interaction with a client is part of developing an ongoing relationship that manifests itself in a number of ways, from affecting their customer loyalty to their willingness to refer others to you. You realize that each bit of communication with a client is an opportunity to strengthen (or weaken) that relationship.


… so why would it be any different with leadership?


The principle is the same. Every conversation, every look, every e-mail, every request -- they’re all opportunities for you to build your relationship with your team. How you handle even the smallest encounters can determine their level of trust and buy-in.


Remembering that tenet -- that every employee is a unique relationship that can be developed or set back at any time -- is critical to making the most out of applying sales principles to leadership.


Prove It, Reinforce It, and Show It


You’re putting in daily effort for your employees. You’re engaging them, you’re asking their opinion, and you’ve built solid relationships that have decreased turnover and increased production. That’s great leadership, so it’s time to show it off.


Not obnoxiously, of course -- no one’s interested in how great of a leader you are. It’s not about that.


It is about reinforcing your company’s values and your values as a leader. That means showing your appreciation for your team. It means celebrating both shared and individual wins. It means showing your clients and customers how much you value your employees and demonstrating that it’s a not only a group effort, but that the group actually cares about one another.


It’s about showing your employees that all those things you’ve done, from remembering their kids’ names to making sure meetings are as efficient as possible, matter -- that they matter to the company and that they matter to you personally. Some companies, even larger ones, are famous for this type of camaraderie. Others are infamous for its absence. Which one do you want to be?


Everyday micro-effort that builds to reinforcements of how much you appreciate a strong relationship is great sales -- and it’s great leadership.

Rodney Steele