The Leadership Curve

Navigating a Steep Learning Curve While Staying Productive

Navigating the Leadership Curve imageHe was flailing in the deep end of corporate leadership with no lifeguard or other swimmers in sight, gulping for air. Despite his attempts to stay calm, he felt the panic rising inside. He had lost sight of the shoreline long ago. He had always thought of himself as a strong swimmer, but the force of the undertow was shocking. The waters were cold and murky. What had he gotten himself into?

That was the first year of Jim’s life as a Sales Manager, and at times, he wasn’t sure he was going to make it. He had set his sights on a promotion to sales manager several years ago. He took steps to ensure he was ready, including a well-regarded, intensive leadership course, on his own dime. He had finished his MBA two years ago and found ways to add value in his territory by applying a profit & loss mindset to his own highly productive territory. Prior to the promotion, he regularly mentored other salespeople in their territories and was known as unselfish and a team player.

Yet, he was drowning.

Despite several requests for guidance, clear objectives, and goals (beyond sales numbers), his boss danced around his questions. He set up one-to-one meetings with the Sales Managers from other divisions, and they were equally opaque. Why didn’t his company didn’t take steps to prepare their managers? Why didn’t the executive team share the tools that would set up leaders for success? It was unfair.

Jim wasn’t one to feel sorry for himself or wait around for answers. Even if he eventually decided to leave this job and never take on another management role for the rest of his life, he was determined to do so on his own terms.

There were rumors that some of the members of his sales team hated his focus on compliance and reporting. His vertical was healthcare, so compliance reporting was a fact of life, not something he could control. He had eight strong-willed direct reports who each had their own take on the best way to sell the company’s software platform.

Jim felt as if he was herding cats. And that was on the good days. On the bad days, like today, he felt so overwhelmed and panicked it felt like drowning.

Jim wanted to distinguish himself as a leader, and eventually, to develop a leadership style of his own. But where to begin?

What would you advise Jim to do in his first 30 to 90 days on the job? Where would you advise Jim to seek information and guidance on succeeding in this role, given the “non-answers” from management?

This month, I will be writing about “The Leadership Curve” and welcome your stories, questions, and insights.


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