Leaders Lead

Posted by on June 7, 2012

Leaders also listen. In my profession I lead sales and marketing teams, for recreation I lead teams in the mountains. Recently on an attempt of a shark finned unclimbed peak (Mt Saskatchewan; 11, 385 ft in the Centennial Range, Kluane National Park, Yukon) I faced my greatest leadership challenge. The team Prairie Vertical faced increasing consequence every step we took up the mountain, and then conditions turned against us and decisions became black or white, life or death.

How does leading a team in the mountains relate to leading a trailer sales team or a marketing team?

In the mountains the team relies on the leader to choose the right route. The leader also relies on the team to be able to climb the route. The best way to do this is to discuss the goal and listen to the team tell the leader how they are going to reach the peak.

It is the same with marketing. The leader sets the vision (with input from the team) and listens to how the team is going to accomplish that vision. It is the same with the trailer sales team. The leader works with the team to set projections and listens to the team as to how those projections will be met.

The best teams are engaged teams. Teams that want to win for the team, not for themselves. The best way for a leader to help create an engaged team is to listen to the team and then serve the team’s needs. This does not mean a free-for-all to do whatever the team wants, it is about active engaged listening and debating with the team so all options are heard. The leader then has the hard job of choosing what is best for the team objectively and facilitating actions to make it happen.

At 9500 feet, high on Mt Saskatchewan my team Prairie Vertical was trapped in a dug out snow shelter in a whiteout blizzard. We could not go down because of avalanche danger; we had to wait for the snow pack to stabilize. The storm was sapping our strength, in our snow trench we had been shivering for seven hours. The decision was black and white; stay in the snow shelter and risk increasing storm intensity which may lead to death from exposure, or risk the avalanche slope. (The dumping of snow was increasing the avalanche danger by the minute but the cold was making the slope more stable).

There was a break in the storm; I discussed the options with the team. Everyone was aware of the danger and the consequence of our choice. I listened to the team. The conversation stopped, there was silence for a few seconds, and then I said “let’s go!” We struck hard and raced down the mountain making it safely back to our high camp. As a team we made the right choice.

Leaders lead, but the best leaders listen to the team first to make the right decisions.

Steve Whittington is Managing Director of a boutique digital agency, Graphic Intuitions. He has also served for a over a decade as a member of the Executive Team of Flaman Group of Companies an award winning organization and has over 25 years of executive experience. Steve’s current board work includes serving as Chair of the board for Flaman Fitness Canada, a national retailer; President of Glenora Child Care Society; and Co-Chair of the Marketing Program Advisory Committee for NAIT’s JR Shaw School of Business. Previous notable board work included, a Director for a meal prep internet Startup Mealife and Chair of Lethbridge Housing authority, the third largest Social housing NGO in Alberta.

Academically, Steve was an instructor of Project Management at Lethbridge College for seven years. Steve holds a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree; he is a Certified Sales Professional (CSP), Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Marketing Specialist (CMS) and (CCXP) Certified Customer Experience Professional.

Steve’s first book Thriving in the Customer Age – 8 Key Metrics to Transform your Business Results teaches about the customer journey and provides a guiding framework spanning all stages of the customer experience. The book explains how every metric impacts an organization and how leaders can best utilize each metric to provide a stellar customer experience. Everyone knows the customer is the most important part of a business. This book provides the tools to improve an organization’s customer experience and drastically transform business results.

Recently Steve’s Blog has been profiled as one of the Top 75 Customer Experience blogs

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