Whether we are a business executive, a sales rep or a sales manager, increasing revenue is our common goal.
Sales reps deliver our revenue. Even if they are self-directed, their performance is still affected by the way they are managed or led. Here's a working definition of management and leadership:
- A sales manager determines quotas and keeps score.
- A sales leader goes beyond scorekeeping. A sales leader offers a grand vision, one that can only be achieved by the team working together.
- A servant leader goes all the way, by focusing on the success of each teammate. To a servant leader, it's personal.
How Servant Leadership Produces Better Results
It was 1968. I was an Air Force electronics technician, stationed in northern Thailand. I maintained the inertial navigation computer system on the F-4. One day, we were assigned a new boss. His name was Sergeant Hooper. He had just cross-trained into our career field. He was green. He knew nothing about our equipment or our repair methods, yet he was our new boss.
At first, we resented Sgt. Hooper. He didn't know the difference between a gyroscopic platform and a light bulb. He tried to make friends, but we made it difficult.
Servant Leadership Changes Everything
Sgt. Hooper changed our minds. He did it with his actions more than his words. He gave us a goal: our shop was going to have the greatest navigation accuracy for our computers, worldwide. We said to ourselves, "Yeah, sure. We're in the freaking jungle, competing with better-equipped shops in larger air bases around the world."
Sgt. Hooper didn't stop by issuing the goals. He began describing them as a vision. It appealed to us. Then, he worked with each of us, individually, to draw out our creativity and problem-solving skills. He showed us how to reach deep into ourselves, to be better at our work.
One night (we worked the graveyard shift), I had one of the computers torn down on my workbench. Parts and wiring diagrams were strewn all over the place. I was having a difficult time troubleshooting a signal flow problem. Sgt. Hooper walked up to me and said, "Goss, what are you doing?" I gave him a smart-alec answer. He wasn't phased. He said, "I know I don't know as much about these computers as you do, but if you walk me through your troubleshooting process, maybe I can help you find the problem."
I stopped and looked at him. I thought, "This guy actually wants to help me." My attitude changed instantly. I brought Sgt. Hooper into the Inner Circle. My teammates came around to see what we were doing. Maybe Sgt. Hooper wasn't so bad, after all.
I traced the signal flow from the wire where it entered the computer, through four circuit boards, to the wire where it exited the computer. In the process, I confirmed that the analog-to-digital signal converter board was defective. Sgt. Hooper did not take credit. Instead, he congratulated me on my discovery.
I needed a new circuit board. It was 3 AM. The base supply warehouse had the board in stock. An aircraft was grounded until we could get the navigation computer back into the plane. I looked around. Sgt. Hooper was gone. I heard tires screeching outside the shop. It seems that Sgt. Hooper had "borrowed" a truck without permission. Ten minutes later, he was back with my circuit board. He helped me install the circuit board and bench-test the computer. I said, "We need a ride out to the flight line." He replied, "No problem. I have a truck."
From that day on, any member of our shop would walk through fire for Sgt. Hooper. And, our shop earned the worldwide record for the accuracy of our navigation computers. We owed our achievement to our servant leader, Sgt. Hooper. God bless you, wherever you are, Hoop.
How About You?
Whether you are a sales rep, a sales leader or a business owner, you can be a servant leader. Strive to be the Sgt. Hooper of your organization.