You know this guy don’t you? M. Night Shyamalan the movie director? For me his name is difficult, especially for a southern east Tennessee boy, so I’m going to shorten it to “Shy”. 

The movies Shy has directed include: Unbreakable, Signs with Bruce Willis, The Village. While I loved these films, I really enjoyed Lady in the Water.  You may or may not like this one, but I loved it.

This week in the Wall Street Journal there were 20 questions that he was asked. I want to focus on his answers to three of them. I believe that this famous movie director’s thoughts, if we let them lead us to action, will better equip us as outstanding sales leaders. Many of the questions shown in the Wall Street Journal were simply statements that required completion.

Of the three I want to focus on, the first begins with:  

I keep a list on my phone of …  Shy completed the statement by saying, “… the 50 books a year that I read. I put a star next to the ones I think are masterpieces. One of the books I put a star next to in 2021 was Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste. I think it’s amazing in terms of understanding what’s happening sociologically.”

So, as I read his response, here are the questions this makes me ask myself: What are the 50 books I have targeted? What are the 50 books, Youtube videos, and courses I have on a list that will make me a better sales leader this year and into the future? What are yours?

Today, I just finished Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig’s Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend. This book has helped me understand the importance of my legacy and not to let the small setbacks, even the large setbacks, stop me from finding a way to goal achievement and living in freedom. How I must never, never, never quit striving for what I believe is my purpose and obligation to those around me in my life.

Every great leader that I know in sports, sales, or in their home, every year, is reading and learning from the sources they have sought out that have something to teach them about improvement. So, what are the sales management books that you picked up? What are the books that you’ve purchased about leadership? Where are the notes that you have, or are taking, of important ideas from these books or the courses or the videos … the ones that will make you better this year for the people that you lead?  

That’s a fair and important first question – and one that Shy says has to do with perfecting and improving what we do. Our answer shows our dedication to our profession and to the people we lead and influence.

Here’s the second question in the form of a statement to complete:

My advice for bosses is … and here’s what Shy says, “… you set the tone with your value system, so be very clear about what your value system is. On my sets, I hope you can’t tell the difference between how I treat the production assistant and how I treat the lead actor.”

So, why be clear about what your value system is?  Is it ok to lie to one and not another, embellish the truth to make a sale, or promise reps and customers what you cannot deliver? Why be on time? What does it matter? You get the drift.

In other words, as Shy recommends, what are your values and standards? Be clear about them and be clear about why they are important to the people in your culture for their incomes,  their success, and to the company they work for. You will end up with the culture that mirrors your values and standards. You will recruit them. The rest, the ones who don’t care what you care about, will leave or they will hate to engage with the team and what you believe is important. To develop long-lasting and productive sales cultures a lot depends on how consistent you are with how you treat each person on the team and how you treat customers and the reputation of your company. So, what are your values and standards?  Make a list of what you and your salespeople will stand for.

Finally , in a way, his response to the third question is a summary or reflection of his responses to the first two … Here it is:

I’ve only recently felt … and Shy, this prolific movie director says, “… like a filmmaker.” Shy continues, “We all feel an imposter syndrome. It’s a version of coming through your life journey to believe that your specific limitations and attributes are amazing and what’s needed in the world. It’s hard for us to accept and be happy with that combination.”

And, I’ll extend his answer. It’s hard to commit yourself to what you do in a way that it becomes a profession for you and not a job. It means you see yourself AS A sales leader, AS A coach, AS A mentor of people – someone who helps others accomplish sales goals that will bring levels of incomes with specific importance for them, their families and their company. 

Imposture syndrome means feeling you’re posturing or posing as a leader without a firm commitment, desire, or the knowledge and habits to fully embrace the role. In other words, without the confidence that underneath, you’re really cut out for it.

To encourage you, I want you to know this is a common feeling.  Imposture syndrome occurs through your hard work and commitment at continual improvement as a leader of salespeople with increasing your capacity as a sales professional and understanding how you benefit those around you – that what you do makes a difference in the lives of salespeople. 

The imposture syndrome fades when thinking of yourself as a professional becomes real through: the failures and the setbacks, the continual education you put yourself through, the commitment to learning through books, learning from other leaders, courses and real life experiences as you apply yourself and experience your own transformation process and the success of the people you lead. 

So, to sum it up this year:

First, keep a list of the books you read, courses you take and improvement videos you watch — even other sales leaders you take out to eat and interview to find out how they do what they do.

Next, be clear about your values and the standards you have for your team.  Write them down. Define and describe them and make them clear to those you lead so they know what they are and how they will help them succeed as salespeople.

Last, you must commit. You must commit to the role, the profession, and to building this strength inside your heart by how you see yourself, improve yourself, and by your example and how you treat others.  These 3 things will make a big difference this year.  And, as always, please enjoy the fire, the excitement, and the sales results that doing these things will create for others. 

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