We stumble – imperfect and unrefined people – as runners, sales reps, fathers and mothers. And life is tough – being successful is difficult. Obstacles face us from the inside – our attitudes, skills and feelings, and from the outside – what the world throws at us and the people in it.

The best of us have experienced the “refiner’s fire” – someone leading us to a discipline and training that has burned away the impurities in our relationships with others and how we work.

Marriage works that way. Athletics work that way and growing as a successful sales leader or person does as well.

People who grow allow the influence of mentoring refiners to burn away the bad from the good. These crucible moments and coaching conversations have occurred through times of failure and rejection. From harsh rhetoric and criticism and varying amounts of kindness and encouragement, people find the ability within themselves to change and better handle the tasks they have been given. Just as athletes endure their training and experience sore muscles, we also fight through difficult challenges and loses in order to gain the strength and purity of action to be better.


Ask your new salespeople if they want to be coddled or challenged – if they want to hear the truth about their performance or simply be hired into a role in which they may feel good, but they do not experience the sales vs. income reality of growing mastery. Ask them if they want financial stability? Ask them, “What do you want?” Ask them, “What can I do for you?” Get permission to speak the truth to them and tell them that at times they may not feel good, but that you have faith in them – that you believe they have what it takes to acquire the traits necessary for goal achievement.

Previous management gurus have asked us to “catch people doing something right” and give a praising, And that’s good. I also want you to catch people doing something wrong and offer a “correction,” and do this  in the spirit of “I want the best for you and you can better in this way.”

Remember this. As the authors of The Coddling of the American Mind explain, the new salespeople entering today’s workforce have been taught an untruth – antifragility, an that psychology professionals recognize as a proven fallacy by scientific research. Generation Z has been taught that they should retreat to a safe zone if the beliefs and values they feel strongly about are challenge that they should retreat to safer ground.

The authors, Dr Lukianoff and Mr. Haidt go on to say that

“teaching kids that failures, insults, and painful experiences will do lasting damage is harmful in and of itself. Human beings need physical and mental challenges and stressors or we deteriorate.”

Said another way, the young sales reps you lead will need your coaching, mentoring and straight talk without judgment. Get their permission to give it. Do this to help their growth and advancement.

Finally, remember these ancient words from Paul of Tarsus – words that have scientific validation today – “Be glad when afflicted, because you know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Today, some people experience increased anxiety and depression as a result of “retreating to safety” whenever faced with a challenge or bad situation. We, instead will teach and encourage our sales reps to persevere, make one more call, keep activity high and stand to help the irate customer solve their problem. With will teach our reps to endure and to  strengthen themselves for handling future obstacles and to find hope in being a better and stronger person. Along the way they will sell a ton of stuff!

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