Effective leadership is key to a company’s bottom line. Vital indicators such as efficiency, morale and productivity can all suffer under poor management. And with estimated spend as high as $50 billion a year, according to a recent Gallup poll, leadership development is a clear priority for company executives.
Improving leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all, one-stop shop. Every team comprises diverse personalities and working styles, and managers are tasked with helping each member reach their potential. In Keith Langtry’s experience as a senior sales manager with ePayPolicy, a digital payment solution for insurance companies, effective leaders are consistent, empathetic and patient — and unafraid of vulnerability. Remaining mindful of all the variables involved in team success requires a careful balance of support, feedback and personal accountability.
“Learn as much from your team as you hope to teach them,” Langtry said.
While the specific management practices they use will vary, professionals from all walks can benefit from these fundamental characteristics of a great leader.
What are the key skills or characteristics of a great sales leader, and why?
Firstly: dependability, accountability and consistency. Sales departments experience ups and downs — one month you set a personal best, the next you’re trying to squeeze last-minute sales at the end of the month to hit quota. On top of that, especially at a rapidly growing tech company, products evolve constantly with updates, new features and commission changes. With all of this, sales reps need to know what to expect from their manager. Good leaders don’t just hold the reps accountable for everything their role entails; they hold themselves just as accountable for their own responsibilities.
Secondly: empathy and patience. A sales rep may be struggling with a personal issue, or having difficulty grasping a new skill — as a great leader, seeing through their lens and understanding their perspective is imperative to finding a solution.
And thirdly: vulnerability. Showing humility can be a strength, especially when training or trying to get “buy in.” If a rep is struggling with something, share something that you struggled with, and how you were able to overcome it and grow.
What have you done to strengthen or improve these characteristics in yourself?
For dependability, accountability and consistency, I complete end-of-day reports that have three sections. The first section is “what I need to get done today” — this allows me to have a working checklist that I add to as the day goes on, and mark them off as I accomplish them. The second section is “who I helped and how I did it.” This section allows me to verify that I’m giving everyone the attention and coaching they need. The third section is “what I need to get done tomorrow.” Any of my daily commitments that I didn’t complete are put in this section, and added to the top of the following day’s end-of-day report. The goal of these three reports is to remain proactive, and ensure I am not missing any of my team’s expectations.
Learn as much from your team as you hope to teach them.’’
What piece of advice would you share with sales professionals who are just starting out in their leadership journey?
Learn as much from your team as you hope to teach them. Ask what you can do better, and what the team has liked and disliked about their past leaders so you can get ahead of the learning curve. Encourage and reward the team for giving constructive — even negative — feedback; you may not like hearing it, but it will give you the information you need to continue developing.
Every month I send out a “goal tracker” to my team. The last question on it is: “What do you need from Keith to be in the best possible position to hit your goals?” To reach your highest potential as a manager and leader, get feedback from the people you impact the most — your team.