This Is How Great Leaders Do Leadership Development (Video Also)

This Is How Great Leaders Do Leadership Development (Video Also)

Being the “newbie” at anything is challenging. Whether it is a new job, a new relationship, or being a new parent – the task can be daunting. That’s when the mentor, the coach, the leader, the manager is so valuable!

Who are some of the key mentors in your career – those who have both encouraged as well as challenged you?

Bob Klein was my first manager at Xerox. I can never thank him enough for always believing in a “newbie” like me – for believing that a pre-med student could be successful in cold calling and B2B sales.

The “newbie” sales challenges would have seemed insurmountable without his constant encouragement in a trusted environment. And his commitment to challenge me to pick myself up after every skinned-knees experience was invaluable. Here’s a story I share in Millennials Matter.


While traveling Western North Dakota in my early Xerox days (and logging forty thousand miles a year on my car, plus those miles logged on the K-car), I listen to entire volumes of Zig Ziglar audiobooks. My favorite quote is, “People don’t know how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  This principle was perfectly aligned with our SPIN Sales training. Eager to implement, I commit to showing my next client how much I care by asking him great questions!

Brimming with enthusiasm, I walk into my prospect meeting, expecting to close for a demo of our newest product. My pre-call planning worksheet was completed with strategically organized questions.

The conversation starts out well as we exchange greetings. As I begin asking questions, I feel resistance. I double down by asking even more questions from my pre-call planning worksheet. I try to re-engage.  I feel it – the conversation isn’t going as planned. Resistance.

Then, the shock – I’m asked to leave—immediately.

As I’m escorted out of my prospect’s business, I’m devastated.  And, deeply embarrassed. Plus, I’m certain I’m going to get fired – Who gets kicked out of a prospect’s office in the professional world?  Yikes!  I’m sure I’ll be looking for a new job before the end of the day!

Get back in the game…Immediately

I sob uncontrollably in the car all the way to Bob’s office.

Bob listens. Through my sobs, he deciphers what has happened. With great empathy, he helps me debrief my asked-to-leave-immediately sales call. He praises my determination to master the art of questioning. He spotlights my persistence and determination. There are no reprimands. Plus, he assures me I’m not getting fired – YAY!

Bob asks me to consider the lessons learned. Then, what he says next is critical – he challenges me to get out the door and get back in the game…immediately, “Let’s get 10 more cold calls in by the end of the day, Danita!”

I still hear Bob saying, “You can do it, Danita. You know, we only hire the best.”

Who’s the “Bob” in your life?

The one who encouraged you….and then challenged you to pick yourself up, brush the dust off your skinned knees, and get back into the game?

Who’s the “Bob” in your life today?

And, who’s the “newbie” in your sphere of influence that needs you to be a “Bob” for them today?

Who needs you to be building a trusted relationship with them, so that they can hear both your encouragement, and your challenge?

I wish every “newbie” had a coach, mentor, manager or leader like Bob. Like all great leaders, Bob leads from the transformative quadrant of the Invitation/Challenge matrix, a powerful leadership development tool we will cover in our next article.

Stay tuned for the first post in my new series, This is How Successful Leaders do It. 

You can also watch a short video on this topic HERE.

Leadership Lesson:  Great leaders give you access to their expertise and challenge you to become better at what you’re doing.

Leadership Question: Who was the best leader who invited you into their sphere of influence and challenged you to grow beyond your wildest dreams?

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For the previous article in this series, go to:

Stop, Look, Listen & Laugh is a Powerful Leadership Development Tool

This is How Great Leaders Do It – Invitation and Challenge Framework

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