"I can't be the only one closing business here. The clients always want just me."
Ahhh...our Hero. Always there to come in and save the day. He is the one by which all others are measured. He gets the results and doesn’t need anyone else. He is Super Executive!
But a Hero is not what companies need.
Heroes are great for comic books and blockbuster movies. And in those fictional worlds, they always save the damsel in distress. But in the real world, their heroics might be doing more long-term damage than they realize.
Often when I am coaching organizations on their ability to procure additional business, I discover the Hero pretty quickly, and set to work transforming him into a Champion.
I was working with a company where the vice chairman told me about his frustration that he "had to do it all. No one could close deals like him." That’s our Hero. Upon further inspection, I realized that his team couldn’t advance because he had never shared his skills with them. He was always the implementer versus the mentor. Further, the vice chairman had labeled his team as unable to close and thus, they were destined to stay that way. He would continue to have to do it all. Our Hero!
I then observed that, behind the complaints, he rather liked being the Hero. He actually desired being the rainmaker/hero versus the champion/coach who would help his team advance in their careers. That it wasn’t really working and that he was the cause of it had escaped his super x-ray vision, I guess.
Oddly, sometimes it's the Hero who hires me, exasperated about his unique ability to close business and the lack of skill his direct reports have to do the same. Being the rainmaker, his/her job is to source, open up and close new business. And certainly, post 2008, there's an intense amount of pressure/need to close business and develop a client relationship that can evergreen itself. He knows that having more people in the organization who can achieve those results would alleviate some of that pressure.
Hence the Champion scenario I am recommending vs. the Hero syndrome.
Granted, the Champion scenario takes longer to develop. It takes longer because you are building your organization's future leaders who have only known one aspect of their job, essentially the mechanics of your deliverable. Training them to be Champions means giving them the actions and ability to understand a client's goals and challenges, synthesize them into an insightful recommendation, and close in a compelling manner. That takes time to master, as the Hero knows all too well.
This is where you either have or don't have the ability to teach others. Teaching people to think like you takes patience. You need the desire to first share your vision and understanding of what it takes to procure business with your company. Then is takes the tenacity to stay with someone and shape their behavior. You need to role-model for your high potential executives on how it is done but also let them try and fail.
A Hero will just do it, figuring his reports will pick up on it eventually. Well, Robin never did become Batman, did he? You have to take time to explain what you are doing and why. Make sure they get your reasoning for why you act at a certain time in the process, what you heard from the client that made you react and why you are making certain recommendations. It's then essential to test your execs by watching them do their version of what you have done. They won’t become Superheroes overnight. Relax. Give it time. The process will show you what they have assimilated from your influence on them and what they haven't. That's the benefit of observation. Pinpointing their client procurement gaps is mission critical to completing the development of your execs and the most fulfilling part of leading people. Cue the Champion music.
Unless you are superhuman, you can't do it alone forever. Great leaders focus on leading people and developing their organizations. Influencing the behavior of those around you transforms their ability to represent your company in a grand way. Each exec grows in a way they never could without your belief in them and guidance. And you become a better leader because you have become a Champion of others versus a Hero with no equals.
How does that feel?
Are you a Hero or a Champion? Tell us about it in the comments.
[Image: Flickr user Mtsofan]