Out of all the blog posts I’ve submitted over the last couple of years or so this one was the most difficult to start for a variety of reasons. The first obvious one is the sensitivity around “Diversity” and how we as a society address diversity and its many complex components. Forcing myself to pull back on pontificating the importance of embracing diversity and sticking to the script of sharing my sales & marketing experience…..I quite frankly cannot progress forward with this post without “pontificating” the importance of “Diversity”. Please indulge me.
EVERYTHING we do in our personal and professional lives has an impact globally….it’s true. The “Technology Highway” in the last few years has steered us all out of this “closed bubble” mentality in that a few key strokes on a laptop and pushing the send button can now find that message making its way to Iceland…..and you’re in a small town in Pennsylvania. Heck, I can gather stats on my posts where I’ve seen visual responses reach as far as Russia, so if you think everything you do on that little Ipad just reaches your little universe you may be a little naïve. We all have an impact whether it’s positive or negative on not just our surroundings but the globe and therein lies the importance of embracing “Diversity”, it’s here it’s not going away and if it’s at the top of our minds it will make us all a happier, harmonious, peaceful human species. That’s my little “Pontification”.
Now, back to my script…..
I lived in Ireland for a year where I was head of sales and marketing operations for an animal healthcare company based in Ireland, the position was responsible for 12 countries so the role was vast and I must say extremely exciting. Having worked globally indirectly in positions prior to this role it was the first time in my career where I actually lived and worked abroad. Now, as you can imagine Ireland is typically not a place you would say you’d find a young African American male professional residing in abundance (haha!!), but the wisdom I obtained from that experience has been priceless. It has precipitated me to post this blog on the importance of “Selling Coaching” to “Cultures” and stressing why it matters today. Right from the very start after getting the position I spent the majority of the 1st few months understanding the countries, and the sales directors who reported to me….this was an eye opening experience. Nope, I do not speak Mandarin, Russian, or Portuguese (I do speak a little Spanish, and French), so just communication alone was a bit of a challenge. I tremendously respect the fact that so many countries make the attempt to not only learn the English language but master it because if it wasn’t for that I would have failed miserably at the job only having the ability to speak one language….which I think is a big competency deficit in our country. Before I just rolled into the role providing direction and leadership, I took the time to respect the cultures, languages, people, and personality of those that had an impact on my business. The best thing about the job was I had the opportunity to meet the families of the sales directors/sales reps I worked with and get to know them on a personal basis (some of them I still communicate with), and that turned out to be the best thing I could have done. Let’s be honest here, most of the folks I worked with on the sales & marketing side of the business had never worked directly with an African American…let alone a young African American male who was their boss. I knew going into the role that there was going to be immediate obstacles in front of me, and keep in mind many of the folks I’d work with had a jaundice eye on Americans so being African American was a whole other level.
I spent a lot of time “Sales Coaching” to the cultures in that my style has always been to adjust my leadership style to the situation or person….not vice versa. I understood upfront they (my direct reports) had the upper hand from a “leverage” standpoint….I had to EARN their respect….I was in their backyard! Once I earned their respect based on my competency, respect for them, and humility I was able to get a lot of things accomplished from a sales & marketing perspective and importantly coach/develop their abilities to succeed at their jobs. I ‘ll be honest however my immediate thinking when I was afforded the opportunity to lead 12 countries was to drive business, drive business, and drive business…one way thinking because I felt I’ll never be afforded this kind of opportunity again and I have to produce. What shook me away from this thinking was a conversation I had with my mother who stressed the importance of connection and humility to “Be Educated” versus “Educating” and that would be the true act of embracing “DIVERSITY”, and then she stressed being an African American male I should know better (haha!!).
Moral of story, we all whether you’re in the sales & marketing business or not should embrace “Diversity” because of the many reasons I’ve described but importantly because it’s the right thing to do as human beings. If you are in the sales & marketing business and are working globally be cognizant of the thought process “Sales Coaching” to “Cultures” because it does matter!
Checkout my presentation on “Coaching the Coach”, which applies globally (Thanks!)
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