Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Just Keep Swimming" Is More Than Dory's Line...

The sales organization I headed for Cisco was broad in scale at 500 people in 14 countries. We of course had numerous organizational wins, some of which were stupendous. However, it’s by far the individual stories that I enjoyed the most. With Finding Nemo being released back to theaters, it reminds me of one of my favorite stories and favorite employees.

The inside sales roles in this org were not easy (are any?). Despite a stringent hiring process, extensive training, and supportive peers and management, the velocity at which we moved and the sheer breadth of the entire Cisco SKU list could make the ramp period overwhelming for any seller. And Amy (not her real name), about a month in, was overwhelmed.

I loved walking the sales floor at this particular location in Salt Lake City and chatting with the sellers. But when it’s going poorly out of the gate, you can see it in the eyes and the posture as much as the words or the performance. I remembered that Amy was a mom from when she was first hired. When I got to her cube, I asked her if she had seen Finding Nemo. Of course she had.

Amy and her family
(Looking for Nemo?)
“Just Keep Swimming,” I said.

When I walked by later, she had that printed out and pasted above her monitor. I knew it could work. I hoped that it would. I wondered if it would.

It worked alright.

Every time I heard from her or visited that office in the following weeks and months, she mentioned it.

Just Keep Swimming.

It never left her monitor and it became a mantra for her to get her through the tough times. It didn’t really take all that long until she was tearing it up. But there was more to it than that. The confidence she got from overcoming her challenges led her to become more than just a successful seller, she turned in to a respected and effective leader among her peers and was regularly recognized by them as such.

An interesting adjunct to this is that Amy is an amazing writer, and although that talent didn't play much into her role as a seller, it did play in to her leadership. She certainly appreciates the power of effective words; properly delivered in a timely fashion.  

Just Keep Swimming.

Effective words I didn’t write, but ones when effectively delivered at the right moment, made a difference for Amy. Would Amy have "righted her ship" eventually? Probably. She is very talented. 

But at that moment, three words gave her something to hold on to. (Resisting "grab shell dude" reference here). Whether you are a leader or not, whether you are in sales or not, you can do the same for someone who's struggling.

So when you have the opportunity, three more powerful words I didn't write:

Just Do It.


Kate Matsudaira said...

I love this post! It is so amazing what inspiration you can find in the small things and it really is true that words have the potential to work miracles.

Jeff Baumgarten, Founder, Tricendent said...

Thank you Kate...your words (here & in your posts) are very much appreciated!

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