Leading with a challenge

Topic Author:

Matthew Burge

Topic posted on:

17:09 GMT 25.03.14


“People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged.” – Umberto Eco

I’ve recently finished reading an interesting book called The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. I’d strongly suggest it to business leaders. 

A predominant view of sales success in is that the most successful salespeople are “relationship builders”. Relationship builders are the type of people who are good at making friends and influencing people. Everyone likes being around them, and they make you feel comfortable. The authors suggest (based on their research) that while those people are good at making friends, they aren’t always so good at making sales. Their theory is that the truly successful sales people are those who make customers uncomfortable. They ask questions that customers can’t easily answer; they challenge customers. Those are the salespeople who demonstrate value.

The most interesting part of that theory to me is how that idea relates to leading an organization, beyond just the sales function. How do you lead your people? Are you challenging how they think? Are you making them uncomfortable?

I’m not suggesting you don’t encourage your people, or develop relationships with them, or that you should try to make them dread going to work. What I’m suggesting is that the status quo is not acceptable. Your organization has to change to thrive – or even survive – over and over again. In order to make that change, people have to be dissatisfied with their current situation. They have to question what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. That is the mind-set that is constantly pushing against the way things are, and that has to start with the leaders.

If the leader is OK with the way things are today, all the employees will feel the same way. People will get complacent. Your organization will develop the belief that the way things are now is as good as they can possibly be. Change will be viewed as something to be avoided. And in the world we live in, that’s a death sentence for any business.

Matthew Burge

17:10 GMT 25.03.14