How to Be a Leader

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By: Katie Benson, Director of Expansion for Xperience

The challenges you are thrown and the situations you experience as the LEADER of your team are many in number! It’s tempting to think every interaction would go perfectly if we didn’t have one audacious variable in the mix. Can you guess what it is?


Yes, we work with people. People are unpredictable, people have moods, people fall into victim mode, people have lives and life shows up.

As the leader, it’s important to not only keep your emotional reaction to people between the lines, you are also responsible to move them through their challenges quickly without telling them all the answers or solving their problems for them. 

We’ll discuss some tactical ways to move your people through their “stuff” quickly, without enabling and without making them codependent on you!  

New Coach/Leader Syndrome

Many of us, no wait NONE of us, came into this world being a great coach. That skill is most certainly learned and honed over time. It takes more self-control and willpower from you as the coach and leader than it does from the person being coached.

In the sales industry, we tend not to exhibit passive personalities. Therefore, it can be challenging to not choose the quickest way to resolution. Because most of us consider ourselves “problem solvers”, it can be quite challenging to not solve the problem quickly. 

Every successful leader I know has a very fierce commitment to their MISSION IN LIFE! In fact, I cannot identify one great leader that wouldn’t stand up and fight for what they believe in. 

With that being said, I’m going to share with you what coach Kate Patulski shared with me.

Coach Kate: “Katie, your fierceness which some may call, well ya know, ‘bitchiness’ can be used in very resourceful ways to accomplish your mission.”

ME: “Awwww thanks coach.”

COACH KATE: “It can also be used in very unresourceful ways! It can be used in ways that could make people feel run over, not heard, dismissed, unimportant, stressed out, emotional, and a little like they’ve had their legs chopped off.” 

ME: “Oh….” 

It’s funny to me now and she had a very good point that I think relates perfectly to our topic of discussion today…

When you’re first given a position or a role, you have a title right? John Maxwell talks about this as “level one leadership.” You have a title, yet that is all you have. With that title, you now have the BIGGEST, TOUGHEST, most SUBSTANTIAL CHALLENGE in front of you! Gaining the TRUST and RESPECT of your followers! If you cannot gain influence with your people on your team, they will not follow you. If there is even ONE of your people that doesn’t see VALUE in working with you, coaching with you, or following you, THEY WILL NOT STAY! If you’re a Director of Sales and you cannot build influence with the people that you lead. you will not be in that role for long. If you are polarizing or come across as talking down to others, you will not remain in your role as a Director of Sales.


What are the 3 primary jobs of a Director of Sales?

  1. Coaching agents into production

  2. Growing the team with talent

  3. Doing the production yourself if there is a gap between goal and actual 

Tactical ways to gain influence quickly with your team 

  • Show that you care: Take an interest in them both personally and professionally. Show that you care first, because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, right?

  • Be competent at your craft: They will know and believe in your ability to help them. Quite honestly, this one will make or break you! It’s your validity as the leader! CEO of Xperience, Chris Suarez always talks about how it’s leadership through production first and then leadership through others. First, we gain respect from our team for what we have done and then we gain respect from our team for what we help them do!

  • Show up when you say you will show up: Things happen. Come hell or high water (unless you are on your deathbed) you never ever leave people hanging – ever! One of our Boise partners, Heather Skow, said this last year during a  leadership development session, “Leaders are consistent.” Leaders are consistent in showing up, they’re consistent in their production, they’re consistent in their schedule, they’re consistent in their lead generation, they’re consistent in their moods, they’re consistent in their reactions. 

  • Don’t enable your people by providing all the answers: Aren’t we supposed to answer our people’s questions to help them along?” Yes, yes, and yes, you are. However, there is a distinct difference between allowing people to show their brilliant resourcefulness in figuring it out and making the problem/question/challenge go away quickly by just giving the answer, solving the problem, or doing the activity for them. If you do, you are effectively stealing their growth opportunity! What are you some kind of growth pig? I’m kidding, of course. The easy way out is to just give them the answer, and in doing so we create our own problems. 

Have you ever thought of one of the following statements?

“OMG it never stops”

“Good grief, am I the only one that knows what to do around here?”

If you’ve ever felt like you can’t even leave the office for 4 hours without voicemails, text requests, and long question emails piling up, this is for YOU! 

You’ve created that reality by being the PERSON with all the right answers! Congratulations, you wanted to be needed and now you are. You will also burn out very quickly as a leader unless you create interdependence in your people. 

Now, there is a difference between true training and enabling. 

Training happens when somebody has never done an activity before.  There are absolutely legitimate times where you should just answer the question.

That said, can you think of a situation when you shouldn’t just answer the question? How about when it’s the same question they’ve asked you previously? If that happens, what might a resourceful response sound like? 

  • “Hmm good question, what do you think?” 

  • “If you were me, how would you answer that?” 

  • “If I asked you that same question, what would your plan of action look like?” 

  • (WITH A SMILE) “I MAY be having dejavu and yet I feel like we MIGHT have gone over this before… If we HAD gone over this before…what response did we come up with together?” 

When they do come up with a resourceful response:

  • “See, I knew you had the answer!” 

  • “Look at your knowing how to (whatever it is)!” 

  • “Wow, I just have to stop and compliment your resourcefulness on this one!” 

This is how we communicate that we believe in our people’s brilliance, in our people’s ability to figure things out! This is how we cultivate interdependence.

What’s another situation in which we shouldn’t just answer the question?

  • When the growth opportunity is an internal thing.

  • When you hear absolutes like “never” and “always.”

  • When you hear limiting beliefs like “can’t”.  

This is where assumptions are incredibly dangerous! Never, ever, ever, assume that you know what people are thinking, feeling, or experiencing! There are ways to broach the subject without assumptions.

Let’s look at some examples of the above

  • I didn’t do my LGL last week because…

  • I couldn’t make it to the team meeting

  • I can’t get anyone to give me the time of day

  • No one ever attends my open houses 

  • I just never have any luck with door knocking!

  • I can’t cold call

  • I am terrible at networking 

  • Nobody wants to talk with me

  • I never have enough time

Let’s just agree on one thing, if you assume you know WHY they are thinking, feeling, or experiencing whatever it is, then you are already at a disadvantage! You are already solving their problems for them and you are already stealing their growth opportunity! 

Remain in curiosity! 

In fact you can do that with a ONE WORD response:


OR 2 words

“What happened?”

Or 3 words

“Tell me More”

Or 4 words 


Or 5 words 

“Tell me more about that”

If you assume you know it’s because they fell off their time blocks, decided to party rather than prepare, chose to stay up late and sleep in, didn’t practice enough, didn’t execute enough action, whatever it is! EVEN IF YOU ARE RIGHT, you label them and judge them all in one sentence and the impact on the person is extremely negative.

If you remain in curiosity, talk less and ask more questions, you compliment their brilliance, you empower them, and you create resourceful human beings around you that are able to deal with a broader scope of challenges WITHOUT YOU!

Understand that they will tie that feeling of empowerment TO YOU!  Be careful here, it is tempting to have all the answers and that is not coaching and that is not leading. 

EMPOWER YOUR PEOPLE to be resourceful and not only will you reap huge reward in the form of time, you will also create longevity with the people on your team because no one leaves an ENVIRONMENT in which they are GROWING! No one leaves a leader who believes in their brilliance and resourcefulness!