Want real change? Commit to being changeable!Article by Colleen Francis, October 25, 2023
There’s a fascinating coaching related story playing out in real time this Fall in US college football. It’s setting an example that every professional who cares deeply about their work—that includes you in sales—must follow. This is especially true during periods of great change like the ones we’re all experiencing these days.
It’s impressive enough that Deion Sanders—considered by some to be the greatest NFL cornerback of all time—is the only professional athlete in the world to have played in both a Super Bowl and a World Series. But if you ask me, he’s on the road to achieving something even bigger than that today as the NCAA football coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
TWO POWERFUL OBSERVATIONS
I see two important insights in the story of how Sanders (or “Coach Prime,” as he is often referred to) took a club with a dismal 1-11 record and is working to transform it into a promising team of champions. Both of these lessons must be applied to your work and your career if you’re committed to being a top-ranked performer in your field…and being just as committed to staying there.
You must choose change for yourself. When Coach Prime first joined the down-on-their-luck Buffaloes, he faced the players all at once and told them bluntly (and I’m paraphrasing only a little): you have a choice here…you can either commit to me and my way of coaching, or you can exercise your transfer option now and go to another college team. Most left. As one sports writer pointed out “(this is) the most dramatic Year 1 roster flip we’ve ever seen in the transfer portal era.”
That mass exodus was precisely the outcome Sanders wanted. Not only did it give him a fresh-start roster, it weeded out those who were more willing to change teams than to change themselves.
Both that strategy and outcome remind me of a how a recent client of mine successfully managed a tremendous amount of organizational change in a short timeframe. As with the losing-streak Buffaloes, many staff exited rather than opt to weather difficult in-house changes and retraining. But those who did stay survived…and thrived. The impact was especially noticeable with younger staff, who could see the example being set by older pros who’d made a renewed commitment to the organization. They found in each other the shared belief that the company would transcend a tough period, and that in doing so they’d all succeed together.
You must allow yourself to still be teachable. To dig deeper into this second insight, let’s look at why Sanders—a platinum level athlete who would have been welcomed anywhere in the NFL as a coach—opted instead to work with college football players. His explanation resonates just as much with sales as with sports: because too many performers when they become pros become uncoachable…and unteachable!
In sales, you must always remember that your true value to your employer (and recruiters alike) isn’t just measured by your track record of how much you’ve sold in the past. It’s assessed in present tense by your capacity to continue selling in record-breaking numbers…no matter how much change the future has in store for you. The only way you can weather that inevitable change—to persevere and thrive in it—is by being willing to learn new methods and let go of old ways of doing things. Put another way: if you’ve fooled yourself into believing that you don’t need coaching anymore, you’re denying yourself your own Deion moment. No Coach Prime for you. And that’s a tragedy, because let’s face it: your career in sales has the potential to be many decades longer than the limited amount of time you’d be playing college football.
BELIEF IS A CHOICE
Nobody can make you change. Only you can choose that for yourself. That begins with belief in yourself. And it extends to having that same belief in the success of your organization. You must want for yourself the ability to grow further and to be even more successful than you’ve been already. There’s no coach or trainer who can make that happen to you. But they can teach you how to get there, so that it happens for you. As Coach Prime points out, his players didn’t choose to just play football somewhere: “They chose me.” Those players are learning first-hand right now that believers find other believers. When they do, they form a team that’s forged in a commitment to each other and to themselves.
Will you choose that belief for yourself?