No, not that space. This is actually a photo of my brother in law Steve who once set the record for hours walked in space, but hey, records were meant to be broken.
The space I’m referring to is a brilliant phrase coined by a client of mine, the president of a sizeable industrial products company.
On a recent coaching call we talked about how the best sales managers he knows learned to operate in space. When I asked him to explain he said these managers learned to think and manage in three dimensions, instead of being handcuffed by linear thinking. You might call it situational adaptation.
For example, a manager that is hired from another company where she did the same job would have two options for how to do the new job. One option is to fairly quickly apply proven processes, do some training, and make sure people get it. That approach usually requires constantly hitting the compliance reset button.
Another option is to carefully observe the new environment over time, ask and learn a lot, process all of the inputs, then make conclusions about people, processes, about how things get done, whatever. Maybe involve people in the solution design. Eventually set a course and consistently lead it.
This made me think of someone I know who took a new job with a title similar to one he had in the past, but with a company that was in a wildly different industry than any he had experienced. The worst thing he could have done was quickly apply processes, frameworks, systems, etc. that he used in previous positions to this new environment. Looking back we both believe he would not have survived. Instead, he was patient in coming to conclusions yet aggressive in absorbing everything around him. His superior and colleagues say he’s made an incredible impact at this company in a very short couple of years.
It also made me think about the careers of some musicians. Neil Young didn’t seem interested in making Harvest 2 and Harvest 3 and 4 and 5 as much as he preferred to create new works like Live Rust (1979 with Crazy Horse), Trans (1982), Broken Arrow (1996), Everybody’s Rockin (1983 with the Shocking Pinks). Compare those to Silver and Gold or Comes a Time. Same with Bob Dylan. Compare Blonde on Blonde (1966) to Oh Mercy (1989). By contrast will Jon Bon Jovi be performing You Give Love a Bad Name at your local Holiday Inn in 2025? Sorry, I hear he’s a good guy!
In trying to figure out the secret formula here, this is as close as I‘ve come:
Operating in spacemeans you have learned how to learn.
This isn’t the same as what you’ve learned as in a body of knowledge, or how much you’ve learned about a subject or market. This is more about how you take the lessons and learnings of your past and apply them to new situations in your present. This is hard, but it isn’t hard like getting buy-in to something you did 3 times before at 3 different companies or forcing your process on a ‘skeptical’ group.
By definition isn’t every new rep that a sales manager hires an entirely new experience? Doesn’t that new experience demand a truly fresh, unbiased and tailored approach to being coached?
If you’re up for the challenge your impact could be outta this world.
Author, The Funnel Principle
Founder, Breakthrough Sales Performance
Soon to be released sales coaching book Blindspots: The Hidden Killer Of Sales Coaching