“Take a two-hour walk and really deeply ask yourself, where are you going to be more rewarded either sort of being the boots on the street creator or the person who sort of architects and guides other people’s creativity.” – Jeremey Donovan in today’s Tip 502
Is there a trade-off between being an individual contributor?
Join the conversation below and learn more about Jeremey.
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Scott Ingram: You’re listening to the Daily Sales Tips podcast and I’m your host, Scott Ingram. Today’s tip comes from Jeremey Donovan after we finished recording an episode together for his Hey Salespeople Podcast. If you don’t already know Jeremey, he is the head of sales strategy and operations at SalesLoft, and in addition to being a podcast host, he’s written five books including How to Deliver a TED Talk and Predictable Prospecting. Here he is:
Jeremey Donovan: I actually spent the last week in extremely deep thought, trying to answer a particular question. And the question was, is there a trade-off between being an individual contributor? So in the world of sales that can be an account executive or in the world of Sales Operations that could be Sales Strategy at what have you individual contributor versus being quote-unquote a leader. Is there any trade-off? Can you do both? Can you be a player-coach? And I was reflecting on my career and I’ll be turning 47 and a couple of months.
So I was reflecting on my career and I had a phase of my career. First phase, like most people are like I was an individual contributor and I loved the learning and the technical work. I was an engineer originally and then an analyst. And that’s all I had time for and it was great because my interests were aligned with where my time was.
I had a next phase of my career, where I moved into a series of leadership roles, managing larger and larger and larger teams. And I was incredibly rewarded by teaching other people to be leaders, but also handing them juicy projects that allowed them to develop their own technical acumen. And I had a long run of that. Probably each of those were ten-ish, eight to ten year, eight-year runs of each one of those things.
And then something happened to me in the last two years, which is, I thought I could do both. I thought I could be a player-coach. Both as an individual contributor doing like high leverage individual contributor work, I should say. For example, building AI ML-based forecasting algorithms or territory, assignment algorithms, super interesting technical work that challenged me every day. And at the same time, I was leading several large teams in what I do. And I thought I could be a player-coach. And I hit this interesting kind of wall, which was, there is a point and I’ve talked to, I had to talk to a few friends in the last week that there is a point where the individual contributor high leverage work can get in the way of the amount of time that you have. Cause that is the ultimate right nonrenewable asset.
There is a point where that you’re so sucked into the technical side of the work and things become so important and urgent that you don’t have the proper time to coach and delegate and listen and guide and make decisions. And I found myself really uncomfortable with that. I felt I had let down members of my team who I could have coached to be stronger than they were because I was focused on these other things. So I don’t think there’s a right answer. I’ll put in there also that I don’t think there’s a right answer about whether like the individual contributor thing versus the leader thing is right.
In fact, I asked on LinkedIn recently where people stand and 40% of people said, given the choice, if compensation were no different. 40% would be AEs, 60% would be sales managers. And probably a lot of those sales managers want to be sales manager just because of like the external recognition of that. You know, I’m sort of past that in age that I don’t, I don’t need that mantle, that trophy or whatever. I’ve already got it on the shelf. So I can sort of choose which I want to pursue but there’s the epiphany and I know we’re about at the five-minute mark. So what I would just implore people to do is put your phone down, take your headphones out, leave him behind, go for a walk, which is what I did. I took two hour walks every day for the last week, take a two-hour walk and really deeply ask yourself, where are you going to be more rewarded either sort of being the boots on the street creator or the person who sort of architects and guides other people’s creativity. And that’s the thing you need to think about because there is a trade-off at the highest ends of performance on both of those things.
Once you’ve done that. Be sure to come back tomorrow for another great sales tip. Thanks for listening!