Help Others by Helping Yourself: How to Prioritize Your Mental Health as a Sales Leader
Managing a team of people can be challenging when you work in a demanding arena such as sales, where ambitious targets drive your work. After all, a high-performing team is only as healthy as its leader, and it can be easy to forget also to take care of your mental well-being.
Once upon a time, management was about ensuring rules were adhered to and that there were incentives–and punishments–for deviating from the script. Sometimes known as "fear-based management", this approach makes people feel like they're part of a machine. The rules and regulations can give the impression of control but make it hard for managers to trust their teams or for anyone to understand their purpose.
A Sales Health Alliance (SHA) survey of 300 sales professionals found that two in five salespeople reported struggling with mental health, which is double the average rate for the general workforce. This kind of toll doesn't just have a human cost, but using data from Deloitte and a BBC report, SHA calculated that mental health could cost a sales team around $2,500 per rep per year.
The key to getting your best performance (and providing support for your team) is to consider developing your emotional intelligence. As a skill, it accounts for nearly 90 percent of what sets high performers apart from those who operate with similar skills. In addition, it improves your management skills and those of your team. We’ve aligned with the founder of Sales Psyche, Chris Hatfield, to demonstrate how you can help others in your team by helping yourself as a leader.
Know who you are and where you stand–to get to where you want to be
It sounds like a no-brainer, but the best way to bring out the best in other people is to ensure you're able to bring out the best in yourself. Self-awareness is a professional superpower that helps open up communication and understanding of your team.
One easy way to do this is by ensuring you have 360-degree feedback, where you assess your performance alongside the opinions of your bosses, other leaders, and your direct reports. Cultivating a culture of open feedback gives you invaluable insight into your own performance and how you align within your business.
Feedback loops should be something other than one-off; think of it as training. You wouldn't train for a marathon with one super-charged workout on the treadmill and run 26 miles. Instead, it's strength-building and giving you time to recover. The key is building resilience so your team can have faith, trust, and respect in you as a leader.
Lead by example, and prioritize self-management
In high-stress situations, it's easy to become fundamentally reactive rather than responsive and constantly feel like you're putting out fires. Unfortunately, this kind of constant stress is a leading trigger for professional burnout.
The good news is that the more in tune you are with your emotional intelligence, the easier you can move from being solely reactive to proactively responsive. Chris emphasizes that understanding your emotional triggers is an important way to help manage your stress levels.
“The key to self-regulation is being an observer of your emotions, rather than reacting to them. Try the 90 second emotional rule to become more mindful of this. All emotions are signals, not threats.”
Simple tricks like pausing, catching a breath and collecting yourself before responding can help you to understand your emotions and be more intentional and thoughtful in the face of stress.
Consider prioritizing effective planning and the wrapping up of your day so that instead of being launched blindly into a new day or week, you can see where you need to focus your attention. Teams that see their leaders doing this will often follow suit, leading to a more organized, efficient, and effective team. Our partners at Sales Psyche offer a helpful template where you can prep for the day, wrap up the day, and ensure nothing gets lost in the day to day.
Develop empathy as a team mentality
Strong leaders understand their team's feelings and perspectives so that they can more effectively communicate and collaborate with their team. Global leadership development firm DDI has ranked empathy as the number one leadership skill. Leaders who can master empathy perform 40 percent more in coaching, engagement, and decision-making.
Empathy is a great way to approach any team conversation, so you can connect rather than feel like you constantly have to chase. Even in the face of conflict, empathy can help you adequately address issues as they happen, even in the face of conflict, and saves time wasted on gossip and other team demotivators.
We all know the adage about walking a mile in someone’s shoes, but Chris stresses the significance of approaching conversations with people the way you’d like to be approached.
“Be mindful to look to understand someone’s intention and their approach to a situation, before trying to challenge or correct it. Most people will often have good intentions, but perhaps their actions are what need tweaking. Seek to understand, then be understood.”
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 72 percent of employees ranked "respectful treatment of all employees at all levels" as the top factor in job satisfaction. Empathy will help you connect on a human level with your human team and positively approach challenging situations.
At the end of the day, like all skills, emotional intelligence will not happen overnight, but leaning into it allows you the mental space to run the team and focus on the now as well as the future. Just as your team reflects on you, you are a reflection of your team, so the healthier and more able you are to take on the demands of your job, your team will be able to follow suit.