Episode 146: Kerry Campbell on How Sales Leaders Can Improve Organizational Health

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Kerry from Google join us. Kerry, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Kerry Campbell: Hi, my name is Kerry Campbell and I lead a global team supporting leadership enablement in Google Cloud Sales. I have a background in academic education as an English professor. That’s where I started, and I accidentally fell into corporate training in the area of project management in the beginning. Since then, I’ve led learning and development initiatives across the gamut, including sales enablement, technical enablement, leadership development, culture, and diversity and inclusion initiatives as well.

Then on top of that, I’m also a visual artist and poet. I do have a certification in instructional design and organizational development, as well as project management. I like to bring everything across all of those different dimensions in terms of my experience and background into anything that I’m doing.

SS: I love that. Those are gorgeous paintings behind you, by the way. I’m so excited to have you here. As you mentioned, one of your areas of expertise is leadership development for aspiring sales leaders. I’d love to get your perspective, Kerry, what are the key skills or attributes that make sales leaders successful?

KC: There’s this thing that happens a lot in this particular space where someone who made a great sales rep winds up in a manager or leadership role, because they were a good sales rep. But it is a completely different thing that you are doing when you are a sales leader. It’s not really about providing accurate forecasting reports to upper management or filling the pipeline, for example. True sales leadership is about supporting and enabling your people to shine and bring their best to work and everything that they do.

That’s not only in how they show up for their colleagues, but it’s also in supporting your people in how they show up and serve your customers. Sales leaders set the vision and the strategy, and then they mentor, coach, and inspire their team to achieve success together. Ultimately, that success is how do we support our partners in supporting our customers to achieve their goals.

SS: Absolutely. I think you’re spot on. One of the reasons I reached out to you is because of your background and your expertise with regard to culture and in particular also DE&I. Sales managers can have a very strong influence on culture, particularly within the sales organization and among their teams. How can sales enablement prepare and support managers to ensure that the managers are fostering a healthy sales culture?

KC: One of the key things about that is psychological safety. As a sales rep, you need to be able to feel safe to take risks. You need a sales manager and sales leader who’s willing to support you in thinking outside the box with the customer, taking risks in terms of how we actually bring a solution to that customer, and how to think creatively. To me, a healthy sales culture requires taking risks, it requires being vulnerable, and it requires pushing yourself and even the customer outside their comfort zone to envision these big goals and transformation and what they can achieve and execute on.

For instance, at Google Cloud, we seek to provide value to our customers and supporting them to solve their most important business problems while painting a vision of the future for their digital transformation. We want to be that partner with them to help them create that vision of their future and transform your business. If you can’t think big or have a grand vision or be able to tell a story around what is possible, you’ll remain in the mind of “it’s impossible” and then nothing will happen. Therefore, it’s very important from a culture standpoint to provide a psychologically safe environment where people feel that they can take the risks, they can be vulnerable, they can push themselves in what in order to really get to that big impact.

SS: That’s fantastic. On the other side of that conversation, one key aspect of a healthy culture is diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure that all employees feel a sense of belonging. I’d love to hear from you, what can sales managers and leaders do to nurture DE&I efforts on their teams in a really meaningful and authentic way?

KC: The one thing is really to be an authentic leader, to show up in your full self and to show your own vulnerability. People follow leaders based on the example that they set. Sales leaders should encourage a healthy sales culture by coaching their teams to lean into those risks, demonstrating psychological safety, being consistent, being transparent, being a trustworthy leader, and showing up in a way where people can believe that you’re authentic and real and legit and can be trusted.

When it comes to diversity and belonging, that means many different things. It’s not just diversity of the people around you who bring different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, but it’s also about diversity of thought, so being open and curious, honoring each person as who they are, valuing what they bring. Most importantly, as a leader, proactively seeking to create a team where diversity is built-in by design. It’s not a homogenous group that looks and thinks like you, but a diverse group of gender orientation, backgrounds, voices, etc.

At Google, we have a concept around hiring that is called culture-add versus culture fit. Instead of looking to hire someone to “fit the mold”, seek to find candidates that can add something unique, different, valuable that isn’t necessarily reflective on what other folks on the team may already be bringing. In that regard, not only is it building a diverse team, but it’s also leveraging the diversity in the team and it’s asking for people to contribute their voices, to share their experiences, to honor what people are bringing to the conversation and being open and curious to what everybody could potentially bring that makes you stronger in the end, that makes you able to bring something more innovative to the customers.

If you’re all thinking and looking at act in the same, you’re just like everybody else. When you’re out there in a competitive situation and everybody else is looking like everybody else and speaking like everybody else and doing like everybody else, how are you differentiating yourself? Diversity and inclusion is one of those key ways that you can actually build a culture and a team and relationships with customers that are different.

SS: I love that. I think that you have very strongly articulated the business value and why DE&I should be a top priority for all organizations this year. Now, to pivot a little bit, in addition to your work developing sales leaders, you also write about topics focusing on individual professional development and growth. In one of your articles, you talked about the importance of taking time to do nothing, which I love, and I wish I could have more time to do because in today’s fast-paced world and with everything virtual, I feel like there is immense pressure to be productive. What is some of your advice for how to maintain productivity without burnout in this particular environment that we’re all living in right now?

KC: Yeah, it’s tough times. People are on these video calls all day long and sometimes, their work-life is bleeding all over into their regular life. Yet, you hear sort of this emphasis on wellbeing, wellbeing, wellbeing, but at the same time you hear this emphasis on productivity, productivity, productivity. Then, you’re sort of caught in the middle. I used to be someone who was just fully focused on producing results, all about results, results, results. In a sales environment, especially when you have quota that you’re trying to attain, it’s an extra driver on top of just being results-oriented, generally speaking.

The thing with being unproductive is taking the time out to give yourself space to breathe and do absolutely nothing. That can be sitting in the sun for five minutes. That can be taking a couple of minutes to just doodle aimlessly on a piece of paper. Anything that can give you some separation. Being unproductive actually recharges your batteries. It actually also helps facilitate creativity because when you’re so busy doing, doing, doing, there’s a lot of noise and chatter going on. When you separate and spend time to do nothing, suddenly, things can come out of thin air. You had a problem that you couldn’t solve and suddenly a creative idea comes to mind. Well, that’s because you had space focusing on doing absolutely nothing. That can bring in other things for you as well.

The title of that article you’re referring to is “Why Do I Stare Idley Out the Window and Do Other Unproductive Things”. I will actually stare out the window literally and space off and daydream. I will schedule it into my calendar sometimes where I’m like, “this is my do-nothing time.” I’m walking outside, and I am going to go sit under that tree for 10 minutes and I’m going to do nothing. I literally give myself permission to do that. You’ll begin to shift some perspectives on some things where you’ll find that being unproductive actually sets you up for being more productive.

Number one, it recharges your batteries. Number two, some creative idea can drop out of the sky for you. Number three, you’re connecting to life, the world, joy – whatever feeds you, you’re connecting to it. Then, you’ll start to recognize that being unproductive is a very important thing that supports and honors your wellbeing. You’re going to do more of it. Then you’ll get to the point where you’ll start to be able to decipher more between being productive and driving for results versus just pushing paper around or doing things that don’t really need to be done, or you’ll find that there’s a line where it’s like, “I have done enough. It doesn’t need to be 110% perfect. I have done enough. I am complete with this. I’m moving onto my next thing.” All those sorts of things can start to positively become a result out of you investing some time in just being unproductive.

SS: I love that notion of doing nothing so that you can be more productive and focused when you are back at work. You also wrote an article about courage. Kerry, I’d love to hear from you, what does courage look like in the workplace and how can it help professionals grow in their own career?

KC: Courage is being willing to take risks. Courage is leaning into the unknown. Courage is embracing others and your relationships with others. What kind of ways do you look at people? Do you look at them as your colleagues are here to add more work or take your job? Or are they here to add to your success? Courage is about having conviction and faith that things will work out. Most of all, courage is you accepting your responsibility and your part in your experience, both in the workplace where your career goes and in your personal relationships. Ultimately, courage is about self-discovery and owning your life and taking a stand for that in the workplace.

I am going to honor my colleagues. I’m going to honor their diversity. Whoever they are, wherever they come from, I’m going to leverage their strengths. I’m going to see them as a value-add. I’m going to lean in. I’m going to have faith that things are going to work out and I’m not going to stress out so much about controlling it, and it has to be this one way, or it has to go this certain way or it’s going to be a failure. I’m going to be open to different things arriving in the way they arrive. I’m going to take a responsibility for my part in it. I’m going to embrace the unknown. In this particular time that we’re in, change is just a constant. The only constant in nature is change, and you know what, I’m just going to ride that wave instead of fighting it.

These are all the things about courage. It’s not only finding courage within, but then it’s also going out into the world and engaging in the world from a place of courage. Basically, it’s walking in the uncomfortable zone and getting comfortable with discomfort and leaning in and being willing to take risks, try new things, fail, and learn from your mistakes. I think if we could all learn to be just 1% more courageous, that would go a long way. There are times where I will challenge myself. I will give myself a BHAG. A BHAG stands for big, hairy, audacious goal. I will throw something out there that’s just way out there. That’s something I would be too scared to do. I just say, “I’m going to give myself a BHAG and I’m just going to go for it.” That’s my practice in being 1% more courage than I normally do, or in this case, maybe it’s 100% more courage than I normally do, but there’s no attachment to it. Because it’s a BHAG, it’s I have no attachment to the outcome, but I’m going to have the courage and the bravery to go give it a try. Then, I learned things from that experience and lots of times when I go for that BHAG, I actually achieve it. Then, that becomes, “wow, look what I’m capable of, and if I hadn’t taken the courage to even put something down and to go for it, I wouldn’t have even built my courage to get it done.”

Find your courage practice. Then, the more you develop that skill, the more and more you’ll embrace it as your standard way of living, and the more and more you embrace the courage in the way that you live, and the more fantastic your life can become.

SS: I love that. I think you’re right. I think failure is often the fastest way to learn, but it takes a lot of courage to be willing, to put yourself out there to potentially fail. Thank you so much, Kerry. I’ve learned so much in this podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.

KC: Thank you very much.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you want to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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