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Don't Fire Them, Fire Them Up

Motivate Yourself and Your Team

About The Book

Don't Fire Them, Fire Them Up is a real-world story of winning in business by motivating employees in the most positive way possible—nurturing them, showing that you value their accomplishments, and giving them the skills and the responsibility to become winners.

Frank Pacetta, the hard-working man who engineered the drastic performance turnarounds of Xerox's Cleveland and Columbos sales staffs, gives the reader the same techniques he uses to build a winning business team:

* How to develop trust and create loyalty
* How to generate enthusiasm and excitement
* How to establish feedback and accountability
* How to rebuild an organization, and then lead and energize it
* How to put the organization on top and keep it there year after year

This book is check-full of practical, proven tips on leadership and management, everything from motivation to communication to all the nuts and bolts of selling successfully. And Pacetta has included his Top Ten Tips (and created Ten More Top Tips), which were featured in The Wall Street Journal and which have been copied and posted on office bulletin boards across the country.


Chapter 1

Making a Statement: The Last Shall Be First

Cleveland gets a bad rap. As a city, it's the butt of snide jokes and gibes. But having spent four years in Dayton, Ohio, as an undergraduate at the University of Dayton and another ten working for Xerox in the Columbus area, I knew there was more to Cleveland than a river that used to catch fire and a baseball team that wouldn't.

Unlike some of my colleagues, who refused to consider a promotion and a transfer to Cleveland to run the district sales office, I jumped at the chance. Their reluctance stemmed in part from a misperception that they'd have to undergo a sacrifice of lifestyle to move to the "rust belt"; and they were wary of taking on a job that was widely regarded around Xerox as Mission Impossible. It wasn't that I was bolder or more visionary. The fact was, I would have gone anywhere for a chance to run my own show. I was prepared, confident, and determined to succeed.

Having said that, let me add that I had no idea what I was getting into. First, I agreed to leave my position as a district sales manager in Minneapolis (the number two position at that time) and only then did I thoroughly investigate the situation in Cleveland. Talk about leaping before you look.

Even so, had I done hours of research in advance, I still would have eagerly accepted the assignment. Theoretically, the Cleveland office should have been able to run neck-and-neck with any other Xerox operation in a comparable metropolitan area. It was doing about $56 million in revenue. With a central city population on the order of 500,000 people, and responsibility for much of northeastern Ohio as well, we should have been at least keeping abreast of places like Columbus and Cincinnati. Theoretically.

At that moment, though, of the eleven sales districts in Ohio, and sixty-five nationwide, Cleveland was dragging along near the bottom. I later learned that its reputation had sunk so low that in the mid-1980s when Xerox began pushing "Leadership Through Quality," the formula that brought the corporation back from the brink of death, major customers in Cleveland thought it was a big joke. Looking back, one of them acidly commented that our marketing strategy was to "sell by confusion."

When I got a look at the data, all the indices that I checked showed that the district richly deserved its infamy as a basket case. Even so, I spent my last days in Minneapolis planning ways to create a game plan and a mind-set that would put Cleveland back on top in the midwestern region and into national competition with bigger districts like Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and Denver. Raising the bar -- my favorite expression -- had begun, and I hadn't even set foot in the office yet!

Make Changes Immediately

I believe in the power of personal example. You can rant and rave and threaten, but the most effective way to get results is to show someone what you want done. On my first day in Cleveland it was clear that I had to reestablish the work ethic. I had reps and managers camped out in the coffee shop on the ground floor of our building at ten or eleven o'clock in the morning. I immediately put the place off limits. Not by posting a "Keep Out!" sign, but by making it perfectly clear that a long, leisurely breakfast was a thing of the past.

I was at my desk the first day -- and every day -- by 7:00 A.M. The management staff didn't have to be charter members of Mensa, the society of geniuses, to know that it made sense for them to roll in at about the same time. The reps who reported to them quickly got the picture, too. The office was up and running by 7:30 A.M. Anyone lingering in the coffee shop had to be afflicted with suicidal tendencies.

And that's an important point that must be made right here. The new manager doesn't need to arrive on the scene with a sharp ax and a chopping block. No matter how shaky the operation, the first order of business is to start doing business again. A reign of terror, an immediate housecleaning, is only going to get in the way of that objective. Set a blistering pace at the outset and there will be no confusion as to what each person needs to do to keep his or her job. When there is no ambiguity-and no alternative -- people usually either get with the program or select themselves out. The house cleans itself.

Here's tip number one, so get out your highlighter pen: Come in and make a statement. Put a stake in the ground with a can-do attitude that has no gray area whatsoever. The cavalry used to arrive with flags flying and bugles blowing. You are the cavalry.

It's a matter of leadership. My working assumption is that everyone wants to succeed. It makes sense, doesn't it? But why don't they succeed? There are three reasons: deficiency of skills, lack of desire, or poor leadership. Many times -- probably most of the time -- it's poor leadership. That's why on a sports team, when there's a losing streak, the coach gets fired, not the players. The players have the skills and the desire, otherwise they wouldn't have made the cut; what's missing is the direction, the coordination, the motivation that can only be provided by a leader. Making a statement early -- and I'm talking about an actions-speak-louder-than-words statement -- puts everyone on notice that the leadership vacuum has been filled. In itself, that's powerful and reassuring news. Even more important, though, is the central message of this truism -- if you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there. Troubled organizations don't have the faintest idea where they're going, and the uncertainty is corrosive.

Whether you see yourself as a coach or the cavalry, tell 'em where they're headed! That's job one.

A Choice and a Chance

By getting off to a fast start in Cleveland, I was providing leadership and a basic level of motivation, which amounted to "The train is leaving the station. Get on board or get left behind; the choice is up to you."

This can't be a bluff or flashy and meaningless rhetoric because the skeptics will opt to wait and see whether you're serious. The train can't leave tomorrow or next week; it's got to begin pulling out the moment you set foot on board.

Those who have climbed aboard will immediately be demonstrating whether or not their skills are up to the task. The longer the startup is delayed, the longer it will be before you as a manager and leader really have a complete understanding of the resources at your disposal.

If I've inherited the gang that couldn't shoot straight, the first thing I'm going to do is hold a little target practice. I want to know what I have to work with, and I want to know immediately! Training, guidance, extra supervision can all be applied -- that's what a leader is there for -- but not if I'm just guessing about who can hack it and who can't.

I can't stress it enough. Get a fast start.

Back to the Future

On day one in Cleveland, I scheduled a meeting of the entire sales operation. We had a small auditorium set up like an amphitheater in the lower level of our building that suited the purpose exactly. I wanted everyone to get the same message at the same time.

It was great to be back in Ohio again. I was so pumped up I couldn't sleep the night before. If nothing else, I wanted the group to leave the room feeling the same way. And I wanted them focused on these key points:

* Change was already happening.

* Expectations were set.

* Nonsense was out.

* The work ethic and the customer were in.

* People were going to enjoy working in Cleveland.

* We would be tough but fair.

There were forty-four people on hand, the entire sales and sales support operation; all the seats were full. The sales management team stood together against one wall, looking like the receiving end of a firing squad or a police lineup. The imagery was unfortunate since they were the sales managers who would be running the seven individual teams of account and sales reps; in effect, my combat platoon leaders.

Aside from brief one-on-one conversations with the managers, I had avoided holding separate meetings that excluded the troops. At that stage, it would have been a mistake to work within any sort of hierarchy. Trickle-down communications guarantee confusion and misunderstanding. Don't use intermediaries; keep the lines of communication short and simple.

Going into the meeting, the atmosphere was definitely tense and apprehensive. Even those who had been performing up to par were worried. Those who hadn't were having a very bad morning indeed. The whole group knew why I was there. Or at least, they thought they did.

The first order of business was to recognize the heroes. It is always the number one item on the agenda when I open a meeting. What's the point of breaking your butt if nobody notices? Twelve reps out of thirty-four had achieved their sales goals the previous year. Overall, it was a rotten record, but those twelve deserved to be commended. Ignoring their success would have been a major blunder. Praise doesn't cost anything and it yields big dividends. A paycheck, no matter how large, isn't enough.

If you're a manager and haven't thanked one of your people for doing a good job today, you either have a seriously ill organization on your hands -- one that doesn't merit any kind of praise, which I doubt -- or you're cheating those people, ripping off assets that they've worked hard to acquire. So put the book down and go out into the office, or pick up the phone if you're home or on the road, and tell someone that he or she did a good job and that you appreciate the effort.

Don't be surprised if they're surprised. My people certainly were. They weren't expecting those few minutes of recognition at the meeting. The culture of failure was so well established that even the winners saw themselves in a negative light. I asked for a round of applause. I wanted everyone to get a taste of how good it feels to win. When the applause died down, I stood there for a moment in silence. Then, without a podium or notes, I began to run through the statistics to establish that the Cleveland district sales office's performance had been poor for the better part of three years.

The figures were grim. One set in particular spoke volumes. It showed that the average order rate per rep was the lowest in the region, even though Cleveland was nowhere near the smallest district. The ranking was close to the bottom nationwide, as well. I'd gone back and benchmarked several districts to track how well they were doing in other categories and products. In each case, these comparisons revealed that Cleveland lagged far behind.

Then I told them, "That's history. That was yesterday." I wanted to establish two things: first, those people who had worked hard and done a good job, despite the overall showing, were not going to be lumped in with those who had done poorly; and second, I needed to demonstrate that redemption was not only a religious doctrine. Each of them had a second chance. All they had to do was reach out and take it.

"I expect each of you to pay the rent every month," I said. They knew what I was talking about. Xerox top management sets a minimum level of business -- we call it a plan -- that they anticipate from the seven regions and the roughly eight or nine districts that comprise each of them. Most regions, I should note, are geographic entities -- northeast, southwest, midwest, etc. -- although, in some cases, special regions that have nothing to do with location are set up to allow for t0est marketing or special projects. In either case, allocation of the plan is based on the district's performance over the previous three years, but the regional vice president is permitted to do a little fine-tuning to account for a district's unique circumstances. Once that happens, the plan is apportioned among the various management teams based on the number of existing accounts and likely prospects for new business. The plan is the basis for the reps' compensation. If they beat it, there are bonuses commensurate with the percentage of the extra margin. If they fall short, IOUs come due and the draws that have been paid out must be reimbursed depending on the size of the deficit. When the system works right, with all involved participating in drafting a fair plan, it accurately reflects a district's potential sales, rather than imposing an artificial quota.

By referring to achieving the plan as "paying the rent," I was signaling that from then on, just as every family has a budget that must be met each month to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead, there would be no room for reps and managers who didn't cover their share of the budget.

I announced that each manager would sign a binding contract with me committing him or her to a specific bottom-line figure and a course of action to achieve it in the next year. Then the reps would work with the managers to develop contracts of their own to insure that each team would make good on its promises.

Achieving the plan is like paying a cover charge at a fancy nightclub. You get in the front door, but to buy a few drinks and a steak dinner takes additional cash. The shrimp cocktail, the noisemakers, and the funny hats are all extra. Just making plan isn't enough. The object is to beat the plan to advance beyond a meager subsistence existence.

The system won't work, however, if management panics and imposes unrealistic expectations on a district. A classic error is to rely on past performance. Conditions in today's marketplace change rapidly. Booms can flatten out and bust within a matter of weeks. If you're not paying attention, or living in a dream world, the wake-up call comes in the form of hardworking managers and reps who are wildly undershooting their plans through no fault of their own. Since compensation-is based on achieving the plan, and exceeding it, the salespeople end up being deeply frustrated and demoralized.

Conversely, writing off a seemingly lackluster territory as a perennial loser doesn't take into account long-dormant business conditions that may be on the verge of blossoming again. To escape both of these traps, I've learned to be a statistical sponge. I want to know everything about the area in which I'm doing business; raw data, anecdotal evidence, analysis, gossip, even educated guesswork by the right people.

That's how, as I stood in front of the group, I knew that I was not asking the impossible. One look at the record told me that my new reps were not keeping pace with their peers in other districts in terms of the number of customer calls. They weren't getting out in front of the decision makers, and consequently, they weren't writing the business.

My rule is that if it is being done elsewhere, we can do it too and do it better. Cleveland's poor performance didn't have anything to do with inflated expectations. The opposite was true. Nobody was saying to the operation, "Just go do it! Just go do what they're doing in your sister districts!"

Salespeople are glib. That's why they've been hired. They can come up with a million reasons to explain why the deals aren't happening. Listen to them. Listen hard. Then look around at what other people are actually doing. Call a major account and ask when was the last time he or she heard from one of the competition's reps. Last week? Was your person in there last week? No. How long has it been? My feeling is that if the competition can work the block, so can we.

Xerox has a corrective-action program that I'll talk about later. It's very effective as a tool for catching and correcting substandard performance before the roof falls in. Yet, there were several people in Cleveland who had failed to make their plan for two or three years without being put into the corrective-action process. When I got there only one guy was on corrective action. One!

Does that tell you something? It told me that whatever the level of expectation -- inflated or deflated -- there were no consequences for failure. As a result, missing the plan was no big deal. If the boss doesn't care, why should they?

The Deadly Blame Game

What surprised me was that by January of 1988, when I arrived in Cleveland, the Leadership Through Quality (LTQ) Movement had really begun to take, hold elsewhere at Xerox. It was no joke. In many ways Cleveland s performance was atypical, almost a throwback to the bad old days. The Japanese were gobbling up the business at the low end by offering cheap, reasonably reliable copiers that robbed us of significant portions of our Market share. At the high end, Eastman Kodak was hammering away at an immensely profitable product line that until just a few years before had been our exclusive preserve. Cleveland's customers, large and small, were bailing out. They were sick of the erratic service and the headaches.

In turn, the account and marketing reps were mired in despair. There were a few stars, but most were running on autopilot and the plane was losing altitude fast.

Why? In a word, excuses.

Failure was somebody else's fault. The people in the Cleveland office saw themselves as victims of circumstances beyond their control. The workers blamed management; management blamed the workers. Together they faulted Xerox, the Japanese, the economy, even the city of Cleveland itself (not to mention Akron and Youngstown and Lorain).

Meanwhile, however, other districts were doing just fine. One difference was that aspects of LTQ were actually being implemented. Starting in 1982, when our CEO, David Kearns, decided that Xerox was headed for oblivion unless it reinvented itself, there had been a dramatic internal revolution. Gone was the poisonous attitude that a copier was a cranky, complicated piece of equipment that was prone to breaking down, costing a lot of money, and causing aggravation -- and the customer would just have to learn to live with it.

Kearns was heavily influenced by the ideas of management gurus W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, and Philip B. Crosby. He pushed, pulled, and prodded Xerox until a new definition of quality emerged that emphasized customer expectations and requirements as driving forces. To put it plainly, if customers had a choice of suppliers -- and with the arrival of the Japanese on the scene that certainly was the case -- the business would go to those who accurately identified and delivered what it was that really motivated the customer to purchase a particular product. Was it convenience? A low price? Cutting-edge technology? None of the above? All of the above?

This ongoing multiple-choice quiz challenges existing management practices by decreeing that those who get a passing grade today may well flunk out tomorrow if they do not continually monitor and satisfy customer requirements -- requirements that are constantly evolving in reaction to emerging technology and the changing marketplace.

Sounds simple. Yet LTQ and the generic quality movement as a whole are ruthless toward those who are uncomfortable living outside the status quo. It's one thing to talk about the need for constant change, improvement, and responsiveness to the customer -- and there was a lot of talk in Cleveland and in other parts of Xerox -- but another thing to actually live that way day after day. To many managers, LTQ was the equivalent of being a high-flying circus trapeze artist doing triple somersaults without a safety net.

My job in Cleveland was first to take down the net. Second was to reintroduce the triple somersault to their repertory through personal example. Third was to kick them off the perch.

Reversing the Downward Spiral

In some ways, Xerox handles marketing the way a wise combat commander conducts a firefight. If your troopers can't hold the ground, pull back to a defensible perimeter where you can reorganize and launch a counterattack. Cleveland's plan had been adjusted downward to provide achievable goals. And still the targets were being missed.

The same competent combat commander, the one who is willing to beat a strategic retreat, knows he'll soon have his back to the wall if he can't demand and enforce a minimum level of performance, like keeping weapons clean to avoid misfires. Before falling back again, he orders his NCOs to start inspecting. He inspects weapons himself.

What I'm doing when studying the statistics or contacting a major account is the equivalent of a weapons check. It's one thing if you're fighting like hell and still getting whacked; another if you don't even bother to load and lock. As a leader and manager you've got to find out what's going on and let everyone know exactly what has to be done to get back in the fight.

But that could take weeks, right?

No. I had a good sense of what needed to be done before I hit Cleveland. Working for Xerox helped, because the corporation keeps good records and believes in the value of statistical analysis, which is one of the key principles of Deming's version of the quality movement. If your company doesn't adhere to this practice, then in order to avoid the hazards of flying blind get on the phone and start asking this question: "What's wrong and how can you and I fix it?"

You'll get an earful from your customers. They know what's wrong. Outside suppliers of goods and services to your operation can also be helpful. Some of them have studied its strengths and weaknesses for years. Most will gladly share the information because your success is their success.

Start doing this homework before you take charge, otherwise you'll be sitting in the office studying your navel. When I walked in there, I knew the Achilles' heel of the district and had a good knowledge of each rep's performance. I wanted to show the importance of preparation no matter what the event. Sales is basically a three-step process. First, you have to identify the prospective customer; second, develop and convincingly present a proposal that will meet the customer's needs; and third, ask for the business. It all starts with preparation.

Here's what I did. I announced at the meeting that starting immediately, everyone, with the exception of analysts and other support staff, would turn in a weekly calendar to my assistant, Renée Smith, showing four sales calls a day. Everyone -- including Frank Pacetta.

I didn't demand four orders; the requirement was four calls a day. There were a few people who could do four calls in their sleep. But for the majority it was a different story. Coming up with four new names on Monday wouldn't be a real problem. Tuesday was probably going to be okay. Wednesday would be harder. By Thursday and Friday there'd be considerable stress and strain. I wanted to jump-start productivity. What they had been doing up until that point wasn't working. I needed to get the achievers onto their tiptoes, and prod the others to at least stand up and fight.

This was not merely an academic exercise. Here's tip number two: Never assume anything. I had a hunch that the basic day-to-day sales calls were not taking place. It was time to dig in. I was literally beginning at the beginning by challenging the most basic assumption of all. The requirement forced the managers and reps to get organized and start planning. As I said, of the three basic elements of sales, the first is to identify the prospective customer. To do that, reps would need to take a hard look at their territories instead of simply reacting opportunistically to whatever happened to come along. The low order and demonstration rates suggested that the crop failure was caused by not putting enough seed in the ground. Maybe that wasn't Cleveland's problem, and if it wasn't, I would see immediately that the hitch was occurring later in the cycle. At the rate of four calls a day -- twenty a week times forty-four salespeople -- we'd soon be up to our eyeballs in prospective customers. And everybody in the room knew it.

Dumb Questions, Smart Answers

I told them that I was going to look at their calendars and that I'd be around to ask each of them how the calls had gone. Pigpen, the disheveled character in the comic strip "Peanuts," lives under a perpetual cloud of dust. I have a swarm of question marks buzzing around me at all times, as my new district was beginning to discover. "How'd the customer react to the new product?" "Did you ask them in for a demonstration?" "How long until you crack the account?"

Questions, questions, questions. I'm reminded of the axiom "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies." I can reverse it: Answer my questions and I'll tell you the truth. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Sure, some people won't level with you. But the more you ask, the more you're able to evaluate the veracity of what you're hearing. Some executives believe that if they ask questions their subordinates will assume that they are not on top of the job. It intimidates them into silence -- and ignorance. There's only one stupid question, and it's the one you needed to ask anti didn't.

Historians report that Napoleon would arrive at a meeting or to inspect one of his units as the dumbest man there. He would proceed to ask questions by the dozens. He was never afraid to show lack of knowledge. When the meeting was over and Napoleon departed, he departed the smartest man on the scene, having absorbed everyone else's expertise.

I use questions, not only for their information value, but as a means to impose consequences. Remember, if there are no consequences for failing to achieve minimum standards, then those standards will not be met. In the case of the calendars, the question and consequence sequence goes like this:

"Why didn't you turn in your calendar yesterday?"

"Sorry, Frank, I got busy real early and didn't get around to it."

"Busy with what?"

"Uh, the Masterson Company account is starting to show signs of life."

"Great! In what way?"

"I got in to see one of the key guys unexpectedly."

"Who was that?

"Gerald Tyce."

"Is he interested?"

"Sort of, but he's not ready to go for anything yet."

"Set up a meeting for next week and I'll ride down there with you and see if I can help out."

Checkmate. Perhaps I was being told the truth to begin with. Perhaps not. In either case, being a pest with all those questions put me in a position, one, to know the truth about my rep, and two, to offer my support to develop and close a potential deal.

There was a consequence for the rep. He hadn't turned in his calendar and had to undergo a grilling from me. That was probably bad enough. If he was telling the truth, he realized immediately that in the future he'd be better off turning in the calendar rather than undergoing another third degree. If he wasn't, the charade put him perilously far out on a limb. Before I sawed it off, he would need to goose the Masterson account or generate some other piece of business. What's more, next week's calendar was more than likely to be on my desk right on time.

I expect and I inspect. A manager who doesn't is headed for trouble. The purpose of my first meeting in Cleveland was to lay out in the clearest, most straightforward fashion exactly what I expected. I don't want my people guessing. They'll get it wrong and it's not fair to them. In turn, my managers realized what I was doing and adopted the expect-inspect technique themselves. By cascading these lessons downward, you get everyone moving in the same direction.

I told the group that based on the record, they had lost the work ethic. We were going to rediscover it.

The time for doing business was 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. By that I meant doing business with the customer face-to-face. We were going to be out of the office during those hours. Preparation time, paperwork, team meetings, were all to be slotted before 8:30 A.M. or after 5:00 P.M.

All too often support functions get in the way of business. The job is to sell copiers, printing systems, and other products. Anything that interferes should be eliminated.

Like the calendars, that expectation was a way to jump-start the process. As a district manager, an office full of efficient bureaucrats is useless to me. Catching up on paperwork is an all-purpose excuse that takes salespeople out of the field. Even the best reps welcome the opportunity to burrow in and hide out. Sales can be grueling work. Nobody likes being told "...sorry," "...come back later," "...try next month"; the words vary, but it's still rejection, and you hear it day after day. Pretty soon a pile of paperwork begins to look good.

By restricting administrative and prep-work to the early morning or evening hours, I was also combating Parkinson's Law, which dictates that the work expands to fit the time available. If I'm going to have to use my personal time to fill out forms or prepare reports, you can bet I'm going to be a model of efficiency and speed.

Straight Talk

As I spoke, I had been clutching a black knitted ski cap in my left hand. I held it up so they could see the logo of a popular New York State resort. "This is where we're headed next year," I said. "I want all of you to join me there to celebrate. We're going to have one tremendous blowout. And you're going to deserve it because we're going to be back on top, where we belong." The ski cap was a symbol of the vision -- Cleveland the number one district -- and I carried that damned cap to every meeting that year.

Find some symbols and use them. When I brought that cap out, people knew what it meant without my having to say a word. And that cap was a little reminder of the way I work as a leader: those who give shall receive.

It's a lesson I will drive home in dozens of different ways throughout this book. I really do believe in asking "What have you done for me lately?" A rep or a manager could have been an outstanding performer last week or last month. But if it isn't happening today, it isn't happening. By the same token, he or she has a right to hold me to the identical standard. The ski cap symbolized that two-way commitment. Every time it appeared, it confirmed that I hadn't forgotten my promise or my expectations.

The trip to the ski resort was to be a payoff for what I knew was going to be several months of hard work. I made certain the staff understood what was coming -- good and bad. Changes were going to be made. The pace would be blistering. I couldn't guarantee that all of them would make it. I promised to work with them, train them, support them in every way. There would be a relentless pursuit of excellence.

The group didn't realize at the time -- it does now! -- that the ski trip was a window into my soul. I love to party, play air guitar, and sing the words to "American Pie." Although I was over thirty years old at the time, I was, and still am, a rock-and-roll rebel at heart. I got my MBA from Springsteen U.

As teenagers, my friends and I hung out in the summer at the Jersey shore rock joints where Bruce Springsteen played and was still our personal secret before the world caught on. His lyrics always struck me as a personal anthem calling me out from behind a desk and into the street where things were happening -- exciting, vibrant things, demanding to be tasted, felt, and lived. If the people in Cleveland heard it once, they heard it a hundred times -- "No retreat, baby, no surrender." In due course, it came to mean the same to them as it does to me: don't let anything stop you from reaching your goals.

Be Who You Say You Are

Honesty. Openness. Empowerment. Teamwork. I hammered hard on each theme for the rest of the meeting. I encouraged the reps to tell me and their managers what they liked and what they didn't like -- and to expect the same from us. Cynicism, backbiting, finger pointing would not be tolerated.

"Anybody who's any good who tries to quit and walk out of this place is going to be tackled by me before they hit the door," I vowed. And for those who couldn't hack it, I promised to tell them straight that they had gone as far as they were going to go, and to work with them to find other alternatives.

"You don't know me, so you're going to have to trust me on this," I said. "I insist that as a business organization we will be who we say we are. If we say that we will satisfy the customer-that's what we're going to do. The same thing works for individuals. I am who I say I am. And that's what I expect from you."

I was connecting. I could see it in the body language around me. In each row of seats there were several men and women leaning forward, their eyes glistening. They'd nod as I made my points. I could also see the disconnects -- just a few -- arms folded across their chests, chins lifted slightly as if to say "Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it."

Sadly, cynics never "see it" even when it's staring them in the face. And what I did that day was to deliberately lay out what was going to happen and what wasn't. A leader must give his people a vision that will motivate them to give their very best.

I told them flat out that in time Cleveland was going to be the number one district in the region. Number one. I predicted that our success would be so spectacular that one day books would be written about it.

Later, I heard that my vision had come as such a shock that many people figured I had lost my mind, or as one of them told The Wall Street Journal, "We thought he was on drugs or something."

Less than six months went by and the first prediction had come true. A year and a half later, reporter and author David Dorsey was working on a book about us that he entitled The Force.

Copyright © 1994 by Frank Pacetta

About The Author

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1, 1995)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780684800509

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