I have two big-time gamers in my family—my kids Saunders and Mary Jane. Looking through the lens as an entrepreneur and coach, I see a powerful lesson from my kids’ gaming experience that applies to career achievement. Gaming provides a metaphor for making the most of life and reaching our potential. You struggle, you work through it, you have a breakthrough, you grow. And then to keep growing, you level up.
Four Steps to Reaching the Next Level:
Step One: Embrace the Struggle and Stay in the Game
There’s a level of frustration my kids always reach when they keep getting taken out at the same stage in their quest. They either give up or they keep going until they have a breakthrough. It’s terrific practice picking themselves up and getting right back at it when they fail.
A career as a sales pro can be just as stimulating as my kids’ digital conquests. Say someone on your team is stuck or struggling. Maybe they’re consistently stymied when potential customers offer a particular objection or other sales-stopping moment. Or they’re having trouble leading others to the best solution because they’re not settled on the best solution themselves. Lead them to see that it’s beneficial to push into something that’s hard—otherwise, they won’t have the courage to break through and make it to the next level. That kind of success is addictive! Turn your team members’ career growth into a game. Quantify something in their current level of performance so they can determine what the next level looks like for them.
Step Two: Get the Cheat
The nicer word is the “walkthrough,” but any way you slice it, this is a shortcut. When my kids get stuck on a level and become sufficiently frustrated, they’ll ask me to Google the walkthrough. In this hyper-connected era, a simple Internet search pulls up expert advice on how to beat a level and move on. In my day, this would’ve been called cheating, but now it’s just seen as the most efficient way to keep moving forward.
I won’t go too far into assessing the relative merits of each generation’s approach to gaming, but I will say this: In general, I’m all for leveraging other people’s experiences and knowledge. Why reinvent the wheel when someone already has it figured out? If one of your sales pros has plateaued or is stuck on some aspect of your team’s culture that’s just not working for them, encourage them to find the walkthrough. Suggest articles on the subject and empower them to seek out peers who have experience and success in the areas where they’re lacking. Be willing and available to mentor them. Lead them to copy those who have been successful. It’s simple, but it works!
Step Three: Celebrate Victory
My kids, like any good gamers, have the ultimate goal of beating the game they’re playing. But it’s a big deal to them whenever they move from one level to the next because it represents real progress.
When one of your sales pros has a breakthrough, take a moment to celebrate. This could be a one-to-one affirmation that you see the significance of what just happened, or it might warrant huddling up with the whole team so everyone benefits from some camaraderie and new insight. Have them jot down what they did to achieve success and what the larger effects are so they have a roadmap for themselves and others showing what worked.
Step Four: Level Up
When something that was once hard becomes easy for one of your team members, they have a choice to make. Do they want to level up and embrace the next challenge or stay where they are? As their leader, raise the bar for them. Empower them to pursue new successes, and equip them for new challenges. When they’re in a struggle, but not quite to their panic zone where they say “I can’t do this,” then they’re growing.
As far as I’m concerned, real life happens at this point. It’s never time to rest on our laurels. Your role as a leader is to consistently support your team members in taking their performance to the next level. Support them at all stages: the struggling, working through it, breaking through, and growing. And to level up: Lather, rinse, repeat.