Prioritizing Your Team Over Yourself as a Leader with Sean MacPherson

In this episode of the B2B Leadership podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with Sean MacPherson, Vice President of Customer Success & Experience at Alyce.
In this episode...

0:21 - Sean's background -
Sean explains his role at Alyce.
1:12 - Company culture -
What are the biggest areas of focus at Alyce?
3:17 - A trip back in time -
How did Sean get into his first leadership position?
4:33 - Prioritizing the team over self -
When did Sean discover that he liked helping others more than himself?
7:25 - Helping others over time -
How did Sean's idea of teamwork evolve periodically?
10:09 - The 5 to 9 and 9 to 5 parallels -
How does Sean's track and field coaching correlate with his career?
14:07 - Adjusting to the big leagues -
What do you do when you go from being the best in your field to the worst?
17:19 - 8-week focus time -
How is that timeframe managed to get to each milestone?
20:30 - Breaking down tasks -
How should a breakdown be structured to measure your progress?
24:23 - A process that sticks -
What advice would Sean give somebody who lacks the strategy to implement bite-sized processes?
27:10 - Working backward -
Why is it easier to start at the end of a goal and work your way back?
29:54 - Creating goals without structure -
Do you focus on yourself? Do you try to influence other parts of the team? Where do you start?
34:19 - Sean's advice to himself -
What advice would Sean give to his younger self?

Connect with Sean MacPherson: https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanmacpherson/

Learn more about Alyce at https://www.alyce.com/

Learn more about your own leadership style at:
https://www.30dayleadership.com/

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This episode was brought to you by B2B Leaders Academy

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Being a great leader isn't hard, you just need a guide and the right set of tools. Head on over to b2bleadersacademy.com and become the leader you have always wanted to be.

Click here to learn more about B2B Leaders Academy.

What do track and field and leadership have in common?

In this episode, Sean shares how his experience on the track has helped him with leadership and how leadership has helped him on the track.

Keep reading to take away some important lessons that you can apply in your daily life as a leader.

Sean's background

Sean MacPherson is the Vice President of Customer Success and Experience at Alyce, a company working with B2B companies to help streamline, scale, and measure their gifting and swag programs across all the different lifecycle moments from marketing to customer success.

Sean is also a track and field coach at a local university in Boston and an endurance coach for many aspiring triathletes and runners of all ages.

Company culture

What are the biggest areas of focus at Alyce in terms of the company culture side?

Be more human with each other and give back to the community. These are the biggest areas of focus at Alyce.

People are all humans at the end of the day. Alyce values things outside of what is going on inside the company. They know it's important to learn things from both sides that impact the other.

Alyce embraces an environment that supports their people in learning about themselves and their job when they're not doing their job to allow them to learn from those experiences in their lives.

A trip back in time

How did Sean get into his first leadership position?

Sean shared that he was a captain early on in his collegiate track and field career. He wasn't the best performer on the team but he was focused on developing the people around him.

He was focused on helping his team realize their potential, set their goals, and triangulate them around him. He got more enjoyment out of watching his team hit their goals than himself individually hitting his goals.

And this translated into the same types of successful strategies he used to get into his first leadership position.

Prioritizing the team over self

When did Sean discover that he liked helping others more than himself?

Sean realized this back in a college track and field event called the 4x400 and 4x800 meter relay where you're on a team of four, and collectively, the results are based on the team's performance. He realized that it doesn't matter how good the individual does, what matters is how good the collective team does. At the end of the day, you win as a team, and you lose as a team because it's about the team, it's not about the individual.

Just like any other leader, Sean was not born with this skill. He had to learn it over time through failures as well.

Helping others over time

How did Sean's idea of teamwork evolve periodically?

Sean took those athletic learnings he had from his personal life to his professional life. He wanted to apply that same logic at work and wanted to figure things out even though he was in an individual contributor role.

When Sean started applying that same mentality he had from track and field, he started getting a lot of opportunities.

It's so important to lead by example to get into a leadership role.

The 5 to 9 and 9 to 5 parallels

How does Sean's track and field coaching correlate with his career?

It's goal setting and goal achievement.

In Sean's role as a track and field coach, he scouts and recruits new high-school athletes to join their team. Many of these new athletes think that they're the best at what they do when they enter college because they were at the top of their sport in high school.

A couple of months after starting, they begin to realize that they're in a new league and people around them are performing at a different level.

All of a sudden, they don't know how to catch up anymore. At this point, they become discouraged. This same scenario happens at work too.

Sean recalled that there was one athlete back then who experienced this exact scenario. In his first year, he joined the team thinking he could do the same things, be on the same path and it would all work out the same. He was top in the region in high school, then he went about his business that first year his own way.

Sean knew back then what was going to happen but he didn't put a plan in front of him. Sean let him fail. The athlete had to experience that pain first, to really realize and start buckling down, so he would adjust.

The athlete ended up getting last place in a race that he at the beginning of the year said he would be the first place in. He missed his goals. And that's when he started asking what was the problem.

The problem was he didn't have a goal. Because he didn't have a goal, he didn't have a plan to incrementally improve. Therefore, he got really overwhelmed by the end of the season.

Goal setting and goal achievement is a lifelong iterative process to get better and better in the beginning. You can't do it in just a day. It is an adjustment process.

Adjusting to the big leagues

What do you do when you go from being the best in your field to the worst?

You have to acknowledge that you failed and then learn from it. Once you've done that, you need to create a plan. And to make sure you're creating the correct plan, you need to have a goal in mind.

The key here is you really need to focus on short, tangible wins, and you need to track your progress. You also need to leave a little bit of room for failure and learning because you're not always going to be able to set a perfect plan.

The way Sean structured things in his practice was to go for an eight-week cycle. You have to break the goal out in those eight-week intervals, so you'll know by the time you're about a month out, that you're on a really good track and you're going to hit your goal.

Break your goal into micro-goals and hit each of them one at a time to get that larger goal at the end of the line.

8-week focus time

How does Sean manage that 8-week timeframe of focus to get to each milestone?

Sean creates annual goals with the leaders on his team. They break these goals apart into
micro-goals in that 8-week timeframe to control their focus.

These 8-week goals can be presented to the team with confidence letting them know that they're making progress. Letting your team know that you're making progress is very important.

Your new goals can always be daunting no matter the timeframe but when you break them down, progress will be made and that's the key.

Breaking down tasks

How should a breakdown be structured to measure your progress?

Sean always looks at this as a sequence of events. You have to look at the leading indicators. If you have a plan and part of that plan is there's going to be specific milestones or leading indicators that you want to hit.

To measure your progress, you have to break it down, simplify it, and make it digestible and easy for someone to understand that they have to understand the journey in the story.

A process that sticks

What advice would Sean give somebody who lacks the strategy to implement bite-sized processes?

Sean shared that the power of inverting things is a good strategy to implement bite-sized processes. If you have a goal, flip it on its head and figure out how to get there.

Starting with the end goal and working your way backwards is the easiest way to start thinking that it's actually attainable. When you do this, you'll start seeing a rough framework of milestones.

Going forward isn't going to get you there. Going backward is actually a lot easier if you know the destination.

Working backward

Why is it easier to start at the end of a goal and work your way back?

Working backward is easier because it can give you a much clearer picture of what and how much must be accomplished during each key milestone of your goal.

Creating goals without structure

What advice would Sean give to those who are inside organizations that don't have a ton of structure? Do they focus on just themselves and their goals? Do they try to influence other parts of the team? Where should they start?

Sean says one of the few key elements to a successful goal setting is to always write your goal down in a visible place. So you can see it every single day. Then share that goal with someone to keep yourself accountable. Because if you don't share it, you don't have accountability.

Then the most important element is you need a unit of measurement. This will help keep track of how you're making incremental progress toward your goal.

Keep it simple. Write it down, tell someone, and find something that you can measure on it. That way you can look at it, whether it's a week over week, day over day, or month over month.

Sean's advice to himself

What advice would Sean give to his younger self?

The biggest piece of advice Sean would share with his younger self from a leadership perspective is to always remember that it's not about you, it's about everyone around you.

Collectively, your results are based on the team. And if the team can collectively do better, you are viewed as a better leader.

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