The Mix Tape: Ep. 3 — Building a Winning Team

What makes an effective business leader? On this episode, we welcome in sales leader and author TJ Jones, who sits down with Mix Talent's very own Cameron Crockett. Their discussion is focused around cultivating a formula to build winning sales teams, and how to navigate challenges that might arise during this process.

Transcription

Unison-

Welcome to The Mix Tape.

Valerie McCandlish:

I’m Valerie.

Natalie Taylor:

And I’m Natalie.

Valerie McCandlish:

We’re so happy to have you back for episode three. If you remember from last week, we heard from a very cool husband and wife duo that shared their perspective on great and resilience in the workplace.

Natalie Taylor:

If you were listening last week, we’re so happy to have you back. Please feel free to send in any questions or comments you have about the episode, either on LinkedIn or post it as a review of the episode, and be sure to rate and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Valerie McCandlish:

On this week’s episode, we welcome in sales leader and author, TJ Jones, who sits down with our very own Cameron Crockett. Their discussion is focused around cultivating a formula to build winning sales teams and how to navigate challenges that might arise during this process, which is especially cool because we just heard from TJ for our very own team for a mixed talent training.

Valerie McCandlish:

TJ just had so much wonderful insight to share with us, and we love of learning from leaders in this space. We’re so excited to share him with you, our guests of our podcasts.

Natalie Taylor:

Absolutely Val. If you aren’t familiar with TJ, he is an award-winning author who wrote, “The Caring Warrior: Awaken Your Power To Lead, Influence and Inspire.” If you enjoy this episode, you’ll definitely want to read his book as well.

Valerie McCandlish:

Along with his writing skills, TJ brings over 15 years of sales leadership and has countless experiences of building winning teams from the ground up. His unique approach to leadership is something that we find very interesting. Without further ado, let’s hear from Cameron and TJ with their segment on building winning teams.

Cameron Crockett:

All right. Thank you very much. I am glad to be sitting down here today with a good friend of mine, a mentor of mine as well, and also author of “The Caring Warrior: Awaken Your Power To Lead, Influence and Inspire,” TJ Jones. TJ great sitting down with you. To get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

TJ Jones:

I’m a father of four teenagers. I live in the Upstate Western New York area. Moved a bunch of times throughout my career, throughout my adult life. I would say on mid career at this point, or that’s what I like to tell myself, I’ve been in the sales leadership arena for quite some time, and have done some other things professionally within the pharmaceutical industry, like sales training, leadership development. But the thing that I’ve typically done most of is building sales teams, launching products, and developing people along the way.

Cameron Crockett:

Awesome. Looking back and going back from the start here, how’d you get into the industry?

TJ Jones:

I’m a certified high school teacher. After graduate school, I taught and I coached football at the high school level. I was living in the Philadelphia area at the time. It seemed like about every other month. One of my friends was coming into town for some type of a sales meeting with their various company. They invited me and of course I accepted to come to after party dinners here and there. It just seemed really fun. I met some great people, really interesting and high energy, a lot of positive energy, and I thought this is something I enjoy doing.

TJ Jones:

I’ll tell you kind of funny. I went to a job fair for the industry. The setup was such that you would talk to a recruiter right there in the hotel, and then if you did well in that short conversation you’d be moved back for the interview with the hiring manager to get the process started. She looked at my resume and saw the English teacher on there and more or less said, “What are you doing here?” I said if I can get high school kids excited about Shakespeare, I can sell. That got me through the door. That was a little while back. I’m very grateful, it worked out

Cameron Crockett:

Awesome. When did you figure out that sales leadership was something you really wanted to pursue?

TJ Jones:

I think I’ve been in leadership types of roles and been exposed to other great leaders pretty much my whole life. I’ve been involved in sports, music, I did some acting, and I’d just been around really good people who facilitated that teamwork and higher level performance of individuals. It was always in my DNA. I went into coaching and teaching, and then in the industry, I was really fortunate that I started off with a great leader, guy named Manny Garcia, who was gracious enough to bring me in to an awesome sales team. I just saw what could happen in terms of performance, people helping each other out, having a great time, learning. As time went on, I thought this is- I’d like to be in a position to help facilitate some of that same stuff.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. Awesome. I know in your book you write a lot of personal stories, long allegories that can relate back to your leadership style. Would you say Manny had that initial influence on you?

TJ Jones:

Absolutely. I think one of the things that stood out with him and subsequently other people that I’ve worked with is tied into the name of the book. He cared. He cared about his people and certainly he cared about our performance and the expectations, but we felt trusted and it helped us to enjoy things and I think that’s really fundamental. So yes, he did.

Cameron Crockett:

Awesome. You were able to find success early on in your career as a salesperson in the industry and couple years past, and then you find yourself building your first team. Tell me a little bit about what that experience was like, of building your first team from scratch, first time as a leader, what are you looking for there, and how are you feeling going into something like that?

TJ Jones:

It was an anomaly because a lot of times when someone will get promoted into a leadership role, a sales leadership role, you’ll be working into intact team. My very first experience as a sales leader, I was also hiring a team and we were launching four different products. It was overwhelming, I was excited, I was scared, and I wanted to be there for sure, but I also know that I made some mistakes. I’ve made some along the way. But it was just a great learning opportunity. As the cliche goes, we value what we sweat for. Being stretched like that early on was a great way to get started and stumble a little bit.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. Obviously sounds like looking back and obviously hindsight is 2020 in pretty much all situations, but is there anything you think that really sticks out to you that you could have done differently or you didn’t know at the time, just by being so green in a role like this?

TJ Jones:

Yeah. Quite a bit. I’d start with sleeping more. The anxiety was running pretty high, children were very young, and I was definitely on full throttle in terms of wanting to prove myself, wanting to do a good job. I think number two would be listening. I would listen a lot more. The way I would explain that is to say it wasn’t that I didn’t value what other people had to say, in fact, I did, and I knew that I was confident that I had hired good people. But I think when we’re new into a role, teaching was like this too, you feel like you have to generate everything. You feel like you have to do the thinking, the talking, the planning, and of course a leader, a facilitator should have their act together and should have planned, and should have a sense for what it is they want to accomplish in a meeting, on a call.

TJ Jones:

But I took so much of it on myself that I realize the good stuff, the meet of any interaction, of any team is what comes out of the talented, smart group of people that you’re working with. The best answers come from the people in the room, which can be used cynically sometimes, but it really is true and people feel much more invested in whatever it is that you’re talking about or whatever goals you’re setting, if it’s generating from their thoughts. I went on a little bit about that, but listening is just so important and I still have to remind my self to do that. Having more fun in the beginning, enjoying the process a little more, I would probably say anxious, anxious about doing a good job. What a great opportunity it was, it was a ton of fun, but I don’t know if I saw it until a little bit later as we do sometimes.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. To switch gears a little bit here, a lot of your book is focused on the coaching of individuals and the coaching of individuals to collaborate as a team, as a full unit and where caring as leader can be focused on that. Through your time and sales leadership, focusing on coaching, what have you learned about coaching over the years?

TJ Jones:

I feel I still learn all the time. Some of the leadership development classes I’ve taught or facilitated, I typically start with, it’s not about you. What I mean by that is that coaching, developing people is- it’s an inside game, but for the person that you’re working with. We often will try to influence others to be like we are, to think like we are. I think the trick is to really think of it from an individual’s perspective, because everyone really is very different. It’s an art form to be able to do that. It’s not as much of a science to know how to coach people. I’ve learned a lot about that.

TJ Jones:

Just a couple things about what to do, what not to do. I heard from one of my trainers years ago in a management development class, he said that when we say something that’s either neutral or positive to someone we’re coaching, and then we put in the word, but anything that comes after but is forgotten. Using the word BUT often will shut down what comes after it, the valuable coaching. It really should be an interactive conversation about the other individual. One of the best things I’ve learned is that after you’ve done some coaching, after you’ve had a dialogue, that you agree upon what you discussed, that it’s not a one way conversation. I’m going to go off and do this because you told me to TJ. You really want that buy-in in an agreement that it made sense what you were talking about.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. Excellent. The purpose of today’s conversation obviously is focused around building winning teams. We’re in the middle stage of your career here and the way we’re going through things, and definitely have some time under your belt as a leader. Looking back on it, what do you think are some of the most important ingredients to building a winning team where obviously numbers are going to good, but, your team feels fulfilled. When you’re as a leader, what are you looking at to make sure your team is winning in the offices but also at home?

TJ Jones:

Sure. I think I’ll answer that in a couple different ways. First, I’ll talk a little bit about the recruiting, hiring process and really interviewing, which is exhausting, but it’s a wonderful, wonderful, I enjoy it a lot. It’s great. Every time there’s a build or even just back filling an individual position, I always learn something from it. I’ll talk about that first, and then I’ll talk about a couple things that I think really make a difference in that initial building of a team, especially in the preparation for a launch or something like that. Oftentimes there’s a profile, and by the way Mix Talent, you guys you do a great job and I’ve loved my opportunity to work with you. You’re putting together some of the basic needs and expectations around an individual geographic, some experience in a certain disease state or market, depending on the industry. Could be years of experience, could be a variety of different skills and competencies within that.

TJ Jones:

Those are some of the nuts and bolts that get the process started. But in terms of the interview process, I’m looking to build a team of individuals that are different, are diverse in every way that you can think of. It brings something unique to the table, not just from their professional experiences, but from their law. It’s those experiences that make us who we are, and we all have to connect with customers. People do that and people perform, people sell in very, very different ways. What I’m looking for are a couple things and might not be what you’d expect to hear, but I’m looking for intellectual curiosity. I think that the people that are growing and learning and developing themselves and are curious about what it means to be successful, how to understand their business better.

TJ Jones:

I think that’s just a key factor because that’s the old saying, “what you do when other people aren’t watching.” The people that are going to go that extra step to learn really make a difference. I’m always looking for that. In addition to past success and ways to explain the process of getting there, I just think another thing is that ability to connect. I like to hear stories about how people have worked through difficult times, how people have worked with teammates and those interpersonal skills in challenging times, or in times of success really make for at least the foundation of the start of a team.

TJ Jones:

The other part of it is just a few things that I think are really important to start off with in a team is to develop a shared purpose, and that comes from the entire group. I can’t walk into a meeting room or get on my first Zoom call or Microsoft Teams call and tell everybody what our purpose is. I think that has to come out of the group organically and with that come priorities. What are the priorities? What are the values that this team is going to operate by? That’s really important. How are we going to function as a team? From there, get into very specific goals, the things that you want to achieve, and in agreement to have a great time, there’s nothing more fun in any part of life, I believe, than being successful, overcoming obstacles, stretching yourself beyond what you thought you were capable of with other people.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. Awesome. Moving on from the interview process and that initial build out, how do you maintain a winning team? You have a team full of successful people, full of people who are in top 10 percent president’s club of the winners. These are very attractable people to companies like Mix Talent who are looking for in the market. How do you create a home for these people to ensure your team is successful down the road, and you’re not really building these people up so they can move on to something better?

TJ Jones:

Yeah, that’s a great question. Most of us would agree that the times when we further left a company to go to another company. It isn’t necessarily always about the financial upside. There may be other factors, but at least one of them is in some way shape or form. People feel like their manager or company, the division they’re in didn’t care about them. That feeling of being part of a family, for lack of a better expression for it is a really important thing to establish and to nurture. That’s a great place to start in the beginning, but to work on maintaining that. Of course every situation is different. I think that you have to look at a milestone of success as that climbing a mountain, getting to a plateau, looking for ways to stretch, learn, grow.

TJ Jones:

I always believe that the best thing you can do on a team is to involve everyone and often people are helping one another, as opposed to just feeling like they have to reach out to their direct manager, me in that case. I really like to encourage that so that people feel like they’re truly rolling up their sleeves and being part of it. Those are some of the philosophical things, I think when it comes to continuing to perform its clarity, clarity of those expectations. What is it that we’re trying to do? How are we going to get there? Being accountable to that. Mutually accountable me as well as the individuals, and applauding, and celebrating successes along the way, and when there’s an issue that flares up, either amongst the team with maybe cross-functional colleagues or could be something that senior leadership is mentioning that. If there’s some confusion about, that we don’t let things like that foster.

TJ Jones:

We try to discuss it, work through and again come to that agreement that we’re going to move forward. But in general, when it comes to the performance, you’ve got people that are doing well, that are happy. I do think that there’s momentum that continues from that, and it’s like continuing to raise that bar, keep going, keep, keep climbing, because it feels really good and it’s a lot of fun to be successful together. That’s really a cultural thing that’s not always easy to create, but absolutely worth it when we do.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. The saying that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Now, obviously when you have these larger teams, not everybody is going to be performing at the full capacity or the highest ability that they can be. How do you manage that? How do you coach that to ensure you’re doing the best you can to make sure it’s really not bringing down the overall team performance?

TJ Jones:

Right. I’ve been fortunate to have great teams. I’ve been fortunate to the question before this, to have very successful teams consistently. There are situations where one or two people maybe struggling, for some reason, I’ll just focus in on as though it’s one individual staying in touch and having an ongoing conversation as a leader with each of the people that report directly to you is very important. If each of the meetings or in our biotech pharma industry is the occasional field ride or performance review, but they’re more or less chunked into a moment in time, and then picked up again at another moment in time down the road. That to me is very difficult to assess challenges, issues, situations that might be a problem. So one, I think with each individual, there should be an ongoing dialogue, an ongoing level of comfort, hopefully transparency. But oftentimes you’re not able to pick up on something.

TJ Jones:

Something I learned quite a long time ago, and it just I always come back to it is, it’s actually an X and Y axis. What you’re really trying to decipher here in a problem situation is, is the individual struggling with commitment to whatever it is; a particular competency, the job, the sales goals, whatever the case may be. It’s the question is an intrapersonal type of issue and the commitment isn’t there. Or is the issue competence. Is there something that relates to a skill or something that maybe they didn’t pick up in training or that I haven’t explained well enough to them?

TJ Jones:

Really there’s this dialogue, hopefully where you’re trying to assess that type of a situation. Hopefully there is some level of trust where you can flush out what’s troubling someone, or what’s holding them back from that success or from that teamwork. It can be very destructive if there’s an attitude, there’s a negativity, there is pervasive and continues on. I just have real conversations with people as much as possible, and try to coach through that as much as possible, try to work with someone assuming good intent, assuming that progress will be made positive movement in the right direction. But then there’s also times when it’s just not a good fit for whatever reason. I hope that’s in line with your question.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. A tough question to go over, so appreciated. Going back to the book here, as I mentioned earlier of the personal examples that you gave, is there anyone that truly sticks out to you that really shaped or defined your career?

TJ Jones:

Hmm. What comes to mind, because I just recently after good 20 years, went back to see a high school football game where I played quarterback years ago. My team reflected on this. My team was a small town group. We were not super athletic and we certainly didn’t have a lot of size, but we had a lot of grit, and a team from a different area outside of our league came into the area and they had wrapped up all kinds of offensive records and yardage. I think two of their running backs were setting all kinds of records in the greater city area that I lived in. They came into our home, our home field, our school area, and all of us were on the back of the gym waiting. They started yelling and cursing and insulting people and threatening.

TJ Jones:

They’re just were very intimidating and we watched them get off the bus. They were all looked like they could play college football. Our coach saw that there was fear in our eyes and intimidated. He was a short guy, and I just remember him always looking up at me and he pulled us together and he just simply said, “These individuals are not acting like they should.” I’m using my words. And they’ve disrespected our town, they’ve disrespected our families, they’ve underestimated each of you. He said, today we’re going to win. We’re going to beat them regardless of what the score on the scoreboard says, and we’re going to beat them with our character. He said, every single player, I want to see you work as hard as you can. You knock somebody down, show them your character, pick them up off the ground, just behave like gentlemen and win the battle of personal honor.

TJ Jones:

It was a rainy, it was a pouring day and long story short. We ended up beating them 14 to nothing. By the end of the game, they opposing team was shaking our hands and patting us on the back, even though they weren’t happy to be losing, but we really did gain their respect. My point is, and how much that had an influence on me was, not just his leadership and the way he brought us together. But that it’s not just winning, but it’s how you win, how you carry yourself, how you conduct yourself that matters. That carries on in a legacy, and I got to be reminded of that last week. Thanks for bringing it up.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. That’s a great story. You have a chapter in your book that really focuses on millennials and to some people’s dismay, we’re really taking over the workforce now. You have a lot of interesting stuff on how to build teams around millennials and how to approach things differently. It’s not worse, it’s not better, but it’s different. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to that conclusion, cause I think it’s spot on personally, I think you do a very good job. It’s really one of the few times you hear a good thing about a millennial in the workplaces in your book. I would love to hear a little bit about the driving factor behind that in- what made you realize that it’s not worse, it’s just a different approach. We value purpose a little bit more than generations before us. We just have a different value set rather than other generations.

TJ Jones:

Absolutely. Are you assuming by the way that I’m not a millennial, I just curious.

Cameron Crockett:

I do the camera’s a little blurry, so I don’t know.

TJ Jones:

No. I really do have a belief that there’s all these great things about every generation. There’s a lot to laugh at when you get to be of a certain age and you go, “Wow, they don’t get it.” That age or that group, and we all do it. It perpetuates through time. I think the working world is very bricks and mortar in of course the turn of the century, and as time has gone on. The working inside the four walls of an organization, and a very top town authoritarian type of approach that we can see actually in some of these bin shows that are on Netflix and Amazon, mad men comes to mind, which there’s a lot of other things that could be said about mad men in that era.

TJ Jones:

But I think that each group coming through and aging has a lot to offer. The millennial group, which it’s hard to put everybody in one particular bucket, because we’re all different and unique. My belief, and I wrote about this little bit in the book is that millennia, this particular group of this age range have come up in a way that they’re much more interested in meaning, that the work should have meaning. They’ve seen their parents’ generation perhaps get laid off or have to change jobs or see their resumes that have multiple companies on it, even changing in industries. Some of that influence.

TJ Jones:

Not seeing a parent work for 40 years at one particular company and retiring and that’s it. It’s opened up this mindset that it’s really about finding that marriage between the work that you do, your talents and what’s meaningful to you. I think that’s something that should be- that’s a lens that leaders and human resource individuals, folks that are hiring, should really think about that. Also level of autonomy. The idea that you can think for yourself and have the opportunity to go about it, tackle the project without someone saying, “This is how you do it.” “Where are you?” That micromanaging type of approach, I think tends to be much more motivating for folks that are in the group coming up after me.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah. Safe to say, we should be seeing some TJ Jones TikToks in the future? Are you on there yet?

TJ Jones:

I’ve certainly seen some-

Cameron Crockett:

I think we’ve lot see more than we would like to admit.

TJ Jones:

Yeah. I know about it. I know about Snapchat.

Cameron Crockett:

Look at you.

TJ Jones:

[crosstalk 00:36:06]. Maybe one of these days I’ll try to promote the book out there in that environment. Yeah.

Cameron Crockett:

Who knows? Could work. I appreciate the time. We really like to wrap up with a little bit more personal question. Not heavily personal, but I’d like to hear a little bit about you. Right off the bat, went through your day today. Can you give me three songs that you’re listening to right now?

TJ Jones:

Oh man, that’s tough. This is going to really crack people up. I heard a song today in the car by Justin Bieber. I never thought I would say that or admit that, can’t think of the name of it.

Cameron Crockett:

I think it 10,000 hours.

TJ Jones:

10,000 hours.

Cameron Crockett:

Oh, 10,000 hours. Okay.

TJ Jones:

I liked it. Very eclectic. I also really like Yo-Yo Ma, who’s a child player, and after a workout, I listen to him on the way home, and then, let me think here, I walked into the house a little bit later singing, “Living on a prayer” from Bon Jovi. It’s quite a cross section of tunes, but definitely I like a lot of music.

Cameron Crockett:

Yeah, same. But yeah, TJ been an absolute pleasure. His book is, “The Caring Warrior: Awaken Your Power To Lead, Influence and Inspire.” You can buy that on Amazon right now. Tons of good stuff in there. Definitely go check it out. And TJ, thank you again for sitting down with us today to talk about building winning teams along and teaching us a little bit about yourself.

TJ Jones:

Thanks so much, Cameron. It was fun.

Natalie Taylor:

Thank you so much to TJ and Cameron for joining us today. It’s great to get a look behind the curtain of what really good into building winning teams. I always love a good recommendation for a professional development book, and when it comes directly from our industry, that makes it even more exciting.

Valerie McCandlish:

Agreed, Natalie. I can’t wait to take bits and pieces of this and use it in my own recruiting approach. As I continue to work with teams who are growing and trying to build from their own ground up. As we’ve talked about on previous episodes, we like to ask our guests their favorite songs at the end of the interview. This week we’ll be adding some of TJ’s favorites to our current mix tape with some Yo-Yo Ma, some Justin Bieber. We’re all just living on a prayer out here, so we’ll add some Bon Jovi too. You can follow the playlist on Spotify and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we do.

Natalie Taylor:

Be sure to subscribe to this podcast and follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Valerie McCandlish:

Thanks for being in the mix, and we’ll see you next week.

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