On Episode 12 of The Insiders podcast, hosts Richard Lane and Simon Hazeldine welcomed Darren Cassidy, Managing Director UK&I at Xerox, who discusses the importance of practising ‘adaptive leadership. 

Dedicate your energy to the most important things   

After working at Xerox for 31 years, Darren has witnessed first-hand how the business world has evolved. Darren states that so much has changed and continues to change, and his solution to keeping up with this evolution is practising ‘adaptive leadership.’ 

“I think the most important thing about change is mindset: how you embrace change, how your teams embrace change. I also believe that part of our leadership role is about producing and driving energy into the business; energy through that change process.” 

According to Darren, “energy flows where attention goes.” He explains that in order to navigate the constant change that comes with the sales profession, leaders must be extremely clear about where they want their teams to dedicate time and energy. Darren is a strong advocate for using a ‘one page’ framework to not only keep strategy simple but as a guide for dedicating your energy to the most important activities:  

“I believe in the art of condensing what you do into one page, so that you are clear on what you’re trying to achieve: What KPI’s are you looking at? Most importantly, what areas do we need to focus on?” 

When it comes to a one-page strategy, the power lies in its simplicity. It is a single page overview of your plan and priorities, and it gives everyone within a team a sense of direction and alignment. Consolidating key tasks into one document makes it clear for your team to understand, and outlines their core purpose.

The one page should be kept simple: where is your business now, where would you like it to be, and how do you plan to get there. By doing this, everyone knows what they are doing and you are more likely to achieve your business goals. 

Debate, Discuss, Do 

In theory, placing strategies and actions on one page is easier said than done, especially when those plans need to be executed. This is where ‘adaptive leadership’ comes in.

Darren argues that collaboration is the key to making sure everyone in your team is aligned and knows the responsibilities required to deliver the desired outcome. Collaboration drives meaningful change. 

“Get your team to think with you; to align, debate, discuss, argue, to eventually settle on what it is you are trying to do.” 

This reinforces the importance of being flexible and having a start-up mindset, because organisationally, people differ. Being open to change and having the courage to experiment with new ideas and strategies is a powerful tool to have at your disposal as a business, and will result in long-term success. 

When it comes to dealing with clients, Darren uses the same approach, and points out that being a part of their team sets the tone for a long-lasting relationship. Businesses need to identify a client’s needs and requirements, as well as their professional and personal ‘drivers’: 

“Success comes when you can show that you not only have a service or a solution to meet the requirements that [your customers] have, but can connect that to the drivers that are informing how they feel and what they do in a business.” 

Use the ‘Red to Blue Mindset’ model 

There’s a lot of pressure in the sales profession, and Darren’s biggest piece of advice is to analyse your mindset. He is a firm believer that mindset is a skill, and can always use improvement: 

“My aim as a leader is to continue to develop my mindset skills, and part of that is helping the teams and leaders in my business drive a very positive mindset… especially when we feel pressure.” 

Darren sees value in the ‘Red to Blue Mindset’ model; red is anxious and inhibited, and blue is calm, clear and accurate. If someone is in a red mindset, they are diverted and weighed down by doubt and uncertainty.  

red to blue mindset model

On the opposite end of the spectrum, those in a blue mindset have a positive, can-do mentality and feel centred and on-task. Darren notes that this model is effective because it takes into account the fluidity of human emotion, which should be granted when dealing with people: 

“To think that we are going to be all going to be in the zone and on task all the time is impossible. We’re human beings and we have moments hundreds of times a day where our attention gets diverted. This model allows you to recognise it.  

“Once you recognise it, you empower yourself to make a decision that says: ‘Do I want to stay there or do I want to make a decision to go back onto something that I know is going to be more helpful to drive the outcome?” 

The modern business world is demanding, competitive and very fast-paced. Having a framework that builds resilience, promotes autonomy and allows flexibility like Darren’s ‘adaptive leadership’ is a great tool for sales leaders and teams to deliver on their outcomes and drive growth.  

Listen to The Insiders podcast for more insights into the world of business-to-business sales and marketing. 

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