As business leaders, it isn’t easy to keep up with various aspects of life. Colin shows us otherwise, sharing how he’s been able to succeed in both his professional and personal lives. Colin Nanka is Senior Director, Enablement for North American Sales and Leadership Development at Salesforce.com. He joins Adam Markel in this episode as they delve into truth, enablement, the transformation of business, and more, unraveling the mystery of success. Ultimately, Colin embodies the recipe for resilience that has allowed him to help many people along the way driving certain pillars of the business forward.
WATCH COLIN’S NEW MINI-DOCUMENTARY DEFEATING AVERAGE HERE! Learn about the resilience strategies that he employed to successfully run 160 miles over the challenging terrain of the Patagonia. The Mini Documentary Defeating Average was featured at the Hunter Mountain Film Festival in NY, The Buenos Aires Running Film Festival, in Argentina, Aspen Mountain Film Festival, and Newport Beach Film Festival.
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Wellness, Resilience & The Transformation Of Business With Colin Nanka
I’m incredibly happy to be alive at this moment. I hope you’re all smiling at that because I’m not the only one who ought to be happy that we’re alive. If you’re reading this, it is a blessing that we get to be awake and alive. It’s a beautiful day regardless of whatever the weather might be outside. Internally, our weather is set for a beautiful day. It’s an incredible opportunity. What a blessing it is to be here. Thank you for reading, loving the show, our company, team and the people that we have as guests.
I’ve got an incredible guest for this episode. I’m starting with my gratitude for it being a new day and for Randi and I’s marriage is healthy and strong after almost decades. Our kids are healthy and all is well. I hope all is well with you. My prayer is everybody is experiencing a moment of wellness. We can all breathe into that. I’m going to take a deep breath myself. I appreciate the wellness that is everywhere. That is our natural state of being. I know it doesn’t always feel like that. Certainly, there are things that are contraindications, things that would otherwise have us believe that there is some state of unwellness. This is more of a belief than it is anything I could prove.
I truly believe that our natural state of being is wellness and sometimes we have to be reminded to come back to that understanding and that truth. We have to allow for it as well. I’ll leave it to you to unpack or unravel that mystery a little bit. I’ve got somebody that embodies that principle. Somebody that lives in wellness and has been doing incredible work in the world for a lot of years. He has been taking care of himself on the inside as well. He’s somebody that has committed a good portion of his life to following his passion, pursuing his mission and not selling out that mission and that purpose for the almighty dollar or corporate career even though he’s managed to cultivate a great corporate career.
What you’re going to find is a gentleman that has discovered what some people might call balance. I’m not a fan of the word balance. If you think about what balance looks like, it’s somebody that’s on a tightrope. That’s too much work, struggle and the risks are too great. Harmony is a word that’s different. This gentleman, Colin Nanka is somebody that embodies and is modeling harmony in the world. He is the Senior Director Enablement for North American Sales and Leadership Development at the world’s leading customer relationship management company, you most likely have heard of, Salesforce.com.
He is a proven sales leader with many years of sales experience, including time at Salesforce and Xerox Corporation. Colin completed his Business degree in Canada at the University of Alberta. In his spare time, he competes in multi-day, self-sustained, adventure races in the world’s most treacherous terrains, including the Sahara Desert, Gobi Desert, Iceland, Grand Canyon, Antarctica, and Patagonia. He has a passion for writing, collaborating, learning and empowering his community to go further. You’re going to enjoy this and I know I am going to enjoy it. Welcome to the show, Colin.
Adam, I’m pleased to be here. Thank you.
What a pleasure. I hadn’t met Colin before. He’s referred through somebody that my wife and I came to meet. Somebody that we’ve had on our show and Randi was the person who spoke to Colin first. She was taken by this gentleman. I say that after all the years that I know this amazing woman that I get to share my life with. When she likes somebody, she’s usually right and on it. I’m not putting out big shoes for you to fill. I want you to be yourself.
We had a great rhythm in our conversation. I could tell in talking to her that I was going to enjoy talking to you. I’m excited to be here.
That’s a wonderful bio and introduction. What’s not written in that bio that you would love for people to know about you?
As you’re reading it out, I was like, “I need to shorten that a little bit,” and also get to the essence of what I’m about. The first thing that comes up to mind for me is I’m a lifelong learner. I’m a teacher and a collaborator. I like blogging. I’m a creator and I love giving back. I love the way you open with gratitude and how you talked about harmony. I do feel that I am focused on harmony and presence. I love learning every single day. I am grateful for the 1, 2, 3, or 4 little nuggets that I’m able to take in and get excited about. I blog every morning. I share those back with the community that I’ve been building and that’s part of what gives me joy. It gets me fired up every day. That’s not part of my job. It’s just who I am and what I love to do. That spoke to me.
It sounds like you’re regenerating something inside of yourself when you do that work because it’s work nonetheless. If we’re going to work hard, the question is whether we make hard work of it.
I make time for it every day. I know we’ll talk about rituals at some point in this conversation but it’s one of the first things I do. It gets me into a positive state first thing in the morning and it allows me to hit the center every day.
What’s one thing that you’re grateful for?
I am on a journey. I’m having my first child, a baby girl. This is my first child. I waited a little bit later in life to find the love of my life and that would be Miss Blake Ross, who’s my wife. We are overjoyed that we are going to bring a baby girl into the world.
As a daddy of three daughters, we have three girls and a boy, a knucklehead son who I absolutely adore. He’s the best. At least in my experience, girls are good for daddy. You’re getting the treat soon. I’m a little older than you and people are having kids later in life. Certainly, when we were getting ready to get married and start our life and have kids, it was more prevalent people were having kids in their late 20s or even early 30s. We stopped having the babies in our late 30s.
It speaks to a lot of people who are putting it off. We’re living longer. People want to live longer and they have more to do. People are going to be doing things later in life. There’s almost no retirement age anymore, which is good because I don’t personally want to sit in a rocking chair and wait to die. Kids will keep you young for a long time because there’s always something that they’re learning. You get to learn those things or relearn those things with them as they’re having their experiences of life.
Let’s go back to something else that I stated about your experience in life and that is, you’ve done some adventurous things. You’ve climbed mountaintops, walked in deserts and hiked. I’d love to get back to the root of why it is that you’ve done that and how it is that you’ve also managed to do that in the process of also curating a great career for a great company. There’s a lot of people that would probably be curious about how can you do both of those things. There are people who’ve given up their dream or things that they love to do, whether they call it their dream or not. They’ve given up their passion for things to grind it out.
I don’t know that’s necessarily in and of itself a bad thing that you grind because being in business is a grind. It’s a question of whether it feels like a grind, whether it’s grinding you down in the process of grinding the thing that you’re working on. If you’re grinding something for a purpose, it gives you fulfillment and other people’s lives are made better because you know how to get at the rock and grind it, fantastic. That’s why I’m wearing a shirt that says resilience. It’s appropriate because you’ve got to be incredibly resilient to be in business. Whether you’re a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you’re working as part of the greater corporate scheme of things. To keep your dream alive and do the things you want to do at the same time that you’re also working for a business agenda whether that’s your agenda or a corporate agenda. It is not an easy harmonization. We’d love to learn from you how it is that you managed to do both.
It’s appropriate that you’re wearing the resilience shirt because after what I would call a ten-year journey in work that I’ve done for myself, I’ve had a business coach for a decade, I’ve done a lot of internal work and we’re trying to capture everything that I’ve done in the last many years. Resilience has been what we’ve captured. There are a lot of attributes to go into that. If I go back to the start, it happened at a crisis for me. I left the company. I’ve been in Xerox for a decade and had some good experiences there. It’s one of the top companies in the world that teaches you how to sell. Then I left that company and started a new journey with Salesforce.
I had some success in my early years. I was one of the top sales rep in the world. For a couple of years, I had some high achievements. I got to spend some time at our CEO, Marc Benioff’s house in Hawaii when he brought some of the top salespeople there. I was climbing up and I was like, “I’ve worked hard and I’ve arrived.” All of a sudden, in the next year, I fell flat on my face. I thought I was doing the same work or the same quality of work that I had done the year before. As many people know when you went through 2008 and the market collapsed, you had to do things differently in order to achieve getting to par.
I had two years that I struggled. It affected the faith I had in my professional capabilities. At that time, I decided I needed a little bit of space from work. I ran away to Africa and I decided, “I needed to go on a little bit of a journey and a little bit of soul-searching.” I went and did a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. During that climb, I almost quit three times. I got sick one day. I was at the end of my rope on a different day. I got altitude sickness near the top. I was sleeping overnight at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro after we had got there. We had got there and I was like, “Nothing else can go wrong.” In the back of my head, I had these soft spots of what was building altitude sickness. I thought, “Am I going to make it down off the mountaintop?”The moment you decide, it’s already happened. Click To Tweet
In the morning, I was green. We all started heading down and the more we got down this mountain, the more oxygen we got in. I was starting to feel better. As I was getting down, I got out of that worrying state. I started to realize what I had accomplished in climbing up stage by stage, the ability that I had to grind and work through anxiety. I could stretch myself farther than I had been before physically and mentally. I started to think about how I would apply those principles when I got back into the work world.
I slowly started layering them in and my performance slowly started to come back to where it had been before. I had been raising money for a school in Africa and this was through a friend of mine who had this nonprofit foundation Kilimanjaro Education Foundation, which I now sit on the board of that. I went to a local school where kids had nothing and I was able to bring them something. I brought them books, pens and pencils. To see the joy on their face, what that all built for me was an adventure where I learned and grow, and there is anxiety. I’m able to take what I learned back into professional life but I also come back with gratitude for when I’m down and things don’t look as pretty as they could, I think back often to the first time I visited that school and seeing the joy in the children’s faces.
I didn’t realize it at the time but that became my secret sauce for how I approach every day and every morning. I’ve gone on to do many other adventures since then. For me, I was slowly building the awareness for myself that I’ve captured something for myself. My connection to nature changes my perspective. What I visualized is when you’re grinding yourself down, you’re chipping the rocks off. When you’re building something and you’re grinding hard in order to capture professional growth, you’re building on top of that rock. When you’re talking about that, I could see it and that’s the way I feel how I’ve rebuilt my career.
There are many things you said resonated with me. We have a foundation that we created a few years back called Peace Feels Like where we contribute to the Unstoppable Foundation, which builds schools in Kenya. We got to do that in 2017. We’re fortunate enough to be able to build a school there. To say it’s inspiring is putting it mildly. It is definitely cause for a moment of self-awareness that there’s a lot we take for granted. That’s a gross understatement by itself, how much it is we do truly take for granted like clean water, food that’s free of parasites, availability of education and things like that. There’s no question that gratitude plays a big piece in resilience for me. It sounds that’s the case for you as well.
I was having breakfast with a friend of mine who’s a CEO in a company and we were talking about the challenge and overcoming adversity. Into my 1st or 2nd adventure, I figured out the way to overcome adversity is through good powerful questioning. I found when I was at the end of my rope, I started to build that awareness of, “I’m having a major challenge here and brute force is not taking me through it. What is the learning opportunity in this moment?” Me being a lifelong learner, it was an epiphany I had in the middle of the desert in one of my adventures. It reframed the whole situation that I was in and I started laughing. I was like, “You’re not tough enough. You’re not strong enough to handle this moment. Realize that, embrace it and move forward one step at a time.” I’ve used powerful questions. Every time I get into a challenging situation, it allows me to reframe the entire situation I’m in.
Our recipe for resilience involves three things. One is that we frame the situation in a certain way that’s different than the way we’re currently framing it. The second piece is that we extract the nugget. What’s the golden nugget? My grandma would call it the little gem. What’s the little gem that changes your life because you have this new awareness? Is it something to be grateful for in the fact that you’ve learned something? When you learn something or have the recognition you’re learning something, it’s ownership. You’re taking ownership of a moment in time in your life or an experience in your life. Usually, it’s a time that you wouldn’t want to repeat necessarily. You’re looking at it in some ways, it’s negative or hard.
The moment you own it, it’s as if you get this golden ticket to advance because if you get the learning, you get to move forward. If you don’t get the learning, you stay stuck. That idea of framing something in a positive light is centered on the questions you ask yourself. Questions and answers are cause and effect. It’s sowing and reaping. It’s like many things in life where if one thing precipitates the other, they will work together. If you ask a question, you will get an answer. If you ask a bad question, you get a bad answer. If you ask a better question, you get a better answer. The only thing I never can say for sure is when you get the answer. Even on spiritual grounds, you might ask questions. Big questions at times in your life when you’re feeling a bit lost.
I can directly relate to that because when I was wandering through the Gobi Desert in one of my adventure races in 2012, I had been wandering for about twelve hours and I had been asking questions and didn’t get that answer until the middle of the night. All of a sudden, it came upon me but it seemed it came fast. When it came, it had a huge impact on me when I saw I had six hours left in this race. I was excited and I started to laugh. I was like, “I see the end of the race. I see the light at the end of the tunnel because I’ve now switched to a positive mindset.” It was a big epiphany for me.
When you considered the possibility that time and space collapse, we know this because we can look back many years ago in our lives, “Where did that time go? Where did the time and space go to?” It took many years for that to elapse and yet, it’s an instantaneous thing. It happened in a snap like the next many years will happen in a snap. Time and space disappear and we realize the illusion of it at various points. The answer and the question become one and the same.
It was Jonathan Livingston Seagull where Chiang’s mentor Seagull is saying something to the effect that, “The moment you decide, it’s already happened. The moment we make a decision, this thing has happened. You strip out all the pivots along the way and all the time and space in between,” which is a remarkable thing. I want to close the loop too for myself, which is that when I think about empowering questions, I go to my wife. In our pivot journeys, which have been interesting and most interestingly after we started to use that terminology incidentally, Randi says, “What’s the creative opportunity?” That’s a question I want everybody to hear. I want to pass on my wife’s goddess wisdom in that.
In any situation, if you can ask that question, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get an answer at the moment. That’s the small print. That’s the ex-lawyer in me. You will get an answer but when? That’s the mystery of it. What is the creative opportunity that’s presented? You’ve got to take care of yourself as well in that recipe for resilience. Creating a new frame for it, being able to see and extract, and even dig for wisdom. How is it that you take care of yourself? Where does self-care play a role?
The work that you’ve been doing is a challenging work. I want you to talk about that as well. What does enablement mean? Working with 1,500 salespeople at a massively incredible company, state of the art, new frontier, new paradigm company, growing leaps and bounds. There is a major responsibility on your shoulders and yet, you’re also going to become a daddy. You are pursuing your passion. You’ve got to be plenty resilient and you’ve learned to take care of yourself inside and out. I want to trek into that territory with you.
There are two things that come to mind and I’ll take a step back several years. One of the things that helped me get through my second adventure race in the Sahara Desert, which I had a giant failure and I rebounded from that. In the second race in China in 2012, I did all of the physical and mental training, doubling down and preparing for that. One of the things that I trained for by accident was spending some time with a good friend of mine, Nicky Poole, who is a yoga instructor. We started doing some one-to-one training. She noticed that as I was going through my poses, whether you’re in downward dog or you’re in star pose. For anyone who takes yoga, as I was opening up, I wasn’t breathing. She goes, “You go from one side to the other without breath.” We worked on breathing. Even as I think about taking that breath as we’re talking, it relaxes me and it brings me presence.
Why I share that is the single reason that I got through that race is that of breath. I wrote it on my wrists. Breathing in on the left wrist and breathing out on the right wrist. It reminded me to breathe and be present. Every five minutes in that race, we’re at 40-plus degrees Celsius for my Canadian friends. We’re 110-plus degrees Fahrenheit for my American friends. Your brain is getting fried during this tough terrain. You need to remember where you are, come back to the presence in every moment and start chunking down into five-minute intervals.Often, trust is simply understanding and hearing people. Click To Tweet
Mentally, it can be super taxing when you know how long you need to be out there. If you think longer than five minutes ahead, how much you’re taking on can overwhelm you. I learned to chunk things down into smaller bite-sized chunks. That goes back to reframing. When I get put under pressure, in my job or got a heavy week ahead, I’ve learned when things don’t go well in an 11:00 AM meeting but I’ve got a challenging 12:00 PM meeting coming up. In between those meetings for five minutes, I’ll sit and I’ll breathe. I will re-center myself and get refocused to go take on that 12:00 meeting.
I learned that from our chief financial officer, Mark Hawkins. I had the opportunity to have dinner with him and a group of people a number of years ago. He goes from speaking to 1,000 people to doing our earnings call the next day to flying to Japan in order to run in the Tokyo marathon with his son. I said, “How do you do it?” He said, “I pivot and then I shift. I’m only focused on one thing at a time and then I pivot to the next. I shift my mindset back and forth.” He compartmentalizes and that resonated with me because of the experiences I’ve had out in these extreme races. That ability to pivot or to reframe has been a big reason why I’ve been able to take on more in this job.
I’m glad that you brought that up as well because people talk about pivots in a particular way. When you hear the word pivot, outside of the context you created, what’s the normal standard definition of a pivot to you?
Two things come to mind. A pivot can be a downward turn that you have to rebound from so it can be coming off a failure, a larger pivot or you’re making an adjustment at the moment. Those are the two things that come to me when someone says pivot.
In the context of business and entrepreneurism and even life, pivots had this pejorative, a negative connotation like rebounding from a failure and all that type of thing. The book that we’re developing, which is the next phase for the pivot work, for our body of work, is all about the moment. That’s the essential pivot, which is your next thought. The next embodiment of something between and for us is the heart. How do we engage the heart to be able to activate the heart’s wisdom at this moment and in the next moment so that we’re making decisions from that place of guidance versus the headspace? The heart space instead of headspace which is more about guarding.
This is about guidance and guarding. It’s a protection device in many ways. “I’ve got to figure stuff out intellectually so that I can make a move that keeps me alive, the species going, the money coming in, and the food on the table.” It’s always through figuring things out. It is this interplay between that intellectual and heart space that we’re writing about and curious about. I love the idea of the pivot, shift. It’s clear and not simple and necessary but it’s definitive, which is empowering. I know that a lot of the work that you do in this company is to empower people and enable them. To me, enablement is a word of empowerment. Share a little bit about what your role in the company is and what enablement looks like for your day-to-day.
Enablement comes from a history of people doing training within organizations. You typically have vendors that come in and do sales training or coaching training for leaders. A lot of companies have brought that internally into their organization. It’s a combination of when you bring outside vendors that have the expertise and we manage that. When you have a sales motion or how people sell, especially in the technology space, we’ve developed our own sales motion over the many years that I’ve been around at Salesforce. I’ve been here for more than a decade but we’ve been defining our sales motion. How do we use technology and how do we scale? We used to do a lot of in-person training.
We need to put systems and processes into place that will allow us to scale. We need to use just-in-time training methods. We need to have videos that people can learn about our product or some of the different components of our customer before they’re talking to that customer or as they’re researching. There’s so much to know inside Salesforce. As I say to our new account executives that start with us, “When you start, you will think the spout of water that is coming towards you is the size of a watermelon. You get started in the company and it’s the size of a beach ball and you just get blown over with all of this knowledge and information.”
How do we help chunk that down into small bites that people can understand? We’re focused on retention. Traditionally, a lot of companies would focus on, “Let’s do training,” and those people are trained and then they will go talk to customers until they get the job done. That’s not the way we learn. We need to focus on retention and training is not a one-time process. It’s a process over time and where we slowly chunk out the learning.
That’s where we’re trying to drip the learning to our account executives and our leaders so that they can understand the concepts, put them in play, practice them, come back and get a little bit more learning and go again. We do that both on the sales rep side and we also do that on the sales leader side. We’re revamping our whole coaching program on the sales leader side so that we are dripping it out over time, so they get good practice. It’s a lot about what I think about every day when I get up and a lot of how we’re focused on this model of teaching, scaling and growing our people.
There is so much there. Sometimes we talk about the terrible Ts being toxicity and turnover. When I was CEO of a company, it was a tiny company compared to you. It’s a middle-level company in a lot of ways. It’s the largest personal and business development company in North America at a certain point as well. We talked a lot about transformation. Even in the curriculum that we still teach in our smaller company, it’s more designed for people who are thought leaders or people who want to get a message out in the world and want to speak, to do it, to get on public speaking, big stages, small stages. Also, TEDx stages and things of that sort to get their message cascaded across a wider band.
We’re talking about transformation. I was speaking with somebody who’s not in that space, an executive at Microsoft, and we were talking about this age of transformation that we’re living in, especially in the business space. How is that talent is acquired? How do you acquire great talent? How do you keep and retain talent? We talked about those terrible Ts, toxicity, and turnover. If a company could create some better systems, processes, and a better culture to retain its talent, to attract great talent and retain its talent.
The numbers are massive in terms of what it costs a company when they are retraining and reacquiring talent. When the talent they’ve got is looking elsewhere, which is 55% of people across the board, according to Harris Poll are actively looking for new work. Half of your workforce, I’m not saying this is the case at Salesforce. If they’re no different than any other company in that respect, half the workforce is actively looking for another job on the company’s dime which I was a CEO. It always still irked me. That was what’s going on behind the scenes because it also creates toxicity in a company when people are not happy. When they’re not fulfilled and actively engaged even on company time in some respects looking elsewhere, how you retain that talent is important and it’s something I’m passionate about. When I speak or train in corporations as well, we talk about how it is that you do retain talent.Trust is the most important value; that’s what everything’s built on. Click To Tweet
The word, transformation has a big part to do with it. With respect to yourself and the work that you’re doing in the enablement, space is giving people access to their growth, to tools and support for their own personal growth. Constant and never-ending self-improvement is not your personal mission but it can be the mission of the entire workforce. Who isn’t looking to grow? Why will a person stay at a company when they could get a quicker advance to a different position or even more money elsewhere?
They would stay where they feel heard, seen or where they feel that they’re growing, where there’s a community that supports their personal transformation. If we talk about the age of transformation, the corporation is undergoing a massive pivot as well. Millennials have brought this to bear because older people don’t know how to deal with or don’t understand Millennials well. Millennials are not tough to understand. We have Millennial-aged kids. They want to be fulfilled and purpose-driven. They don’t want to sell their soul for money like they saw some of their parents do.
When you sell something, your time and precious life energy for money and in the end, the family that you’re with takes care of you. That your future is assured, you can rationalize it because that was the compact. That was the promise that was made many years ago. When those promises start to get broken and people find that they’re laid off at age 50 or 60 and they don’t get their retirement or the promise that they thought was made, it’s breaking that covenant. It breaks trust. It’s not that difficult to understand why people now going into the workforce are not trusting necessarily of those promises and are looking for more of their own personal development and their own personal transformation as part of the grind that they’re in for the company. What you’re doing is totally state of the art, creating a growth edge for people and helping them to be working toward that.
There are a couple of things I want to unpack. Trust is our company’s number one value ever since Marc started the company. There are two components to trust. We are a cloud company. If our platform is not working, we break the trust, the bond with our customers. The second and the part that is becoming bigger on that is the trust and authenticity that people have in us that we will do right by them. We’ll do right by our customers, the individuals within our customers but also, we do right by the entire market. Our CEO Marc has stood for inclusivity, for diversity in the marketplace. He’s standing for other people where maybe they don’t have the voice and he does. That’s something that we in the company are proud of. He’s creating this bond of trust with our whole ecosystem and that creates this bond of trust inside our organization.
I have always been a trust detective because the way I work is when I have trust in my leader, I will give them 150%. If I don’t have that relationship, I’m not someone who can fake it. I’ve had leaders in the past with whom I didn’t have that bond with and didn’t get the best performance out of me. When they do, they get the best out of me. I’m aware as I’ve come through the lifecycle of my career how important trust is. Often trust is understanding and hearing people. You are asking them simple questions. What is the best way? How do I get the most out of you? When are you at your best?
Sitting, listening and engaging. A lot of times, we get feedback from our surveys that leaders aren’t spending enough time having weekly one-on-one conversations. If they are, they are talking about what they want to talk about. They’re not sitting back and listening to the challenges and coaching and helping their sales reps or leaders. Everyone has one-on-ones in a command chain. To sit and listen and be present, so people feel heard, that’s table stakes.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies aren’t doing it. In a survey I saw, 50% of people are leaving companies because of the company but up to and more than 50% are leaving because of their bosses. It’s when the bosses aren’t engaging and listening and setting that foundation of trust. It’s easy early on but a lot of people don’t do it when you first take on an employee to sit and ask them what their career aspirations are? “What’s the best way to communicate with you? What happens if we run into conflict at some point down the road? We’re likely to. How should we handle that?” It’s a simple question but it opens up the conversation and creates those bonds of trust.
What’s the place of transparency in establishing trust? Transparency and vulnerability because when you say trust is the most important value. To me, that’s what everything’s built on. In any relationship, what is a business? A collection of people working together for a common goal of some kind. It’s people in a relationship. What’s a marriage? What’s a relationship with your kids? Everything in this world is built on relationships. What’s the most important thing in a relationship? Trust. Where do transparency and vulnerability play a role, especially in a business context?
I’ve learned through having leaders who are transparent and who haven’t. A good beacon in our company that I’ve seen over time is we have a worldwide management leader meeting to start off every year. There are 1,000 of our top managers in the company. It takes place in San Francisco. Sometimes it’s in Las Vegas. Our CEO Marc Benioff will stream that meeting live to the entire company. He is setting the tone for what we are going to cover for the entire year and anyone in the company can watch that meeting from the office. We have viewing parties from the office. Everyone is exactly on the same page as he is.
Marc has set an unbelievable tone for our organization. From a departmental standpoint, I’ve always been the mind of when you have that trust with the people that you work for. You give them as much openness as possible to what’s coming down the road in the next couple of quarters. There is always some confidential information that you’re not going to want to share but that needs to be less and the transparency needs to be more. The more you let people into what’s happening or maybe the personal challenges that you’re going through as a leader, the more that team will stand with you, behind you, and help drive you forward. I’ve learned over time to be more open and more transparent with people that I work with.
There are two books that come to mind for people that are curious about this topic. Whether because you’re an entrepreneur building a team, a business or you’re in a big business or somebody else’s business, you’re an employee. The book by Patrick Lencioni called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a great book on the topic of, “What it is that creates strong teams?” We adapted that at my last company and I still teach this concept of how to create an unstoppable team from the ground floor to that place of trust upward.
There’s another book called The Future of Work by Thomas Malone. I’m devouring and loving it. It’s a little dry. No knock on Thomas. He’s a great writer. He’s a Harvard professor. I would love to sit in on one of his classes at some point. He’s worked at MIT as well as a faculty but The Future of Work and the idea that we’ve got this move toward decentralization. This is a movement away from the command control hierarchy of things.
It’s interesting because empowerment is a big part of that. The idea that when you disperse power. This could be the philosophy that the king, the queen, and the kingdom somehow are losing power when it spreads out. It allows power to be felt or it allows autonomous power to occur in areas of the company that are not in the hub and the senior leadership space. What you’re talking about with a company is going to double in size or that we’re projected to double in size over the next few years. It’s interesting whether more trust will be extended further out like in a tree out of branches.
You can’t grow at that pace if you don’t empower everyone that surrounds you. We talked about this in some of our leadership courses. People need to earn the right to earn your trust and earn your respect as a leader but that goes both ways. That’s not a one-way conversation. That’s about two people coming together and deciding what the path forward is. “I feel like a leader that I need to earn your respect as someone who works for me and I do that by being a champion for your career. I help find opportunities. I also show you what good looks like. I model the way and then I ask you to then take over and do the job that you are set here to do.”The more you let people into what’s happening as a leader, the more that team will stand with you. Click To Tweet
At the same time, once they prove that they can do that, it goes to empowerment and autonomy. I don’t want to have to continually tell my people what to do. I want to show them the opportunity and the challenge and then let them figure it out for themselves. That’s in the same way that we teach our leaders at Salesforce is how to empower the people that work for them, how to create an autonomous relationship so that they are more guiding and driving as opposed to pushing down to get people to get the job done.
Do you have a philosophy about accountability? It’s important in every company that there is a culture for accountability.
You are not just in a company called Salesforce but you’re running a huge sales team and the numbers matter. Tracking your KPIs pretty seriously.
There are two places I learned accountability from. One of our Executive Vice President, Tony Rodoni, is a longtime mentor of mine here. He was always big on the acronym DWYSYWD, Do What You Say You Will Do, which many people may have heard that. That’s by modeling the way and showing up by action. As I’ve come through the arc of my career, I haven’t always been accountable. You have to learn by mistakes. The second person that I’ve learned that from is my business coach, who firmly believes that with the discipline of accountability, you phase in and out of accountability.
If you miss an opportunity to be accountable in a moment or in one day, it doesn’t mean you’re not accountable. It gives you that opportunity to come back in alignment and to get back in alignment with accountability, show up physically and mentally and be accountable. That’s where I have learned my accountability. In the business sense, we’ve got an accountability matrix based on your responsibilities to drive certain pillars of our business forward. We have visuals of red, green and blue based on how accountable you are against where you’re at. We thoughtfully drive accountability from the top on down inside Salesforce.
I love the fact that you’re using colors as part of the way people learn.
It makes it clear.
It’s for visual and auditory learners as well. I want to also come back and circle since we’re talking about sales a little bit. You said something called sales motion. I would have called it sales philosophy. There’s a motion that is the methodology. Is that how you’re using sales motion?
People in the past may have called it the way you sell. SPIN selling for those who learned that back in the ‘90s. We have used a number of different methodologies over the years. We’ve tried to take those best practices but there are certain ways that are intangible that we know through history and experience of how to get the job done at Salesforce. It’s something that we’re still working on. When we talk about motions, it’s about a tactical motion. How you open up a meeting? How you bring credibility? You generate interest. You do good discovery. You magnify some of the challenges that they’re having so that you can then bring KPIs and then talk about business cases and impact. There’s also a larger account focus. How do you approach an account and that one account is your entire livelihood?
It’s a much different motion than if you’re working with many accounts. We have different strategies that we use inside the company and we’re always iterating. We are open to new ideas. If we have new people that come to the organization with big success, our rule is we’re open to new ideas. We’re not going to change our methodology or motion based on one interaction. If what you show us is beneficial to everyone and it up-levels our skills, we will certainly adapt their motion. The secret of Salesforce is that we are able to change quickly to market pressures from external factors in the business and adapt and move quickly.
It’s agility just-in-time training methods. My father-in-law called me JIT for many years, which always was a little bit of a jab because he’s always an early guy and I was a lawyer for eighteen years. I still have tons on my plate and I would always make it to family gatherings and everything just in time. That’s why he called me JIT. I have not heard it used since in some other context which is incredible. Just-in-time training methods. That is adaptability to me. That’s the idea of how it is that you can utilize change. Change in the landscape, at the moment effectively and it’s alchemy.
Millennials learn differently. They won’t sit down and watch a ten-plus minute video but they’ll watch something that’s less than five minutes. They prefer to watch something that’s less than three. You can chunk out those pieces of learning then they’ll take, internalize and move forward. People like me who have been selling for a while. We appreciate it too.
I love the fact that when you say we’re open to the new ways of doing it because that’s innovation. It’s a cultural DNA. It’s something that you either are cultivating in a company or not, which is this openness to change. This open or reward for innovation. Does your company reward innovation or innovative behaviors?You can’t grow at a fast pace if you don’t empower everyone that surrounds you. Click To Tweet
By nature of the platform that we live on and build on, we are innovating every year. Innovation is typically every year third value. It ties to the technology platform but how it speaks to us being innovative inside the organization. One of the things Marc does and he’s a master marketer and brilliant with PR. We have a big theme in our company of philanthropy. We’ve got a 1-1-1 Model and we’ve got thousands of nonprofits who use our platform. He drives the importance of philanthropy and how many hours people give in the communities outside of our company. A number of years ago, he invited the top ten volunteer champions inside the organizations.
It didn’t matter what level they were inside the company. Whether you are the first year, junior in tenure, then a couple of years, 3 or 4 years to the executive management meeting that had presidents and executive vice presidents. He is like, “These are our top ten volunteer champions across the company and they’re going to be joining us for the entire worldwide management meeting.” How exciting is that for someone new in their tenure but that has been giving back in a way that he appreciates? What message is that for the rest of us to show? Just being new to the company doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. It doesn’t mean you can’t get rewarded.
I’m already lamenting the fact that this interview is going to end because there’s so much that people can dig their teeth into that’s helpful to them. I appreciate your transparency and how it is that you yourself are modeling. That to me is the key ingredient for being a great parent. Ahead of your having a baby, you’re already doing something important as a dad to be, which is that you model it. Kids don’t listen to anything we say. They listen a little but they watch everything we do and it’s the same exact thing in a company.
Employees watch so where you’re describing the actions taken by the person who’s the founder of the company and others in the company. That’s so much more powerful than the rhetoric, policies or core values that sit in a framed plaque that sits on a wall. I would love to know with the mission that you have personally and the work that you’re doing, what are some of the rituals or even one ritual that you have that keeps you moving forward, reminding yourself or being reminded of the most important things so that you can keep going after the things you truly want in your life?
One of the things that I was thinking about was meditation. I’ve tried a number of different meditation apps. I tried to go to a number of different meditation retreats. It wasn’t sticking for me over the years. It wasn’t until probably a few years ago that I had a meditation guru that I knew in Toronto. We sat down and talked about the value that he got through meditation and being present. I was Beta testing an app called Muse that was based out of Toronto, Canada. They brought it to market and they gamified. It was 5 minutes a day, 3 times a week. Ten minutes a day, twice a week. It got me hooked. It took me a year to build my practice to twenty minutes a day. My goal now is a minimum of 25 minutes to a maximum of 30 minutes a day.
I have a headband that sits on the top of my forehead and after I can see where the brain waves have gone up and down. You see recoveries and it accounts the number of recoveries that you have in that 20 or 25-minute span. Those are opportunities within the start of my day that perhaps I’m hipping, recovering, losing focus but I’m coming back in focus. Before I go through my entire day, how I feel is been able to overcome some obstacles in a 25-minute time period.
As I go and start my day, I’m much more patient throughout the day. A lot of people know the benefits of meditation but I’m definitely more patient. I’m more thoughtful of the way I approach obstacles and more grateful for the way that I take myself through the day. I’m a big proponent of meditation. I sometimes use it when I go to bed. That is my number one ritual. That’s the way I start every morning. I highly recommend it for those who haven’t taken it on.
Randi and I have been listening to meditation in bed. Meditation can sometimes be misunderstood or people try, “I can’t quiet my mind.” They think quieting their mind is what they’re supposed to do or they would be able to do, which we know is BS because that’s not going to happen. To me, stillness is different. You still have thoughts and recognize that your mind hasn’t shut down but that you’ve quieted yourself still and something else can make its way through which is a guidance of a different kind. It comes from a different place potentially. Without getting far down that road, I appreciate that is something that has worked for you.
I also want to point out that you’ve been coached for many years. Somebody in our audience might think, “I can’t afford a coach. I’ve had a coach and it didn’t work for me,” or something like that. I want to underscore the fact I’ve been mentored, still mentored, had mentors my whole life and had been coached also. Even while I was running a company as a CEO, I still had a coach.
Successful people are people that are achieving at pretty high levels, are also looking for support. That’s a part of creating that recovery is to have support. Whereas, other people might think, “It’s the people who haven’t made it yet that need a coach.” It’s not the case. It’s the whole way through, throughout the whole cycle. It’s important that we have people that can show us our blind spots. People who have been in places or done things we haven’t done can mentor us.
Coaches that know how to point the direction when we don’t see it or hold up the mirror when we’re blind to the ways we’re playing small or we are taking ourselves out. We’re not keeping our word. Accountability is important. That practice for recovery is important because bouncing back is everything. I can’t think of anything that’s more important in life than the ability to recover quickly. If you don’t believe me or if I didn’t believe me, I’ll add some cred to it by saying there was a Harvard Business Review article. They had examined the highest performing athletes in the world, the best athletes with business executives and entrepreneurs to compare them. See if there were any commonalities in that high-performance space.
What they found was the highest performing athletes recovered. The one thing that was different about them and the people that were finishing 2nd or 3rd or not making it onto the podium, their recovery time. You triggered that for me. The recovery time is the key. It’s not that they don’t have setbacks. It’s not that they don’t lose a game or a set like in tennis, but how fast they could get themselves back to a recovery state was the most distinguishing feature in the winners.
It was the same for business entrepreneurs and executives who are under strain and stress more than athletes. People in business, you’re under that strain almost seven days a week these days. There are almost no boundaries between you and work, given this device that we’re all attached to. That recovery period is important what you do to create resilience, recovery and meditation, or stillness practice or prepare.
Mental break, nutritionally taking care of your body, sleep-wise allowing your body to recover whether it’s in sport or you’re a high performer in the business. Those are the keys to being able to rebound and start fresh the next day.
We wrote about this PIVOT, just twenty minutes of walking. You’re working in the city, you’re in Manhattan. What a beautiful place to walk, not in February, perhaps on a brutal day. Take twenty minutes to walk around the block. Take twenty minutes in Carlsbad, where we live to go out and look at some swaying palm trees or whatever the case might be. Twenty minutes of light exercise even. This has been an incredible opportunity to explore a lot of things. We opened and closed a lot of loops in this conversation. Colin, thank you so much for being on the show.
I appreciate being here. I enjoyed the conversation.
Congrats on the impending fatherhood.
We’re very excited.
For everybody out there who enjoys this, hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it. You’ve gotten some great nuggets and things that you can apply. Most importantly, we’d love to give your feedback. It is important and we want to be held accountable. That’s the essence when we teach and work on creating accountability in organizations. We always go to the essence of how we all provide feedback. How we receive, provide it and whether or not it’s welcome. I want to say this, “We welcome and we live on your feedback.”
You can go on iTunes and leave a review. We will respond to them. We relish them and they’re important, so thank you for that. If you want to join our Facebook Community which is growing in wonderful ways, you can go to PivotFB.com or go straight on Facebook to Start My PIVOT Community there and join.
If you do join, ready to receive support and also a great giver, that’s a key ingredient but that you’re willing to be transparent and vulnerable. That’s what we believe is going to build trust quickly within that community. Thank you so much again and I will wave a virtual magic wand by giving thanks and saying a prayer that we all get to wake up tomorrow. The same that we got to wake up now. This was a blessing. There was no guarantee that we got to do this now. Tomorrow, I wish, I hope, I pray that we all get to wake up. Wake up our consciousness of the world. A little more awake and a little more alive and a little more present tomorrow than we have even been now and that’s something to be truly grateful for.
The three steps to the waking ritual that we love to share are wake up recognizing that waking moment is you’re taking that breath. I love what Colin was saying breathe in and breathe out. Know that as you’re breathing in and breathing out, there are people who are taking their last breath. Who are breathing in and will not breathe out at that moment and that makes this moment sacred? It’s holy. It’s special. It’s easy at that moment to feel something akin to gratitude. Lastly, if you’re willing to do it, no requirement at all but from your bed or when your feet hit the floor, if you want to say these words out loud you can declare, “I love my life.” It’s been a blessing to spend this time with all of you. We’ll see you again soon.
- Xerox Corporation
- Kilimanjaro Education Foundation
- Unstoppable Foundation
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull
- Nicky Poole
- Harris Poll
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- The Future of Work
- Tony Rodoni – LinkedIn
- The Making of a Corporate Athlete
- iTunes – The Conscious PIVOT Podcast
- PivotFB.com – Facebook
About Colin Nanka
Colin is the Vice President, Global Sales Leader Coaching at Salesforce.com. He’s a proven sales leader with over 20 years of sales and leadership experience at Salesforce and Xerox Corporation. Colin earned his business degree from the University of Alberta in Canada.
In his spare time, he competes in multi-day, self-sustained, adventure races in some of the world’s toughest terrains, including China, the Atacama desert in Chile, Iceland, and Antarctica. Recently he competed as a team in Patagonia, Argentina.