The $180 Million Leadership Lesson That Changed My Career

In 2010, at 27 years old, I was hired by Jodi Berg, CEO at the Vitamix Corporation, to lead the direct sales organization.

Several weeks into the job, I needed to confess.

I was doubting if I had all the answers to the complex challenges and opportunities we were facing.

How will we grow, while simultaneously strengthening and maturing our culture?

How will we convert research about our rapidly evolving customers and competitors, into practical wisdom for our hundreds of sales people, operating on every continent?

I didn’t have the experience, or the answers, to these big questions. Instead, I had an abundance of self-doubt.

But, it turned out, that’s not what Jodi was concerned with. Here’s what mattered, even more.

Consider this context.

The world around us was changing at a rate that was faster than our leadership team felt equipped to adapt to that change.

Sound relevant today?

The breakthrough came when Jodi gave us permission to see the role of leadership differently.

Leadership… in a world where change itself is changing…

Is NOT about being one of the few people with all the answers.

It IS about unlocking the collective potential, by designing better questions, and facilitating well choreographed conversations.

It was about modeling a deep, genuine curiosity – the kind that’s born from humility and compassion.

And to be willing to listen to insights, and answers, from all across (and even outside of) the organization.

But the exponential shift happened when we saw that every time we convened a group, we could unlock a collective intelligence – by scaling up curiosity.

We methodically combined smarter questions with better conversation design (which i’ll be writing more about, in the next article)

Yet, the most important result was…

A Major Shift in the Identity of Our Leaders

We are no longer the “sage on the stage”, but the “guides on the side”.

Over 4 years, our team grew from 175 to 600 sales professionals, and revenues grew from $40M to over $180M.

And to be clear, I, our team, and our approach definitely weren’t the only reasons we experienced meteoric growth.

We had a world class product, global trends in our favor, and a brilliant company behind us.

But, at least we didn’t screw it up…

12 years later, at xchange, what we now call Conscious Facilitation, is being used by over 12,000 consultants, coaches, trainers and leaders. And companies from Google, to BMW, Keller Williams are leveraging xchange to unlock collective intelligence.

Who would have known… that better questions are the best answer… to our most complex leadership challenges.

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