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The No A**hole Rule

by David Brock on September 3rd, 2016

Almost 10 years ago, Bob Sutton published the “No A**hole Rule.”  For some reason, I’ve been contemplating this quite a bit.  I think it’s something both sales people and consultants run a danger of becoming or are accused of.

What is being an A**hole?

Clearly, there are behaviors and attitudes that are inappropriate.  Often they arise from being too “Self” centered.  Perhaps an overpowering sense of self-importance, or focus on “what’s in it for me.”

Characteristics of this might be not listening, not being open to new ideas, not being willing to consider other positions or even to shift your own.

It might be refusing to let others present their points of view.  Instead, perhaps blindly imposing one’s own.

We can see it in behaviors that shame, belittle, bully, or are intended to make others smaller.

We can see it in bigotry and intolerance.

We can see it in behaviors and actions that are divisive or seek to tear things down, rather than unite and build.

Sometimes, naively, we think that telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to or should hear helps us avoid being A**holes.

In fact, I think the opposite is true.

It’s our obligation as sales professionals (more broadly, as human beings) to help our customers achieve their goals and be successful.  It is only through their success that we achieve our own.

Consequently, it becomes our responsibility to challenge our customers, politely, to think about their businesses differently.  To help them identify areas to grow and improve.  To help them understand where they may be making mistakes.

Not because we want to get an order, but because it’s wrong for them, they fail.

With our customers and the people we lead, it may be telling people things they may not want to hear, but what they need to hear to achieve their dreams.

It may be helping people challenge their beliefs, assumptions, even their values.  It may be working through shared discomfort around difficult issues, but recognizing it’s wrong to ignore them by burying our heads in the sand.

I think A**holeness may be rooted in intention.

Being focused only on something helps us, regardless of the impact on others is being an A**hole.

Not helping our people, our customers, our families, our communities succeed and achieve their dreams is being an A**hole.  Even if that help is unpleasant or even not sought.

Certainly, the way we present our intentions may impact how we are received or what we are intending to communicate.

We have to be sensitive in how we behave, how we communicate, what we say.  We have to be polite and share respect for each other.

It’s that shared respect, even when we are discussing very tough issues, that cause each of us to learn and grow.

If A**holeness is rooted in intention, it’s important we are very transparent in our intentions.  It’s perhaps, this lack of transparency, that causes other’s to mistakenly think one is an A**hole.

Perhaps, this is a restatement, I think genuinely caring is critical.  The absence of caring is an indicator of A**holeness.

Not caring about the success of our customers or our people is being an A**hole.  Not wanting to help our people learn and perform at their best is wrong.  Not wanting to see our peers succeed, or be dedicated to the success of the organization.

Being an A**hole is a choice.  What is yours?

  1. I always operated from the intention of helping other people.
    If I couldn’t help them got out of their way.
    Later in my sales career I was told that the word sales comes from the Norwegian word “selje” which translates literally into “to serve” and I look at that as sort of a justification for my stance.

    • Greg, thanks for the great insight. It’s awesome to learn the Norwegian foundation for selling, we need to apply that broadly.

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