Kyle Peters – Michigan State University
I was approaching my third summer in the Southwestern Advantage program, and it was going to be my first time as an “organizational leader.” Being an organizational leader is lot of responsibility – not only do you coach your team in the summer, but you also coach other student manager’s teams. Your responsibilities include: selling the most books in your organization, running a productive sales school, giving advice on coaching calls at night, organizing follow days, helping somebody through a tough day/week, meeting with the organization on Sundays, planning Sunday meetings, executing Sunday meetings, and many more subtle things in between those major responsibilities. District sales managers do a lot of work teaching you how to perform these tasks, but I was still really nervous. I felt the same butterflies before the summer as I did before my high school hockey games. After all, I had only just finished my junior year at Michigan State University, making me 21 years old.
I remember when it all began in mid-May at Sales School. Sales school is the first test of leadership, and it sure is stressful. We were running back and forth from point A to point B, only to find that sometimes the schedule had changed and the new location was point C. Sometimes we were behind schedule so I had to improvise and figure out what parts to shorten and what parts to elaborate on. I would get asked questions that I didn’t know the answer to, but I had to do my best to think on the fly.
I remember all the first experiences – the first Sunday meeting as you are in front of everybody looking at your notes because you forgot what you wanted to say, the first personal conference where you are trying to uplift somebody but you don’t really know what would accomplish that purpose, or the stat call where you are looking for the magic thing to say that will motivate a peer. Some advice I would give to first time organizational leaders is don’t worry about being perfect on the bookfield. You are going to make lots of mistakes, and that is okay. One example of trying to be perfect was in my conversations with first years and student managers on Sundays. The more I strived to think of what to say, the less I could genuinely listen to others. People don’t always need you to solve their problems, they just need you to hear them out and relate to them. They need to know how much you care about them. I have learned that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is such a valuable lesson to take into your life outside Southwestern Advantage!
Our organization had a decent summer in sales and we had a good amount of managers returning the next year. I had learned so much in the process. I love being an OL because it is truly challenging – the executives in Southwestern Advantage will tell you that it’s the toughest job in Southwestern. You are forced to grow when you are doing something really tough. They will also tell you it’s the most rewarding. It’s a great feeling when a first year student that you coached through the summer gets a check for $8,000 and they are ecstatic at checkout. I am excited to keep practicing my leadership capability this summer and help others develop great sales organizations!