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First teams shape the you who you are today. My first team was a young, mostly first-job group of professionals that defined talent and had no fear. They wrote the rulebook for how you sell in an area that no one had very much success.

It’s your first team that allows you to make all the rookie mistakes, and if you hired right, they cover your back and allow you to learn from them. My first sales team went on a mission to prove a point. They took an us-and-the-world mindset and mowed everyone down. They also remember a lot about how you treated them, what you said, and all of your nuances.

My first sales team taught me how to be transformational and less transactional as a former coach now a sales leader. They all have stories to tell. One of the finest people I ever managed said:

You were my first sales coach! I was on that first team you managed. You were the one who taught me that I’m not only selling externally but internally. You were the one who told me that I am living in California, but selling like New York. You really helped hoan my skills for bigger and better things. —Carolyn Vineyard Shneider.

Carolyn had the toughest assignment and loved feedback and coaching. We spent many hours in the field. I give her all the credit. She had perseverance, was determined, and never took no for an answer. She’s a top salesperson today and her will to succeed made me a better leader.

It’s much like my first ODU (Old Dominion University) team. When everyone called us “OD Who” this team never had any doubts they would beat he odds and win it all. Coach Marianne Stanley developed a culture and high bar of success of capturing the gold. The team was talented too…we just assembled and gave the players a strong buffet of skills and drills that they would eat from. They then took it to championship levels.

This was the group that took extra shots after practice, came to practice early asking for coaching. We only lost six games in my first three years with this group. I joke today that if we had more experience as coaches, we might have won those six. We made mistakes, learned, coached, and developed talent to better levels than they dreamed possible. That was our style. The team’s culture.

Years later when you talk to people you led or coached, they don’t remember the awards or scores, but what you said at a point in time, how you treated them, your actions and nuances. Be very intentional about the you…the you you want to give to others.

First teams are special. All of your teams are special, so treat them right and they will make you better at what you do.

Question: What is your favorite memory or lesson from your first team?