Leadership Sales

6 Leadership Lessons From Michael Norton That Go Hard

Michael Norton is an imposing presence – both physically, as well as in the sales world. The former coast guard is the EVP of Enterprise at Sandler, but that’s just a fraction of his credentials. He learned the ropes from the legendary Zig Ziglar, paid his dues on the road, and is as excited about the sales game as he was all those decades ago.

Check out the full podcast episode this article is from!

We were honored to have Michael as the first guest in the second season of the Authentic Sales Leader podcast. The episode was a fun, freewheeling conversation, and one of the many points Michael touched on was what makes for an authentic sales leader. Naturally, leadership lessons from someone like Michael deserve their own little space, so here they are.

Leaders don’t waffle

“I’ve had plenty of leaders that I’ve reported up to…what I respected in those leaders is that they made the decision, they stood firm in that decision, and they didn’t waffle, and that I can get behind.”

One of the core qualities of an authentic leader, Michael says, is that people follow them not because they are supposed to, but because they want to. And that only happens when they are decisive. When leaders stand their ground for something they believe in, even if that’s not the popular choice, they are bringing their authentic self to the role. And that means having conviction in their decisions, even if those are not popular. Which brings us to the second point…

Leaders can’t please everybody

“The problem with some leaders is they try to please everybody, and all that does is create a lot of waffling.”

Trying to please everyone means you end up pleasing no one, says Michael. His opinion is that leaders who try to please everyone often just say things that people want to hear. Trouble is, different people want to hear different things. So ultimately, decisions don’t get made because such leaders are uncomfortable upsetting some people. Which has disastrous consequences in the long run.

Leaders need to understand their workforce

“So it was kind of a big a-ha moment for that manager to be like, oh, yeah, that’s how you grew up.”

Michael peppered the episode with stories, and one of them was about how important it is for a leader to understand the perspectives of others in the team. During one of his training sessions, a sales manager pointed out to Michael how a trainee was on his phone, not focused on the session. When questioned, the trainee held up his phone. No, he was not on social media, or aimlessly scrolling. He was taking notes, because that’s how Gen Z takes notes. Not on a pad with a pen, but on their phone. It was an interesting “a-ha” moment for the manager, and an interesting highlight of how leaders need to consider how their team members from different generations work differently. 

Leaders need to know where they’re going

“You can choose to be a wandering generality or a meaningful specific.”

The importance of having a north star or a guiding light came up in our conversation over and over again. As Michael puts it, a leader cannot expect people to follow them if they themselves don’t know where they’re going. Someone who doesn’t is just a “wandering generality” – directionless, vague and not worthy of being followed. To be meaningful, a leader must have a specific goal in mind, and then share that vision with their followers. 

Leaders need to want to be elite

“I want to surround myself with people who want to be elite. Because I get better being around those people who are elite.”

So what makes Michael Norton, well, Michael Norton? What lies at the core of his personality? What immediately came bubbling to the surface was his need to be absolutely elite. The way Michael sees it, being mediocre, or excellent, or elite, is ultimately a choice. Not everyone makes that choice, of course, but true leaders need to have that desire burning within them at all times. That’s what distinguishes the winners from the also-rans.

Leaders need to be able to have fun

“You cannot be emotionally attached to the outcome.”

But for all the intensity and desire to be elite, Michael makes this very clear – If you want to have a career in sales, you need to be able to have fun. The way to do that is to do your absolute best, but not get emotionally invested in the outcome. As Michael puts it, no salesperson ever bats a thousand. No salesperson wins all the time. The more people accept it, the more fun the process will be, and the better you will be as a seller and a leader.

Hearing Michael hold court is absolutely amazing. From funny anecdotes to deep, philosophical observations to hardcore, immediately actionable tips, this episode of The Authentic Sales Leader Podcast had it all. Check out the full episode here, and visit our YouTube page for more episodes.

Humantic AI reinvents human interaction by enabling its users to reliably understand other people's personality and behavior without requiring them to take any test. Using Humantic AI's cutting-edge personality AI, salespeople can consistently close more deals.