As we reach the end of 2017, I’m thinking back on one of the conversations I recorded with Keith Krach earlier this year. Keith is the chairman of DocuSign and his track record of building highly successful companies is widely admired.
In this particular video, we talked about the importance of mentorship. As Keith put it, the world of business is primarily about friendships. At the end of the day, business is done on the basis of trusted relationships.
This is important to remember right now. This year we spoke a lot (particularly at the Sales 3.0 Conference for sales leaders) about the disappearance of traditional sales roles and the increasing need to develop sophisticated selling skills among your sales team. As technology starts to replace sale functions, the quality of human interactions will determine your level of success or failure in sales.
Salespeople with highly developed selling skills – those who understand how to sell value in a consultative way – will have job security.
This is also what makes mentorship so important. Technology can enable, support, and facilitate many amazing aspects of how we conduct business, but there is no substitute for real relationships and human connection.
In his late 30s and early 40s, Keith was running a successful tech company, Ariba. He was told he should have a mentor. Serendipitously, he connected with John Chambers, executive chairman of Cisco. John invited Keith to get together once a month for breakfast mentorship meetings. As Keith explained, these meetings became an invaluable resource of support and learning for him:
I remember he said, “You can ask me anything. Anything you want at all.” And I asked him everything under the sun, and he was just a great mentor. About a year into it he walked in and he said, “Keith, I know what you’re thinking! You’re thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’” And I remember I asked him: “Why are you doing this for me?” He said, “Because somebody did it for me.” He didn’t ask anything in return. Just pay it forward and give back.
As Keith put it, if you want to learn to be a great leader, the best model is the “hybrid model.” That means you don’t model yourself after just a single leader. You learn from as many people as you can. Especially people who have been practitioners in the field, doing what you want to do.
Watch my video interview with Keith below and learn more about how great mentors influenced his thinking and leadership style.