EPISODE 415: Genein Letford’s Perspective Shifting for Successful Sales Leadership

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Optimal Sales Mindset Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on June 23, 2021. It featured Intercultural Creativity ® Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Author, Create and Grow Rich Podcast Host Genein Letford.]

Register for the October 15, 2021 IES Women in Sales Leadership Forum here.

Find Genein on LinkedIn here.

GENEIN’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “I have a diamond in my hand and I want to remind you that you’re a diamond, but your clients and your team members are diamonds as well. When you’re looking at them, look and think about the multiple facets that are coloring the way they see the world and be curious about those facets. Don’t forget to be curious about your own facets, but if you’re looking to improve in perspective-shifting, remember that people are multifaceted and we’re all meant to shine bright like a Diamond.”


 Fred Diamond: Every Thursday is the Optimal Sales Mindset. My guest today is Genein Letford. Genein, you’re doing some great work out there, I mentioned Intercultural Creativity. We brought you onto the show today because we’re talking about perspective shifting. I’ll tell you, it’s really interesting that we have you here today. It’s the middle of August and we’ve done so many episodes about, “Now that the pandemic is winding down…” and of course, now there’s something called the Delta variant which is throwing a whole lot of people askew. We do live programs at the Institute for Excellence in Sales in person, of course we stopped them because of the pandemic. We were planning on getting out of the gate again in September and now some of our member companies, large companies with big sales organizations said, “You know what? We’re not sure if we’re going to let our people go to things until 2022 now.” There’s so much perspective-shifting going on, and I’m thrilled to have you here today.

Genein, great to see you. You’re in Los Angeles, I’m in Washington DC today and I’m really excited for what you’re going to be talking about because it fits in perfectly with what’s going on in the world right now.

Genein Letford: Thank you for having me. I’m just going to jump in here. Perspective shifting for leaders in sales, this is what we’re talking about and this is where you’re going to see a shift in leadership training over the next decade. I hope that Intercultural Creativity will be a part of that shift. We are looking for the advantage, the advantage in situations, advantage in the marketplace, advantage with what we are producing. But have we really looked at this word? Advantage. My work really wants to have people understand that to increase your advantage, you have to increase your vantage points. You have to increase the amount of ways you’re able to interact with a concept, a product, a client, a situation. That is the advantage.

As far as perspective shifting, if your skills aren’t really refined in this area, you might have this problem. You might have people who are experiencing an experience and coming at it from different perspectives and not able to see where the other person is coming from. Another ill factor of not growing your perspective shifting skills is you’re living life and doing business with one solo perspective. This just results in disconnected communication, it results in lack of trust, and that results in lack of sales.

As my work called out, Intercultural Creativity, perspective shifting is an integral part of creativity. Really quick, give you some background. Creativity is now the #1 skill needed in the workforce per the World Economic Forum, creativity and innovation. But we have a slight issue, not a lot of people understand the word creativity. There’s a big group that thinks it’s just with the arts so I’m trying to dispel that bit. “I’m not creative, I can’t sing, I can’t dance.” Creativity is so much more than that.

Then there’s other psychological and cognitive issues that are holding people back from being their whole creative selves. Moving forward, I really want to be clear on definitions. How I define creativity is creativity is the process of problem-finding and problem-solving with relevance, value and novelty. Highly creative people are great at finding problems, seeing things from different vantage points and solving problems with value, relevance and novelty. Creativity is highly influenced by culture, and that is really what my work focuses on. When I say culture, I don’t just mean ethnic culture or national culture.

A culture is a group of people that have verified values, beliefs and systems that they agreed upon. I really want people to understand that to have cultural competency is to have the capacity to shift perspective – why we are here today – and behavior based on commonalities and differences by experience cultures and individuals with greater levels of complexity. Think about that, they can shift perspectives, they can shift their behavior and adapt with greater levels of complexity because they have cultural self-understanding and cultural other-understanding.

The work that I am presenting out into the world and in my trainings and corporations and with organizations is called The Seven Gems of Intercultural Creativity. I want to really quickly show you those as we go into perspective shifting skills that we’re going to talk about today. The first gem is to create a growth mindset, you have to understand that you can be creative and that you can increase your skills in cultural competency. It’s very difficult to do the more advanced cognitive skill building if you don’t even believe that you can do it. This is based off of the work of Carol Dweck, the growth mindset/fixed mindset research.

The next gem is called the empathetic way. We do a lot of training on empathy. In order to be a good perspective shifter, the empathy skills have to be built up. Once again, this is not a project, this is a process. It’s an ongoing learning experience, the empathetic way. The third gem, I call it cultural observation. This word hasn’t really been talked about a lot, observation. As humans, we’re already at a deficit. There are sounds we can’t hear that other animals can hear, there’s things we can’t see like microwaves and ultraviolet waves. Our observation is already at a diminished amount compared to other animals and creatures on this earth. But are we building our observation even more? I talk about environmental observation and cultural observation and how that affects your perspective shifting skills. When I mean observation, I don’t just mean seeing. Observation is all of your senses, even your intuition and your creative sense as well.

The next gem is cultural curiosity. The quote says, “If creativity is the driver of innovation, curiosity is the driver of creativity.” But who wakes up and says, “I’m going to work on my curiosity skills today”? Almost no one. What does it look like to build curiosity within your sales leadership strategy plan? What does it look like to build that within your organization? The organizations that are going to survive this shift that we’re in are curious organizations.

The next gem is why we’re here today, perspective shifting. You’ll see in this presentation that my work is backed up by neuroscience, and there’s a lot of brain research on how perspective shifting for leaders is going to be a game changer because of their ability to really foretell where the market is going and to sense where the shifts are.

The next gem is authentic adaptation. People who have worked on these other skills of perspective skills, curiosity, observation, empathy and their mindset know how to adapt. There’s crisis adaptation, something that we’ve all experienced this past year or so, and there’s also cultural adaptation. How do you adapt to different cultural situations, different client’s needs? Are you observant and aware?

The last gem is being the bridge, the connector. Malcolm Gladwell talked about connectors and people who sit on those boundary lines between different cultural groups. Those are the people you want on your teams because those are the people who are bringing in ideas from areas that you may not have access to. There’s a great book called The Medici effect and he said that innovation happens at the intersection of fields, disciplines and cultures. As bridge-builders, you want those people who are connectors. Those are the seven gems of Intercultural Creativity that my company trains on, but we’re here talking about perspective shifting. What does it look like to be good perspective shifters and what are the underlying cognitive factors that help you increase that ability?

Like I said before, all my work is backed up by neuroscience. I have one of the top neuroscientists in the nation, Dr. Michael Platt out of the Wharton School of Business come on my podcast, The Create and Grow Rich podcast. He talked about how the brain has different networks going on. You have your focus network like your attention network, that’s the network that’s on when you’re doing those emails, you’re filling out those sheets and you’re really writing down the information about your clients. Then you have your innovation network. That’s the network that’s on when you stop focusing on a task and you start daydreaming – yes, daydreaming. We need to be back daydreaming into the office because your innovation network is turned on, and that’s where these new ideas come in. If you don’t give your brain a chance to turn on the innovation network, those new novel ideas won’t be able to get to your conscious.

There’s also another area called the mentalizing network which we will talk about, but I wanted to really bring that up to show you how important your imagination is for perspective shifting. I want you to do a really quick exercise. Close your eyes if – if you’re not driving or if it’s safe to do so – and I want you to see a red ball. I want you to watch the red ball bouncing down the stairs, watch it go down the stairs. Now I want you to put yourself on the beach. Look out into the ocean, into the horizon and look for the shift you see on the horizon. Now put yourself on this shift and look back out at the beach, now you can open your eyes.

What we did really quick, and in my trainings I go really into this, is we activated your imagination and we put you into the observer self. In order to be great at perspective shifting, you want to increase those imaginative skills and put yourself in different positions where you can see different viewpoints in your mind’s eye. Activating your mind’s eye, your mind’s ear, your mind’s senses is a key critical part in increasing your perspective shifting skills because that’s when your innovation network in your brain has turned on. That’s when you’ll start making connections from your different experiences.

Imagination draws on experiences. When you read, you should be seeing what you’re reading. Mathematicians who do great work are great imagers and they’re finding out that salespeople who do great work or who are able to see where the sales shifts are happening, where their clients’ needs are going, are good imagers. They’re using their imagination. There’s a great book by Mitch Cohen called The Billionaire Effect, how great producers create value. He sat down with 20 self-made billionaires and the first mental trait they saw that was a theme out of all of them was empathetic imagination. Think about that, empathetic imagination. There’s your creativity skill, there’s your cultural competence skill. You have to be empathetic with who you’re serving, your imagination has to be strong.

Here’s another exercise that I do with my trainings. I divide the group up into two groups and I give them an identity. I basically say, “If your birthday is between January and June, you’re going to take on then identity of a home owner. If your birthday is between July and December, you’re going to take on the identity of a burglar.” Then I just give them instructions. “You’re outside of a house, look around and look what time is it. Go in the house, do an activity, go upstairs, do an activity and then come out of the house.” It’s a little bit more in-depth than that, but what I want them to understand with that activity was the identity that I gave you completely colored your experiences.

If you were a perspective home buyer, it may have been day. You may have been brought in with a real estate officer. You may have been seeing the family items in the home. But if you had the identity of a burglar, you had a completely different experience even though my instructions did not change. See that shifting of perspective.

The reason why I bring this up is I have something called the diversity diamond. For those of you who are listening, I have a diamond with all the multiple facets, and the logo of my company is a diamond, that’s why I’m so honored to be on Fred Diamond’s show right now. The reason why I do that is because there’s multiple facets to a diamond, and people are multifaceted. The reason why, I show that your facets really color the way that you experience the world.

On the diamond graphic that I’m showing, I have the different facets of demographics such as ethnicity, body-abled, belief systems, education, mental ability, gender, sexual orientation, experience, socioeconomic status and your appearance, and there’s a lot more there. When we think of demographics, we normally think of the top four, but there’s so many other facets that are coloring the way we’re having experiences. I bring that to the forefront to have first, self-awareness. Have you thought about the facets that are coloring your experience through life? Because in order to perspective shift, you need to know where you’re shifting from.

Fred Diamond: One thing we talk about so many times during the presentation of the gems, you have to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It’s always been the case, of course, with sales professionals but one of the big challenges the last 18 months is that everybody’s been going through the pandemic and everybody’s been going through the effects of the pandemic, the stay-at-home lockdowns and vaccinations. Everybody’s also been going through the financial implications of the pandemic, industries have shut down, certain companies within industries have shut down. The way they go about buying has shut down or shifted. Third, whatever the third thing is. We talked about that a lot.

I love how you’re bringing this up from a deep perspective, because for salespeople to be successful right now, salespeople have never been successful in hey, customer, this is what I sell. This is why it’s so great, here’s the benefits and the features and all those things. We’ve known that for 8, 9, 10 years now that the shift has to go from the customer first, but it’s even more dramatic right now because everybody’s being impacted by this. I do want to comment on one quick thing that you said, the great salespeople do wake up every day saying, “How can I be more curious today?”

I know you said nobody wakes up saying that they’re going to be curious. Great salespeople, the best ones, they are curious. What is my customer doing? Where does my customer need to go? How can I help my customer? What you’re talking about here is so deep and so essential for sales professionals to be successful. It’s not about you. The thousands of people listening to this podcast, it’s never been about you, it’s really about your customer and how they’re interacting with their customer. Even now with their customer’s customer, because industries have been affected so much by this pandemic.

Genein Letford: I want to touch on two things there. Yes, great salespeople are curious but I would challenge you, are you literally working on your curiosity skill? I have my background in K-12 education as well and children are very curious, but how do you help them refine that skill of curiosity? One of my podcasts that I haven’t published yet is with Dr. Allison Horstmeyer, you can find her on LinkedIn. She is out of USC and she has her whole doctorate on workplace curiosity. She built her own research just on that one word. She has a lot of gems to share.

Another aspect is with the pandemic. I use the metaphor – and metaphorical thinking and training is good for perspective shifting as well. We’re all in a storm, Fred, but we’re all in different boats. I’ve sat with people in cruise liners and yachts, and I have sat with people who have wooden planks in the storm who are barely holding on, and everyone in between. We’re all in the same storm, but we all have different boats. If you’re living a sales life where life is pretty okay, comfortable, but to understand and to shift that not everyone has that same type of boat even though we’re all in the storm together, that’s a good skill to be aware of.

Fred Diamond: I just want to make a quick comment. I’m glad you brought up that, we actually had a guest on the show, it was probably April of last year. His name is Patrick Devlin, he’s the VP of Sales for a company called Meridian Knowledge Solutions. He actually brought that up in May or April of 2020, exactly the same quote you just did, and we’ve gotten so much value from that quote. Keep going, you’re really giving us some great stuff here.

Genein Letford: My next challenge to your audience is if you’re in a company that you don’t own, or if you’ve ever worked in a company that you didn’t own, who is your CEO? 99.9% of people can answer that question. If you’re in a school or organization, who was your dean? Who was the president of the school? Most people know this information. But now, I want to challenge you. Who was your janitor when you were going to the office? Did you know the janitor’s name? Did you know the housekeeper’s name? Did you know the front secretary that you may have walked past? People who are top-notch in perspective shifting don’t allow the biases of title, position and authority to dictate who they connect with, because the #1 indicator of a highly creative person is openness to experience. The #1 indicator of a culturally competent person is openness to people with different lived experiences.

Just like the boat metaphor, you may be in a yacht, you may be in a cruise ship but are you still connecting with the tug boats and the wooden planks? Once again, episode 166 of my podcast, Create and Grow Rich, Dr. Michael Platt out of the Wharton Business School, he said humility increases perspective. People who take the time to meet different people from those different diamond facets, socioeconomical facets, education facets, your brain starts to build a bigger picture as opposed to just having one type of group that you expose yourself to. I want to make sure you’re aware of that.

Of course, there’s so much research but if you’re looking to have the advantage, you need to increase your vantage points along multiple facets of the diamond. If you want to go see the Diamond of Depths, please visit CAFFE Strategies or email me directly. I want to leave you with the overview again of the seven gems. The creative growth mindset, empathetic way, cultural observation, cultural curiosity, perspective shifting, authentic adaptation – I put authentic here because I don’t want you to lose who your core value is and that’s why self-reflection is so key and self-awareness is going to be a big word in leadership training this next decade. Authentic adaptation, and then being the bridge. My book will be the first book ever on the topic of Intercultural Creativity, it’s coming out at the end of summer, beginning of fall. Please follow me for that information and I have trainings as well. I want to open it up for questions, Fred. Do you have any more?

Fred Diamond: We’re so honored to have Genein Letford here today. As I’m looking at this growth mindset, today we actually have a webcast called the Optimal Sales Mindset. As I like to tell people, Genein, prior to the pandemic we used to do a lot of live sessions. We were famous at the Institute for Excellence in Sales for what we call our Big Stage. Once a month, we would bring a great speaker like you, a sales author like Mark Hunter or Jeb Blount and we would talk about a topic related to sales, prospecting, whatever it might be.

We did a session for maybe once a year in October on a cold Friday on mindset. Now we’re doing one every single week and we’ve had tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people either downloading this podcast or watching us live just about the whole notion of mindset. Empathetic way. As people know, there’s been so many words that we’ve heard over the last 18 months that we’ve been doing a daily webcast that we convert to a podcast. Empathy is one that comes up all the time. We’ve even done shows just on empathy. I remember back in May of 2020 that was a huge word because there wasn’t a whole lot of business going on unless you sold masks or ventilators. But you still got to be talking to people so you had to be empathetic.

I remember one person asked us the question, “Do I still have to be empathetic?” This was May of 2020 and the guest on my show said, if you’re struggling with being empathetic right now, which is really a table stake in sales, then you really need to go to the beach for the weekend and just sit and listen to some soft music. Because if you aren’t empathetic, there’s no way you’re going to be even remotely successful in sales.

We talked about curiosity but I want to go a little bit deeper into authenticity right now, I want to get some of your perspectives a little bit deeper as we come down towards the end of today’s Optimal Sales Mindset. Talk a little more about that, because that comes up all the time. When we ask our sales leaders, every Wednesday I interview VPs of Sales, what is your advice for the sales professionals around the globe? I would say one out of every four answers is be your authentic self. Talk a little bit about that if you’re struggling with that, and talk a little bit about how to uncover that.

Genein Letford: It’s difficult to be something that you haven’t given time to. It’s difficult to be a great tennis player if you don’t play tennis. Quick story. There was a friend that wanted to meet a female friend on a college campus. “Let’s meet at 10 p.m.” and she was like, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” “Why?” “I just don’t feel comfortable doing that.” He was like, “Is it because you’re a woman or whatever? Tell me, what is it like for your experience?” She said, “Before I tell you what it’s like for me to be on campus at 10 p.m. at night, tell me what it’s like to be a man on campus at 10 p.m. at night.” He was like, “I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it.” She was like, “Exactly, how can I share my experience with you when you haven’t even taken the time to examine your own experience?”

That’s why I said self-awareness is going to be a huge training goal for a lot of leaders going into this next era. Because in order for you to be authentic, you have to spend time with yourself. I love the fact that you brought up this slow music on the beach. I tell people, creativity isn’t solely artistry, but artistry can definitely enhance and refine your creative skills in non-creative areas. In selling, in business, in influence, in negotiations. I taught music and creative arts in K-12 for 15 years, so even now in the work force, I bring in the arts to help people increase their creative skills and to help them find authentically their core values, because the arts are another form of communication. If you’re increasing your communication skills, musically, verbally, with movement – the body is an instrument of thought. Albert Einstein knew that, if you’re increasing your ability to communicate ideas among multiple frameworks, you’re that much more aware.

Being authentic takes time, and there’s research that show that people don’t want to sit with themselves in silence, that’s difficult for a lot of people because there’s a lot of undealt-with either trauma or difficult past experiences. Giving people the space to work through that, that will improve your ability to perspective-shift and connect with other people if you’ve done the hard work yourself. My degrees are in psychology and education so I’ve seen a lot of work with that, but now we see that on the corporate level as well.

Fred Diamond: I’ve got one final question for you. I have to tell you, the answer you just gave is very deep and we’d love to have you come back and get deeper into that. It’s interesting because we’ve been doing webinars every day that we convert to Sales Game Changers podcasts and of course, in the middle of the summer last year there was a lot of social unrest that our sales leaders were talking about. With the pandemic there’s been a lot of shifts.

It’s interesting, most of our audience at the Institute for Excellence in Sales were sales leaders who were based in the Washington DC area. What the pandemic has allowed us to do is expand our audience around the globe. I know we have listeners in Europe and we have listeners in California and South America, we had someone from Venezuela who used to pop on every show.

You just went somewhere that from a personal perspective, we could go so deep. I’m going to ask you for your final bit of advice, but before I do, just talk a second or two about some things that people can do to be even more authentic, more self-aware. There’s the real powerful story where you just said that the woman said to the guy, “Have you ever thought about being a man on campus at 10 o’clock?”

One of our best programs at the Institute for Excellence in Sales is our Women in Sales program and it’s the thing that I’m most proud of that we do. It’s for women in sales leaders but it’s about leadership, and it’s about personal development, professional development, presence, skill development, and it’s not easy for women to progress into sales leadership. That’s why we do the program. As I head things that we talk about in our Women in Sales program, there’s a lot of stuff about sales. Here’s how you be a more effective in prospecting, here’s how you be a better empathetic leader, but there’s a lot of stuff that we don’t deal with on the male side that may be more impactful for women.

Give us two examples of techniques, I know you have cheat sheets in your classes, two things people listening can do to be more self-aware of the world.

Genein Letford: One of the gems is the observation. Like I mentioned, we’ve dulled down a lot of our senses, we mostly rely on our eyes if they’re functioning properly. I have a three-year-old, and because of all of the research that shows what a highly creative connected person is doing in their adulthood, I’m doing with him in his childhood. We go outside and we just close our eyes and listen to the birds.

Another thing is just being mindful that your body is giving you information that you should be aware of. In this fast-paced society, we just don’t listen to our body. We don’t really pay attention to the information and data our senses are getting. Really doing some sensory training, slowing down when you’re cooking, smell the spices, move, just pumping that up.

Another thing is journaling. John Locke said the source of all great ideas come from sensation, your observation and from reflection. That’s another perspective-shifting skill. When you sit down to journal, I’m not saying you have to fill out every single day, but journaling puts you in the observer position. Remember when you imagined about the ball, you were now in the observer position, and you get to look at that experience not in the experience as how you already went through it, but now you get to look at it from an observer experience and say, that was interesting. I totally didn’t catch that when her eyebrow went up slightly.

When you increase your observational skills and you journal and you look at your experience from an observer perspective, it really shows you what you’re paying attention to. Don’t forget, observe comes from Latin and it means to pay attention. What are you giving your attention to? You can really know what’s important to you by where you’re sending your attention. But if you’re not paying attention where you’re sending your attention to, it’s hard to even know what is important to you as far as your core values. And we can do a whole other show on core values.

Fred Diamond: We’ll figure out something because you’re getting deep into places where salespeople can really take their careers to places we haven’t really gone. We have a comment here from Nick which said, “Good job, Fred and Genein.” We have a comment here from Suzanna who says, “Fred, this was a great episode. Thank you, Genein.”

Genein, you’re doing such amazing work and I forget how we first met you, but you got really deep here. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I’m actually a little bit affected by some of the things you’re talking about which maybe we’ll talk about offline. We’d love to have you come back to get deeper into some of the things that we just talked about, but I want to ask you for your final action step. We end every Sales Game Changers podcast with something specific, you’ve given us a lot of great ideas but give us one specific action step people watching today’s webinar or listening to today’s podcast should do to take their sales career to the next level.

Genein Letford: I have a diamond in my hand and I want to remind you that you’re a diamond, but your clients and your team members are diamonds as well. When you’re looking at them, look and think about the multiple facets that are coloring the way they see the world and be curious about those facets. Don’t forget to be curious about your own facets, but if you’re looking to improve in perspective-shifting, remember that people are multifaceted and we’re all meant to shine bright like a Diamond. I think that’s why we met, Fred, because your last name is Diamond so I was like, I have to know this man.

Fred Diamond: I’m very honored. I want to thank all our listeners today. Thank you so much for listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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