Ring Rust

By Mac M. Martirossian, CPA

In my corporate experience, what separated the true leaders of companies I observed and worked with, where those individuals who left the comfort of their office and entered the front lines.  And the more they were on the front lines, the more they were connected with the heart of the business.

The practice of getting in touch with the core of a business is especially important when the economy is in a downturn and customers are on the run.  Is it any surprise that CBS introduced Boss Undercover, during the recession, to highlight the importance of CEOs leaving the back office to join the rank and file in the front office?

Unfortunately, many heads of companies still remain at HQ, and this lack of closeness to the customer produces Ring Rust, a term popularized in the sport of boxing, when a competitor fails to practice and over time……gets knocked out.

The owner of one of my current clients is a sales professional.   At least once a month, he will run an appointment, which means spending 2+ hours in a customer’s home to make a sale.  As a result, he is in touch with his customer’s needs, understands the challenges facing his sales reps, and commands the respect of his team, because he is on the front lines.  Additionally, he keeps the ring rust away from his selling skills.

  1. Get out of your comfort zone.  Leadership is growing through discomfort.  It is not easy to get on a plane or in a car and get to the front lines.  It can be time consuming and draining.
  2. Get in touch with customers.  The more layers between the customer and the CEO, the more the risk in being out of touch with the business.  In the example of my client sited here, there are only two layers; in the case of last corporate position, there were five.
  3. Get passionate with your craft.  If your business hinges on sales and you have a leadership position, get in touch with the selling side of the business.  If marketing drives your business, get immersed in that area.  Prevent ring rust, by getting deeply ingrained in that area of the business that makes a difference.  E-mails, meetings and conference calls are inhibitors.

Leadership starts with putting your own position at risk, by stepping out of your comfort zone and into the front lines.  When you do so, be prepared to take action on what you hear from the constituents that matter—your customers, and you will avoid ring rust from knocking you out.


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