Adam’s leadership journey at Funnel started when he relocated from Singapore to Sweden with his family. But that was far from the end of his odyssey. Today, he leads our recently established office in Sydney, heading our APAC (Asia-Pacific) region. This is a place where ideas bounce around like kangaroos on a trampoline!
We’ll explore what Adam believes are important leadership attributes and dive into some of the challenges and learnings he has encountered.
What does it mean to be Funnel's head of sales for the APAC region?
My key responsibility is, ultimately, to make the APAC region meaningful for the business and to drive a culture of collaboration, fun, and sales excellence.
My team consists of two account executives, one sales development representative, one customer success partner, and one solutions consultant. So, I have the privilege of leading quite a diverse team!
We flew everyone down fresh from overseas. We have two Americans, two Swedes, and one German. It's a full pod and it kind of makes us like this nice little experiment where we have all the people in one place, all the functionalities in the same room, talking to each other constantly.
Together, we are building that culture around a new office, which is one of the key contributors to delivering long-term success.
What are the most important aspects for you when it comes to leadership?
I think important leadership attributes involve keeping calm and being respectful of people. I believe that leaders need to make decisions promptly, and they need to own their own mistakes and rectify them. You need to be data-driven by testing theories and not being afraid to make mistakes. Furthermore, you need to have the ability to stay positive even when things are tough, and I believe in building a place rooted in psychological safety.
I would also like to highlight the importance of servant leadership, coaching, earning people's trust, and leading by example as important aspects of leadership.
For me, this means the people on my team are the superstars. They are better at their specific roles than I am, because they do it all day every day. My job, as a leader, is to enable the team to do their job by removing blockers, listening to their advice, helping them plan out their goals, and holding them accountable for what they want to achieve. And then getting out of their way.
I think coaching is a massive piece of leadership, and it involves two facets. The obvious one is coaching around the individual's role and skill set. Secondly, I believe in coaching people toward their future aspirations. Those may be goals at Funnel or any future dreams – such as opening up their own business in five years.
As a leader, it is my job to align their future and personal goals while trying to bring that aspiration into their current role. I think that this really makes people grow, and ultimately, they'll stay motivated knowing that it's building their skill set toward their desired future. Sometimes, this also requires you to help your team envision their future, since many people often find it difficult to think five years ahead.
Lastly, being coachable yourself and understanding that listening is critical. You need to give everyone a voice, you need to listen to feedback about yourself, and you need to act upon it with an open mindset.
- Earning trust & leading by example
I've always found that remaining realistic, open, and honest about my skills (as well as my flaws), can help me earn my team’s trust. No one knows everything, so you shouldn’t pretend that you do. Unfortunately, this hubris is something I've seen over the course of my career. While being confident is important, I know that asking for help or delegating relevant tasks to the experts on your team, will lead to greater success.
You also need to lead by example, by getting your hands dirty, jumping into the trenches, and being part of the team.
What challenges have you faced in your leadership journey, and how have you overcome them?
My first role as a manager involved a difficult transition. I was elevated from a peer within the team to that team’s leader. Beyond the change in interpersonal relationships, I learned that being great in your former role doesn’t automatically make you a great leader. You can’t force people into adopting your old methods just because they worked before.
Instead, you need to adapt your style to suit the others on your team and embrace the diversity of the team. I learned to customize my approach to each individual’s strengths while building up their abilities. Ultimately, this leads to much better engagement and success.
Another challenge I have experienced came from working with some strong-minded individuals (some of whom were great at hiding poor work standards): the importance of accountability and tough conversations. This includes the personal performance level and at the team level.
Your team will notice when you don't hold people accountable. I learned that you can have very hard conversations without breaking the relationship by being open and honest. That approach tends to result in stronger relationships when done right. When encountering these situations, it helps to rely on hard data and facts while keeping emotions outside of the room.
What leadership attributes and skills do you believe are important to thrive as a manager at Funnel?
Funnel is a company that is constantly evolving and changing. That means leaders need to be open-minded and maintain a growth mindset. You need to be open to doing new things, gathering data, making changes on the fly, and being adaptable. Also, change makes people scared, so great communication and setting expectations are important.
Furthermore, transparency is an important value at Funnel. You have to have that honest and open integrity. This also poses a challenge, though. As a leader, you can't always be completely transparent. Sometimes, you need to maintain the privacy of your team members and adhere to various rules and regulations. Like many things, it’s a balancing act.
What role or leadership models inspire you?
It might sound cheesy, but my father is one of my leadership role models. He and his brothers owned a very large business when I was growing up. He was always on top of things, which I deeply respect.
He says what he's going to do and he follows through. He never lets down, even when it's difficult. He taught me how to do things correctly and thoroughly. The harder things are always the things worth doing.
Furthermore, he maintains relationships with friends from 30 years ago, leading them on these crazy adventures around the world every year. He is a blueprint for being a good person and a strong leader.
I also had a manager who used to send daily quotes to our team from the book Principles by Ray Dalio, which I really appreciated. They were really on point, and I loved receiving them. I think leadership is rooted in our principles – how to be good and how to do the right things.
I also look up to people who are honest about their mistakes. James Ireson, our previous chief revenue officer, is the first leader I can recall who has said, “I’ve completely made a mistake, and we're going to reverse that entire decision.” That inspires me.
I've had many leaders who just said, “Well, that doesn't seem to be working. Let's just change tactics,” instead of being honest about making a mistake. Being honest builds huge amounts of trust with the team and with me personally.
Do you have anything else you want to add?
Ultimately, I think it is important to understand that leaders are humans, and they're going to make mistakes. The good news is that we learn the most from our mistakes, not our wins.
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Would you like to be a part of Adam’s team building our reach in the APAC region? Adam is looking to hire an account executive to join our Sydney team! Apply today right here.