The Advice That Made Me a Better Sales Leader, From a Senior Director at Spectrum

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Photo Courtesy of Spectrum.

Photo Courtesy of Spectrum.

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For Jo-Anne Sweredoski, being surrounded by passionate people is integral to an exciting, effective work experience. Thankfully, it’s something she’s found at Spectrum

“My team shares my competitive nature and has an ‘all for one, one for all’ mentality, and that’s exciting for me,” she recently told Fairygodboss in an interview. “I like to see that fire in my employees' eyes.”

As Spectrum’s Senior Director for SMB Regional Sales for its Northeast Region, Sweredoski looks for people with that energy to join her sales team. 

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“I want to see that they have a growth mentality, and that they're excited and willing to put their all into the role,” she said. 

But just because her team operates with a certain energy doesn’t mean Sweredoski’s leadership style is all fire and brimstone. In fact, she spends a large amount of time nurturing the interests and skills of her team — to magnify their passion and to help them grow into their dream careers. 

“I like to meet people where they are, and help them learn and grow from there,” she said. “When I talk with my direct reports, I ask them: ‘Where do you want to go, and how can I help you get there?’”

Sweredoski’s development-based leadership style was passed down to her by her mentors. But it’s not the only advice she’s received through her years as a member of the supportive culture of “extremely smart” colleagues at Spectrum. Keep reading for the advice that has contributed Swerdoski’s success, along with her advice for women who want to make their mark in sales.

How long have you been at Spectrum and what about the company first made you want to join?

I have worked at Spectrum since 2006. What initially drew me to Spectrum and what keeps me here is the culture and the way we’re able to work together cohesively across lines and channels to create the best possible experience for consumers.

What are your favorite aspects of the culture at Spectrum? 

The collaboration at Spectrum is by far my favorite aspect. We look to the long game and really work cohesively. We have a lot of extremely smart people at this company and everyone’s willing to be part of the bigger picture as opposed to their niche, which is amazing. 

Tell me a little about your current role. What about this work excites you?

Currently, I’m working as a Senior Director of SMB sales. My career at Spectrum has spanned over many channels, but this is my first time working on our business side of the house. There are so many dynamic people on my team and the work we’re doing is life changing for so many people. I’ve seen so many people join our organization for a job and then it turns into a career where they get promoted and move up and that’s just amazing to me. I’m competitive by nature, which is why I’m in sales, so I always love to win and see others win.

My team shares my competitive nature and has an ”all for one, one for all” mentality, and that’s exciting for me. I like to see that fire in my employees' eyes. Whether it’s someone who is in their first job or someone who's at the tail end of their career, I’m extremely passionate about being able to ignite or reignite that fire and energy. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

For me, it’s all about development. I like to meet people where they are, and to help them learn and grow from there. The secret to my team’s success is that we develop people for wherever they want to go — and it’s OK if that’s not exactly what we, as their managers and leaders, initially had in mind. 

When I talk with my direct reports, I ask them, “Where do you want to go, and how can I help you get there?” I also host a career development call once a month that anyone can join. It’s meant for people to be able to see a path where they’re able to grow, and to provide resources to guide that path. 

What are a few qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate for a sales role? 

The very first thing I look for is personality. Before I even consider someone’s sales or business experience, I want to see that they have a growth mentality, and that they're excited and willing to put their all into the role. Sales is difficult — you need someone who's going to bring excitement, passion and energy so they can grow to the next level and not get caught in the burn out. 

After that, I look for skill sets. I’m confident that I can build skill sets, but I can’t necessarily build fire and passion, which is why I always look for those traits first. 

What benefits or programs has Spectrum offered you that have contributed to your success?

We have a formal mentorship program that I’ve found extremely impactful. As a former leader of the program, I was able to interact with people I wouldn’t have necessarily interacted with otherwise. It exposed me to leaders who have helped me to grow my career, gain new perspective and continue to build my passion. 

How has being a mentor enriched your own career?

The main way being a mentor has helped me is that it changes my perspective. Generally speaking, if you’re asked to be a mentor, you’re bringing a lot to the table as far as career advice. But, inevitably, you’re also bringing momentum and automation to the relationship. When I’m talking with mentees, I’m learning from them. I’m gaining knowledge and a different perspective from them, which at this point in my career is what I’m looking for and craving — that quest to continue to grow past what I’ve already accomplished. 

Who is someone that has been particularly influential in your career?

Years ago, when I first stepped into a director role, I had a leader who was the first VP I had ever worked for. She had a large effect on my career and gave me advice that changed how I looked at leadership. 

During this time, I ran into a situation with a coworker who I was not gelling with the way we should have. This leader encouraged me to have lunch with this individual. Sitting down at the table and sharing a meal with this person allowed us to come together, share likenesses and grow. That experience really made an impact on how I tackle leadership. 

Why do you feel that working in sales at Spectrum is unique or different?

I’ve been really blessed to work for my leadership team and for the opportunities that they've given me to grow. There is an open door policy at Spectrum that allows me to talk to an EVP just as well as my manager, and that's been huge. I have a seat at the table, and that matters. I try to do my due diligence to ensure that my employees also have a seat at the table, because that’s how we grow as an organization and that’s how everyone gets better. 

Why do you believe there is a great opportunity for women in sales?

Sales is an intimidating industry. It’s one of those do-or-die situations where you can be successful or you can’t. Active listening is a strong quality that a lot of women bring to the table. More positive outcomes come out of active listening than anything, so there’s a huge opportunity to use those unique traits to find success in sales. 

What advice do you have for women who are looking to either begin or elevate their career in sales?

As women, we’re not always as confident to come to the table and show what we’ve been able to affect. At the same time we can talk about our accomplishments in a way that isn’t boastful, but is more matter of fact. As women in the sales environment, we have to be able to share those accomplishments. 

As leaders, we have an obligation to help other women and create a path for them. It doesn’t mean that we’re downplaying men at the table, but that we’re coming in as equals and contributing in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. We bring unique qualities and I believe men and women are stronger together when we respect each other’s voices. 

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