The level of growth we are seeing at Coursera is giving us great opportunities to drive impact in the world and to build an exciting team. I’d like to say we are “building the ship while sailing.” There are so many new things that we are doing, experiencing, and figuring out together. It is exciting to me as a sales leader to have this opportunity to build camaraderie and to promote collaboration within our team.
A great and happy sales culture is about linkage across the team. Sales can be a very challenging function to stay with over time. I think it is important that we take time to celebrate our successes and to evaluate our failures as a team. Working together, we smoothen out the road and make sure everyone stays engaged. It really helps in driving forward together.
Yes, part of our happiness in sales comes from taking time to thank, and work, with our peers in other functions. It's not a competition. It's not about being better than another part of the business. We are highly reliant on other functions, whether it's Pre-Sales, Legal, or Finance. These are people we need in our journey. Celebrating our successes together goes towards building both sales happiness and functional happiness more broadly.
“Drive” by Daniel Pink is one of my favorite books. In it, he describes three factors —purpose, autonomy, and mastery — that really set off human potential. Purpose is feeling part of the shared goals of the business. Autonomy is having the leeway to make decisions, and having room to run, so very much the opposite of micromanagement. Mastery is craftspersonship, being able to build a career in sales over time and become a true expert of the art.
I believe there is a huge opportunity to continue reinventing sales. For example, we really don’t have enough women in sales or in sales leadership positions. That is a function of the more traditional “work hard, play hard” culture in sales. I believe we need to build more all-encompassing sales cultures going forward.
Building a team that is both happy and high-performing means emphasizing teamwork, minimizing competition, and providing feedback. When you have a team that really comes together, compares notes, supports one another, and learns as a collective, there is so much opportunity to fast-track growth and knowledge.
Deep, honest feedback is also a core value at Coursera. We share ideas and feedback wherever possible on what is working, what is not, and what opportunities we see in the market. One of my values as a sales leader is to always assume positive intent when sharing feedback. I tell my team, "I've got your back; I expect you to have mine." Sometimes, people are dealing with personal problems that affect their performance. You gain trust and build strong relationships by offering safe spaces for people to share.
Authenticity. There is no need for us all to look, sound, and be the same. When you bring your authentic self to the workplace, you build trust within your team, because they also feel comfortable bringing their true selves to work. Authenticity is such an important component of being happy. Acceptance is another.
True happiness can be elusive, especially if we are comparing ourselves to others or to some external standards that define where we think we need to be. An important first step is accepting one’s current reality. A huge problem in Sales is that we often beat ourselves up over where we are, where we are not, and where we are relative to others. You unleash potential — and future happiness – by accepting where you are and moving ahead from there.
(The interview was conducted during the second half of 2020. It has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
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