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Surround yourself with the best

Gary hung up the phone and flashed a small smile.

“We should be good to go for tonight, but I’ll know when one of them calls back.”
An unexpected business trip had taken me to Manhattan, and my morning meeting had concluded earlier than anticipated, so I stopped by my sister and brother-in-law’s place to see if they wanted to join me for dinner and some sightseeing.
I’ve always admired Gary. A composer and musician of note with a couple of Emmy awards, jingles and a fully stamped passport to his credit, I was thrilled at the possibility of listening to his humorous anecdotes for the evening.
Over a cup of coffee and while waiting for the return calls, Andrea, Gary and I caught up on each other’s lives. A year earlier, Gary had been selected to be the pianist for the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show “Starlight Express.” These kinds of gigs are obviously few and far between, and he was thrilled to be a part of the show.
During the next 45 minutes, he repeatedly looked at his watch and shifted nervously in his chair. He was antsy.
“You OK?” I ventured.
Gary explained that the call for which he was waiting was from his stand-in for the show so he could join us out that night. He had actually placed three calls to really talented substitutes but one, in particular, was the one he really wanted.
I asked him why he was so adamant about this guy. I was prepared neither for his answer or its significance.
“He’s a much better player than I am,” came the response.
I didn’t get it right away, so I pressed.
“Gary, what happens if the conductor actually likes this guy’s playing better than yours? What if he hires him and fires you? Are you crazy?”
“Actually, Patrick, it works differently in this business.” Gary began. “If you bring in a substitute and the sub is not as good as you are, you have a greater chance of getting fired because the conductor knows that you can’t be trusted.”
He continues, “You see, the stand-in has to play with an unfamiliar orchestra, follow instructions from an unfamiliar conductor, and he has to sight read the score and play it perfectly. So if they are worried about their playing, they can’t focus on all these other things. That’s why I want this guy. I know that he’s the best.”
In sales, how carefully do we examine the people with whom we surround ourselves? Do we seek out those who are better than we are? Do we spend enough time with the high producers – people who outperform most others? Do we watch and learn what they do?
Too often we can find ourselves gathered around the coffee machine listening to the laments of those who are not performing. It stains our own minds and dings our confidence.
Top tier performers purposely cull those people and situations from their day. Like Gary, they seek out the best and keep them near. In doing so, their own performance improves, and they become MORE valuable to the organization.
The question we also have to ask ourselves is this: “For how many customers or teammates in my company am I the ‘go-to’ guy?”
Over our third cup of coffee, the phone rang. Gary answered, and a smile came across his face as if Publishers Clearing House had called.
“He’s in!” he exclaimed. “Let’s go!”