Trading Glory for Dollars: The Art of Leading from the Back of the Room

There is probably not another profession on the face of the earth more tailor-made for the “average person” to develop into a stage seeker than MLM. From the time you take your distributors to their first major event on (and perhaps even from the time you take them to their first business meeting), many of them begin to long for the moment when they can step up to the microphone. In fact, one the first declarations they make is, “Next year, I’m going to walk across that stage!”

There is something intoxicating to people about being center stage. Actually, I find it rather humorous that while I hear many people declare an aversion to speaking from the front of the room, it never seems to shorten the length of their remarks. In fact, sometimes the so-called terrified ones have to be cut off by the host of the program because they won’t shut up.

Although the lure of being on stage for money has a compelling charisma, I would list it as one of the most expendable activities for any leader wanting to make the big money. You may be wondering why I say that. It’s because your best money-making spot is the back of the room as you watch your leaders flock to the stage.

The more your leaders get to participate from the front of the room, the more momentum and enthusiasm they will have for the event. Incidentally, they almost never find fault with an event in which they are a major participant.

It is important to begin cultivating them for that leadership participation as soon as you sign them up. Begin in small groups, like at a home party or a small meeting. First, they need to observe you (or someone else) and ask questions. Then, you need to coach them for a small participation role. When they have successfully mastered a supportive part and have proven that they can manage the clock, you will want to give them their starting role chance.

I first heard this “lead from the back of the room” stuff from my husband Taylor back in 1986. I though, at the time, that perhaps it was overrated. I was confident back in my professional teaching days that a trained presenter would be hard to beat.

What I learned is that it’s not about “beating.” It’s about developing, encouraging, supporting, and envisioning. It’s about accepting standards, temporarily, that might drop a tad so that they can ultimately rise to a new level. This fits right in with Taylor’s motto: “We build the people, the people build the business.”

In December of 2002, Taylor and I decided to host a historic Leadership Summit meeting. We had 55 of our top leaders come in for a 72-hour marathon. It was one of our finest hours. After a Mexican fiesta dinner and a tour of our estate, we held a Vision Workshop. The breakthroughs that began to occur there are still unfolding. On Saturday, seven of our top leaders presented to the group. The afternoon culminated in a question and answer panel followed by an inspirational call to action. I’m sure the string of seven limousines we hired to carry us to a holiday party at the CEO’s estate added extra sparkle to the event – but we are still at a loss for words to describe the power of the entire experience.

“Leading from the back of the room” is what generated that winning format. It is also how you can get the most out of an event while observing the responses of the audience. I would encourage you to set your ego aside and build up those around you. You may not see your name on the program, but you’re more likely to see it on a bigger check.

I’ve always said if I can make at least $30,000 a month, I can get by. If you aren’t happy with where your leadership has taken you, try stepping out of it and passing the baton. Trading glory for dollars seems like a pretty fair trade to me.

Here are some tips for leadership development:

1. Set and live by high standards;

2. Be consistent;

3. Know your people;

4. Bring out the best in people;

5. Earn the respect of your team;

6. Delegate;

7. Build confidence by showing confidence;

8. Project positive expectancy;

9. Create team achievement;

10. Communicate enthusiastically;

11. Have a vision.

Remember Mary Kay’s National Sales Director, Luella Gunter’s famous words, “Ultimate success is the ability to inspire followers to become leaders.”