The Counter-Intuitive Philosophy of a Free Man

Juan is a sales manager who taught me from his experiences.  He began by sharing his frustration about a current corporate practice.  After he and his people meet sales quotas and earn agreed-upon financial rewards, the company often comes back and takes away the rewards.  At Christmas time, after a year of hard work, Juan had to tell his people they were not going to receive large sums of money they had rightfully earned.

I asked him how he was coping.  After an emotional dump, Juan surprised me.  He began to explore his situation from a much larger perspective.  He spoke insightfully about the organizational dynamics above and below him.  Then he shared some personal observations.

He told me, “I have been in the company for seven years.  Every year they have raised the quota and everyone knows the requirements are unrealistic.  My first three years as a salesman, I reached the quotas.  The last four years as a manager, my team has reached every quota.  We have not only reached them, we have blown them away.  No other team is even close.”

This claim suggests Juan is like a professional athlete who leads the league in the most important statistic every year.  Such an athlete is seen, internally and externally as extremely valuable and is heavily rewarded.

To my shock, Juan told me this was not the case.  He shared two reasons.  First, the company leads the industry in product quality and outside salespeople are anxious to gain employment.  As result, salespeople are seen as expendable commodities.

Second, Juan said, “I refuse to play the political game.  I spend no time currying relationships with people at higher levels.  Above my boss, I am invisible.”

I found it incomprehensible that higher-level authority figures would not know of his extraordinary performance.  I pushed back hard.  He returned in kind.  He insisted he is relatively invisible.  I was staggered.  I asked a number of questions.  He eventually shared his core philosophy: “I know what I am about.  I love the challenge of meeting and exceeding quotas; I love leading my people; and I love spending time with my family.  I focus on these three things.  I refuse to do or say anything I do not feel.  I require myself to live authentically.  This means everyone can trust what I say.  So I have no fear.  I know that at any time, in any economic situation, I can go out and get a job.  I am a free man.”



  • Why do you think Juan’s team performs so well?
  • What do you find most remarkable about his philosophy?
  • Why is he a free man?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

One comment on “The Counter-Intuitive Philosophy of a Free Man

  1. Juan is the definition of a great business development manager. I’m still curious about some of the compensation specifics because while he clearly has no ego like most great salespeople, I’d be surprised if he would still stay at the company if he knew he could be making significantly more money elsewhere with the same amount of effort/time. I’d love to hear if I’m absolutely wrong in that idea and why he does that if that is the case. Juan is the kind of leader that if/when he leaves, his people will leave too because they don’t work for the company, they work for Juan. The best part is the company’s top executives will be scratching their heads when he’s gone, wondering why their sales have dropped so significantly because they didn’t understand Juan’s true value along with any other great salespeople they have. It’s crazy that this happens but it does happen often. What I love most however is that Juan is not controlled by money or accolades. He knows what’s important to him and that’s why he stays and that’s what keeps pushing him to excel. No external force is affecting what and why he does what he does. It’s all internally, authentically driven.

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