Do It. Own It. Love It. The Sales Leader Who Can't Help But Care
Where does a fiercely proud, sleeves-up leader with purple hair and a need for authenticity find her place? Vocus Group, of course.
Mel Kramer and I have met before. The Sales Manager at Vocus Group participated in a discussion group I facilitated in 2018 to understand what it’s like to work with the Telco and Energy Challenger. I’ve done similar sessions with thousands of employees, yet I remember Mel and her contribution vividly. Why? Well, firstly, she had purple hair that day. More memorable though, was the quality of her contribution, and the honesty and passion of her delivery. Here is an employee who lives under the skin of her chosen employer, and who can’t help but care.
The right fit
Mel joined Vocus Group in early 2016. A New Zealander, she had moved to Australia two years earlier to continue an already progressive career. She eventually joined Vocus after years of being hounded by a friend and ex-colleague who already worked there.
“She just kept saying, ‘This place is so you.’ It turns out she was right!”
Mel is indeed thriving at Vocus. She has earned two promotions in three years and is now Wholesale State Sales Manager (NSW & QLD). She leads a team of sales people to grow and retain Vocus Group’s wholesale customer base, and she clearly loves her job. As ‘2IC’ to her General Manager, Mel says her key role is to mentor, motivate and challenge her team members to over-achieve. She’s quick to share that as well as hitting sales targets, this is about empowering them to be excellent contributors to the team and to the wider Vocus family.
“I’m proud of my reputation here as someone who helps others grow. I don’t have a natural affinity for data and numbers, but I know I’m very good with human beings. I feel privileged to be in a leadership role at Vocus and to have such an amazing team. We have challenges here – of course nowhere’s perfect - but you rise to the challenge! You don’t just whinge about a problem; you look at a solution. You get creative and disruptive in your thinking; you collaborate to make things better.”
Ownership and authenticity
Mel clearly embodies Vocus Group’s culture of connectedness and ‘sleeves up, stuck in’ ownership. For her, ‘faking it’ is never an option.
“If I believe, I’m all in. If I don’t believe, I just can’t do it. This is not a place for people who just want a job. It’s so personal. When you invest in that, you get it all back and then some! We work hard and sometimes we’re up against it but ‘glass-half-empty’ people don’t fit here. A glass is a glass. If there’s nothing in it, go fill it up, preferably with wine.”
Sounds good to me. I ask what matters most to Mel in her job and career, and she gives me a top three: authenticity, a sense of belonging and being challenged to grow.
“There aren’t two versions of me. I am who I am, I say what I mean and I ask the same of others. I can be hard work – I give everything so I expect a lot back – and I know I’m not your everyday leader. I swear too much, my hair is often different colours, and I’m a pretty emotional person. At Vocus, that’s ok - I can be me here.”
Life and love. Sorrow and pride
Mel has a strong relationship with her manager which is built on mutual respect, contrasting but complementary skillsets, and trust. That trust has helped Mel grow and has also enabled her to access support and flexibility when she has most needed it. The opportunity to work from home is standard practice at Vocus but sometimes life throws a curve ball and you need a little more.
“My best friend lost both her sons to suicide recently – It was a very hard time and I needed to get back to New Zealand for a while. My GM told me to do whatever I needed to do and that we’d figure it out. When big things happen, it’s the little things that count.”
She gives another example:
“Everyone knows about my delicious grandson! Until he was born, I didn’t realise the level of ridiculous love you get for the kids of your kids. It’s so fierce! I go home every few months; I either take a long weekend or do a Friday and Monday working in New Zealand, to maximise my time with him.”
Mel loves her native New Zealand and is a huge advocate for its people and culture. We reflect momentarily on the terrorist attack which recently took place in Christchurch, and it’s clear Mel has been deeply affected. After a long pause, she gathers herself to respond, and the emotion in her voice cuts right through me:
“I’m proud of who we are and I love what we stand for. This past week has felt very raw. I was trying to make sense of why I was so devastated – I don’t know anyone who was directly impacted. But it didn’t matter. My whole country is grieving. I came to work on Monday wearing a T-shirt with a message which said ‘Arohanui’, which means ‘Big Love’ in Maori. So many people asked me about it and checked in to make sure I was ok. They understand me. And you know what? That’s why I’m here. I am equally proud of this company – of these people – as I am of my cultural heritage. Vocus is a massive part of my identity.”
As the conversation draws to a close, I ask Mel to help me sum up the Vocus difference. Her answer is immediate and instinctive, delivered straight from the gut.
“It’s honest. We punch way above our weight and we win because we care about people – our customers and our team. I love that these incredibly diverse people come together every day to get it done. I’m all in... or, as we say here, I bleed blue.”
About the Author
Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 18 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.
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