PODCAST 169: How to Become an Effective Self-Advocate with Mike Feldman


This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Mike Feldman, President of the Americas Operations and Global Document Services for Xerox Corporation.

Effectively communicating your professional successes can feel self-indulgent at times but can help your superiors recognize your personal growth & build standards for the rest of the company. Thinking of helping the collective can stave off the feeling of over-confidence and position yourself for promotion.

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If you missed episode 167 check it out here: How to Take Risks and Fail Fast with George Donovan

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:09]
  2. Mike’s Baseball Card [4:11]
  3. Advice to the Younger Workforce [11:29]
  4. How to Advocate for Yourself [17:01]
  5. The Importance of Skills, Grit, & Will [20:00]
  6. Can you Train the Desire to be Great? [23:23]
  7. Mike’s Biggest Influencers [25:06]
  8. Sam’s Corner [27:44]

Show Introduction [00:09]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker Podcast. Today on the show we’re incredibly excited to have Mike Feldman. Mike is the President of the Americas Operations and Global Document Services for Xerox Corporation. He’s an officer of the company and he’s an EVP at Xerox and has been for over four years, so he’s just a seasoned leader of very large organizations and so he talks to us about the career. He spent 24 years at Hewlett-Packard and then eight years now at Xerox. How do you manage and navigate a career in the modern world and what are the key skills that you need to be thinking about as you pursue those opportunities? So it’s a really good conversation.

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Now, let’s listen to my conversation with Mike Feldman.

Mike’s Baseball Card [4:11]

Sam Jacobs: We would like to start with your baseball card. We all know who Xerox is but it would be really interesting perhaps to hear how you describe the job that you do and the business that you oversee from your words and what you’re doing to help lead Xerox into the next phase of transformation.

Mike Feldman: I really have two jobs and they’re a little bit different:

  1. In charge of the sales force in the Americas (U.S., Canada, & Latin America) where we focus on bringing all of our products, solutions, services, and software to all of our customers, big enterprise customers, customers who do print for a living.
  2. Managing the Global Document Services globally for the company; it’s all about the print and document and content services we offer to our customer base. I think with all these new technologies like AI and cloud and robotic process automation, it’s really picking up steam quite a bit in the past couple of years.

Number of people Mike oversees: When you include not only our sales and go-to-market folks but also the delivery organization, it’s over 10,000 people.

I went to Pace University in New York, in Westchester County, and as you know that is where IBM is headquartered in Westchester County and I was lucky enough in my last year to get a co-op intern position with IBM. I worked for IBM during the day, Monday through Thursday, at night I took classes in my senior year at Pace, and then believe it or not on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I was waiting tables at a restaurant.

1988 IBM was very big, very well-respected and having that on my resume I think really helped quite a bit and got me the position or helped position me with Hewlett-Packard. I went on to work for HP for 24 years and did a whole host of different types of jobs: sales, marketing, business development, and product management, and moved around with the company as well.

About every five years they’d offer a voluntary early retirement and it came with a very nice payout and some bonuses and other things. And I qualified when, believe it or not, I was only 45 years old. I wasn’t really at 45 ready to retire but I was ready to take this package and take a year off and go enjoy life. And I wound up taking it and five months later I started Xerox.

Advice to the Younger Workforce [11:29]

Sam Jacobs: For people that are maybe one or two decades earlier in their career, the path that you just articulated is increasingly uncommon. Basically, you worked for two companies; what do you attribute that success to? What guidance or lessons are you giving to the people that work for you or young people in terms of career management?

Mike Feldman: I’m not sure there’s a one-size-fits-all; there’s a lot of different dynamics that come into play that you got to really think about:

  1. Manage your career; no one manages it for you.
  2. Think about what is most important to you in regards to staying with or leaving a company.
  3. Be flexible about moving to a different location but not too flexible if the location is the absolute wrong fit for you.

How to Advocate for Yourself [17:01]

Sam Jacobs: How do you advocate for yourself successfully and effectively? What lessons do you have to do that? Because I can tell you so many people feel they’ve just been ingrained and unfortunately a lot of the times it happens with women where they’re just not comfortable advocating for themselves because they feel they might be judged.

Mike Feldman: I learned a lesson early when I was probably 22, 23: I remember sitting down with my boss and we were doing our annual review, and he said to me something very interesting. He said, “I heard you did such and such.” It was something that I did that was good. I said, “Oh, yeah, I did that.” He goes, “How come you didn’t tell me? And I’m like, “I don’t know.”

I literally said to him, “I don’t want to look like I’m bragging,” and he said to me something that has stuck with me to this day. He said, “If you’re doing something good, I’m not a mind reader as your boss; I need you to actually tell me, and not only to give you credit, which we’ll do but also that we can learn as a company and maybe we can replicate in other places.”

The Importance of Skills, Grit, & Will [20:00]

Sam Jacobs: Tell the listeners a little bit about your thoughts on why skills are important but why grit and will are equally important and how you’ve leveraged those over the last three decades in sales and executive management?

Mike Feldman: This thing around grit and the will to succeed is maybe more important than a skill. You got to have some skill and you got to bone up on your skills and you’ve got to improve your skills, but getting up, there’s no substitution for getting up an hour earlier than your competitor and working an hour later and just being on it.

Can you Train the Desire to be Great? [23:23]

Mike Feldman: I think you got to be born with a little bit of this skill to articulate and communicate with people and have some desire to succeed in life, and it’s definitely teachable too. I think it’s a little bit of both, quite frankly. I think some people are just wired totally different, too. You have to really think about: where are my natural skills? What am I naturally good at and how do I even work at that so that I’m great at it?

Mike’s Biggest Influencers [25:06]

Sam Jacobs: When you think about ideas or people that you think we should know about because they helped inform who you’ve become, what comes to mind?

Mike Feldman:

  • Mark Hurd, Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard—Stressed the importance of knowing your customers & portfolio
  • Steve Jobs of Apple—His passion for inventing & sticking to his value system
  • Jack Welch of General Electric—How he invested in people & wrote personal notes to business leaders each year

Sam’s Corner [27:44]

Hey, everybody, Sam’s Corner, another great conversation. Mike Feldman is an inspiring leader. He worked at IBM and he waited tables and he’s been working his whole life pretty much, but the two big places are HP for 24 years and Xerox for eight years. And so, as we talked about, I think here’s the one thing I want you to take away:

The ability to effectively document and message your accomplishments and your achievements in a way that doesn’t appear conceited or cocky and still enables you to receive the credit that you deserve so that you can be noted and can have the trajectory in your career that you deserve.

He mentioned that one of his first bosses told him, “If you don’t tell me I’m not a mind reader, I won’t know what you’ve done, but also the organization can learn from your successes.” So how do you do that?

  1. It’s about we; it’s less about I. Try saying I less and we more and make sure that you’re recognizing all of the people that were keys to accomplishing that objective.
  2. Let people know that you’re going to be accomplishing the objective before you work on it. Then when you do that over the next quarter, you are somebody that now does what they say they will do and your accomplishments are not out of nowhere in a vacuum.

Make sure that you use we, but make sure that you do it right. That was his key point, nobody can know that you’ve done something unless you tell them.

And I’m offering a suggestion or an agenda: if you present a plan where you’re saying, “I’m planning on doing these things this is what I think the results will be, this is the plan I have to get there.” And then at the end of it, “Hey, remember when I said this was my plan? Well, here’s an update on it. These are the things we have accomplished, these are the things we haven’t accomplished but we did accomplish these things,” that’s a great framework for tackling that and for not being too overly self-promotional or at least appearing to be while still making sure that you get the recognition that you deserve.

What We Learned

  • Humbly Communicating Accomplishments
  • Acknowledging the Collective “We”
  • Preemptively Communicating Objectives

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Once again, thanks for listening. If you wouldn’t mind giving us a five-star review, I would really appreciate it. If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me sam@revenuecollective.com.

See you next time.

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