Leadership Spotlight: Meet Sam

As the executive vice president of sales at Paycom, Sam Norman understands what it takes to be a great leader. We asked Sam about his leadership journey and his advice for future leaders.

What made you want to be a leader?
Early on, I think it was mostly about moving up. That was why I wanted to be a leader. As you get into a leadership role, that evolves and you realize that while that still can be a motivator, really how you’re able to impact people on a daily basis through building teams, through helping them accomplish their goals, fulfill their dreams – that’s really where the deep satisfaction and motivation comes from.

Did you have a mentor?
Yes, I had a lot of mentors. Early on at Paycom, it was Jeff York and Holly Faurot. Both were very different in their approach. Jeff was the most positive, motivating, transformational leader that I had or have ever interacted with. Holly was more of a “get your hands dirty and I’ll do the work alongside you” type of a person. Both are two very different leadership styles, but when you blend them both together, I think that’s really where effective leadership comes into play. Whether it’s transformational leadership or leading from the front and getting your hands dirty and getting side-by-side with the people doing the work and leading next to them, not necessarily in front of them.

Was there a phrase that either one of them taught you that you still keep in mind?
Jeff said, “You’re never going to regret doing your best,” which I think is a mantra for everyone in the organization. For leadership, the way I would frame it is, “You’re never going to regret giving your best to your people.” And I think that’s something I try to keep in mind – you’ve got to give your best to your people. That means you constantly have to be growing, which is a challenge. You have to seek out new information, whether that’s formal education like going to get an MBA, reading books, listening to podcasts or seminars. You’ve got to grow yourself if you’re going to grow others.

What skills do you feel have made you an effective leader?
I think I have the ability to rally people around a vision and an objective and stay very focused on achieving results. I think that other than that, I’m pretty good at spotting and developing talent. I have a saying, “You hire the wrong person, they create problems for you. If you hire the right person, they solve problems for you.” I’m continually asking myself, “Do I have the right person here? How do I develop this person into the best version that they can be?”

What’s the hardest part of being a leader?
I think for me, it’s the lack of control. Like most A-types, I’m a recovering control freak. And again, once you realize the further up you go the less in control you really are. You can control some things, but it’s really about relinquishing control and empowering others to execute their job. It’s also a journey in humility because if you feel like you always have to be in control, you think you’re the smartest person and the most accomplished person and the most skilled person and that’s not true. You may be very smart. You may be very accomplished. You may be very skillful. But so are other people. And it’s not about what you can do, it’s about what they can do. And so once you realize that being in control isn’t the goal, it’s about giving control away, that’s the only way that you can survive that. Because it is very difficult to give that control away. If you think about an individual contributor, they have to show up and they have to do their job but they’re pretty much 100% in control of every part of their job that they have to do, right? When you’re a front line manager, yes again you have to relinquish some of that control but you’re still somewhat in control of your day-to-day. But once you get to an executive level of leadership where you’re managing and leading large teams, it becomes different. You have to work through others to accomplish goals, and that’s about giving control away.