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Before moving to Florida, I worked with a colleague named Joe who was several years younger than I, and was an account executive new to sales. He was rather quiet, but his confidence and likeable personality made him immediately popular with clients.

He sat in the cubicle directly opposite mine, and though we were seated close together, he spoke softly enough that I never really overheard much in the way of conversation that he had with clients. The phone would ring and he would answer, saying, “This is Joe”—and that was usually all I could hear. He would continue his conversation almost in a whisper. I would occasionally look across the aisle and see that his lips were moving, but all I ever heard was, “This is Joe.”

About a year after he started, the company hired another Joe. The new Joe became our boss, and he quickly gained the nickname “Big Joe.” Simultaneously, folks around the office began calling the original Joe “Little Joe.” To his credit, “Little Joe” never complained, while at the same time, “Big Joe” didn’t know, nor care, because nobody called him “Big Joe” to his face.

Fast forward 12 years. I recently saw a press release posted to the website of our former company announcing that “Little Joe” had been promoted to a senior management position.

Such a promotion to a leadership position is a tremendous accomplishment for a salesperson, and even more so given the economic depression we’ve experienced in recent years. I wasn’t surprised to learn of his promotion, given what I remember of his talent and work ethic. And it’s a good illustration of how excelling in a sales track can be one of the best ways to achieve a higher position. In that way, it makes perfect sense that “Little Joe” ultimately became “Big Joe.” In fact, he very likely still answers the phone, “This is Joe,” in a hushed tone.

My sincere hope is that even just once, when one of his staff introduces him to a newcomer, saying, “This is my boss, Joe,” that he’ll say, “That’s Big Joe to you.”

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