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What is a Manager?

My company is budgeting additional training and support for front line sales managers.  The amount of resources we invest in our people is awesome!  However, I do worry about our investment priorities.

Since I joined the company eleven years ago, a major and continuous priority has been on mastering our internal systems – you know, using the CRM; navigating our on line sales library; filling out all of the flags and fields for each step in our selling motion on every client, every prospect, and every lead; scheduling people for meetings…

There can be an inherent weakness with such emphasis on the internal – those individuals that master the process (and to be fair succeed at sales-quota performance for at least one year) tend to get promoted.  Not because they are stellar with people-management skills; but because they have become an internal systems crutch for less experienced, less knowledgeable teammates.

Fred Smith, Founder of Federal Express, said this:

A manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is the person who can get his men to do the work better than he can.

Being comfortable with helping your direct reports be better than you – there’s an interesting challenge for managers, true?

Where to focus management time is another interesting burden.  I believe this because I have a small following of front line managers who reach out to me periodically for advice.  I find mentoring managers extremely fulfilling, even when their up-line sales leaders don’t know of our conversations.  These front line managers have simply decided that whatever formal support and training they’re receiving from their organization is not enough.

No worries – front line management (in sales or any other function) is one of the toughest roles in every organization, don’t you agree?  And if that’s the case, then I think front line managers should seek guidance, coaching and in many cases counseling from any credible source they feel can help them master that position.

I say “counseling”, because many front line managers feel a need to be involved in and perhaps even in control of things.  I had one manager ask me at our very first coaching (aka counseling) meeting, “Gary, what is my job?”  He went on to clarify his feeling that he should be the “super closer”, involved with every deal on his team.  After that, he felt he needed to inspect each of his direct reports’ “systems excellence”; followed by forecasting (weekly); managing conflict (daily); running meetings; etc. etc. etc.

Of course, when he was done listing all the etcetera’s he felt were a priority his list led to time management concerns on how could he possibly get everything done every day.  Sound familiar to you managers?

In my opinion (and personal experience), front line managers can’t get every task on their daily list done.  And if true, that begets the question, “What do I chose to not do today?”  It may sound oxymoronic, but one key to managerial success is letting go:

Ignore me as needed to get your job done.

– sign on VP’s door courtesy of Liz Wiseman

If the manager has hired the right people; given them the right environment of support; trusts them to be excellent; it is amazing what that manager’s direct reports can accomplish!

Being supportive and creating a fun working environment might be more important than how much managers “know” about the tasks assigned to their direct reports.  Is that how your manager; or you; operates?

GAP

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