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Force multipliers…

I enjoy coaching sales managers.  IMHO, it’s the toughest role in the business; part super-sales-rep; part leader; part administrator; part trainer.  Lots of parts to being a front-line manager (sales or otherwise), true?

In the sales department, companies like to promote top sales reps.  Despite all the research stating almost universally those top sales reps don’t have the requisite skill set to be effective sales managers; companies promote them anyway, yes?

In, “Critical Ways Managers Motivate and Demotivate Employees”, Dr. Bradberry offers:

Organizations know how important it is to have motivated, engaged employees, but most fail to hold managers accountable for making it happen… When they don’t, the bottom line suffers… Gallop research shows that a mind-boggling 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her managers.  It’s no wonder employees don’t leave jobs; the leave managers.

When in doubt – blame it on the manager – but that might actually be accurate.

I get it; I’ve been one.  And like all managers, I enjoyed some success; endured some failure.  Some of my direct reports thrived under my management; some hated me; a few I had to fire.

I too wanted to learn the answer to the question I was recently asked by an Oracle Sales Manager, “Gary, what is my job?”  He continued, “Should it be the super-sales-closer”?

Coming in at the end of a sales process; offering your pen to sign the order; leading the close, the win, the “kill of the hunt”… that’s the glory part of selling.  Do sales managers think their people like them stealing the lime light?  Does the manager understand the damage she is doing to her own credibility?

Damage you say?  How does closing deals damage manager credibility?  After all, the sales rep still gets the commission.  Going back to the question at hand, deal-closing is not the sales manager’s job.

Each time the sales manager steps in and “takes control” she delivers the message to the sales rep, “You’re not capable.”  Oh yes, I’ve heard the justifications…  “Gary, I’m just helping my reps until they become self-sufficient.”   Really?  IMHO – it doesn’t work that way:

Call it a universal law… You are exactly as credible (as a sales manager) as (your sales rep) is with you… Recognize him for what he is – a mirror of you. 

Barry Trailer

No, I don’t believe the front-line sales manager should be the “super-sales-closer” and in so doing damage their own credibility.  Jump in on one deal, and managers tend to jump in on all deals.  The lime light is addicting.  The sales manager role must scale to much greater heights above just deals.

Managers must focus on getting the job done through their team; they must build-up their team’s credibility.  And that takes great skill when dealing with rep diversity.  For example:

Treating everyone equally shows your top performers that no matter how high they perform… they will be treated the same as the bozo who does nothing more than punch the clock.

Dr. Bradberry

OK, OK, let’s lighten up on Bozo – it’s not easy being a clown.

But managers must encourage each person to believe he is the super-sales-closer.  Managers must get the most from each person on their team – regardless of diverse experience and skills.  Each sales rep must believe she will kill her quota; is unstoppable; is totally credible:

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. 

Colin Powell

Yep – the sales manager has so much more to accomplish than merely closing deals.  Don’t you think?

GAP

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Leadership (again)…

Let’s go again…  Whether at work; within our family; on a sports team; in the classroom; by our government; in every relationship; can you think of any area of our lives that is not impacted (positively or negatively) by leadership?

We’ve all worked for “that” boss, true?  You know, the good one; or the bad one; the one that inspired us; the terror; the young one, the old one…  I bet you can remember that boss that impacted your life, yes?

What makes a good boss tick?  John Maxwell offers:

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.

His viewpoint was included in a post by one of my favorite thought leaders, Dr. Travis Bradberry in “Why Nice Bosses Finish First”. (see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-nice-bosses-finish-first-dr-travis-bradberry )

Is that the key?  To be effective as a boss do we have to be nice?  When we work for a nice boss, does she command our respect; inspire us to perform; prevent us from quitting?  Dr. Brad summarized a survey from Randstad Consulting that found,

… most employees would trade in their bosses for better ones rather than receive a $5,000 pay raise.

Hmmm… assigning a trade value for a good boss; $5,000 per year.  I think one challenge in comparing the trade to a raise is what our Unknown Sage taught us:

The Salary Axiom:

The pay raise is just large enough to increase your taxes and just small enough to have no effect on your take-home pay.

Makes me think that being the boss; especially an effective boss; is situational.

I was the nice boss once – my people trampled on me!  I had no credibility, they gave me no respect, my department was a mess, but everyone would say, “That Gary, what a nice guy.”

I started thinking about turning to the dark side.  We’ve all read about those tyrannical leaders.  Steve Jobs was legendary in his manner of berating employees.  Is your boss a screamer?    We never know for sure if they’re truly a horse’s ass, or if this is their way of motivating employees.

Stanley Gault CEO of Rubbermaid:

He responds to the accusation of being a tyrant with the statement, “Yes, but I’m a sincere tyrant.”

I wonder who Stanley followed to develop his leadership style.  What do I know?  Back in the day when I took my second go-round as the boss, I was cautious.  Thankfully, my sales people were patient.  They helped me trip across a foundational leadership principle I believe in to this day.

Back then when our new fiscal year rolled around I was tasked with raising quotas; shrinking territories; and tweaking comp plans; 3 things that anger sales reps almost universally.  In my case, each of my reps came into my office individually and complained about how unfair the changes were.

Walking that fine line between being too nice of a boss (aka pushover) vs. a tyrant; I patiently listened to each person’s complaints but held firm on the changes.  And that’s when it dawned on me!

The Principle of Equal Unfairness

When everyone on my team believes I am being unfair, then that means I am being equally unfair; and being equally unfair is fair.

I’m not sure that made me the “nice boss”, but I can tell you my sales teams always got over the annual ritual and excelled.  Hmmm… equal unfairness… maybe I’m on to something?

GAP

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Losing you…

I’ve been working with a friend of mine over the past year or so – mentoring him as best I can.  When he was promoted from an individual contributor to a front line, sales manager he felt he could use a little help.  We connected through the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (see https://aa-isp.org/ ) where I’m a volunteer mentor.

Over his past two fiscal years we have convened regularly to chat about the challenges of being a front line, sales manager – IMHO – one of the toughest jobs in the profession.  I remember back to my very first days in that role.  I was assigned to lead a team of 4 of our company’s highest and most successful quota achievers; 3 women and 1 man.  Arriving home one evening my wife inquired about my day, “What did you learn today?”

What I learned, I had never given much previous thought to – women, even top selling women – cry.  There I was in my new sales manager role; coming to it after being the top sales rep in the office; thinking I already knew everything; and BOOM!  Tears.  Worse, I didn’t have a box of tissue in my office.  No one gave me a heads up on that necessity.

So when I started mentoring my friend as he settled in to his new sales management role, he permitted me to offer guidance on many of those little things, easily overlooked, that make a big difference in the eye of our followers.

Throughout our conversations I have tried to shed light on the underlying principles successful sales management is grounded on.  I’m a big believer in principles.  One of my mentors authored Principled Based Leadership © which I refer to managers and leaders at any level in their organization.

Principles plus the little things plus a box of tissue make a big difference for front line sales managers.  The most important little thing?  We’re being watched:

One more word about your time:  If you’re in a leadership position, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value.  It will communicate what’s important or what isn’t far more powerfully than all the speeches you can give.  Strategic change doesn’t just start at the top.  It starts with your calendar. 

Andy Grove

The mentoring meetings with my young protégé have been a tremendously fulfilling experience for me.  Just recently, we came upon one of my favorite leadership principles he is now personally being impacted by.  It sounds like this from his up-line, “Matt, we hate to lose you.”

No, he’s not leaving the company; just the opposite.  He’s seeking (aka competing for) his next promotion.  His main competitor?  His boss doesn’t want to “lose him.”

It’s easy for leaders to proclaim the importance of career development and advancement at their company, true?  But when it comes time to move one of your key people off your team and advance them to next assignment – well – we don’t want to “lose them”.

Actually, when you have earned a promotion your manager is not “losing you”.  And everyone in the organization is watching:

Gary, your people are not permanent.  Enjoy them while they are on your team; develop them; promote them; then bring in the next ones.

Tom McSweeney

Does your company operate on the principle of, “enjoy them; develop them; and promote them”?  Or do your top people have to literally quit and take a job with another company in order to get the role and/or promotion they’ve earned?

GAP

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Assessed to the max…

I know there is one, popular narrative in the workforce today, “My manager/company doesn’t care about me.”  It’s one of those mind sets that typically feeds bad attitudes, bad performances, and ultimately employee turnover.

In my case… under the banner, “careful what you ask for”… I have recently experienced the opposite end of the spectrum.  Before going into the details, permit me to say it has been a very positive experience (I think?).

Starting with our Human Resources Department, my Manager completed my quarterly performance review.  It was a mix of “Exceeds Expectations” coupled with “Outstandingly Awesome” ratings.  Nice start!

Next, the leader of our functional area is making a big commitment to the professional development her staff.  And she is an active participant:

If you’re in a leadership position, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value.  It will communicate what’s important or what isn’t far more powerfully than all the speeches you can give.  Strategic change doesn’t just start at the top.  It starts with your calendar.

Andy Grove

Her calendar started with launching an internal book club, and the first book we read was The Challenger Sale ©.  On a team call, each person was asked what profile detailed in the book we aligned with.  I stated I aligned with the “Lone Wolf” – and noticed no one on my team disagreed.  I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.

We moved on to reading and discussing The Challenger Customer ©.  Again, there was an opportunity to align with the buyer personas described in the book; I aligned with the Skeptic.  Hmmm, is there a pattern developing here?

She then scheduled each of us to complete a DISC© assessment (which I’m sure we will discuss in an upcoming team gathering).  And wouldn’t you know that the Lone Wolf, Skeptic performing at an Exceeding Expectations/Outstandingly Awesome level profiled out as a “C” – Conscientious?

Our next assignment was reading Networking on UBER Steroids: How to master a more powerful way to network © with an emphasis on how we can better leverage our personal brand.  Ahh – the personal brand thing.  How others perceive us and all that.  Quite a challenging “ask” for this Lone Wolf, Skeptic, Conscientious, socially shy type.  Like others, I don’t always “play nice” in my company’s sand box:

Stanley Gault CEO of Rubbermaid:

He responds to the accusation of being a tyrant with the statement, “Yes, but I’m a sincere tyrant.”

However, my Conscientious profile pressed me to improve my “Elevator Pitch” for better networking.

We were then assigned the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0® which begins by having the reader take an emotional IQ assessment – what a surprise!  My score of 74 meant… well, I could use a little work.  Actually, I was strong in the Self-Awareness and Self-Management quadrants.  Hooray for the Conscientious, Skeptic!  But in the Social Awareness and Relationship Management quadrants?  Do those apply to Lone Wolves?

Then I read the detailed report.  It occurred to me that since I took this assessment so close to the DISC© assessment, I may have been overly conscientious in answering some of the questions resulting in a weaker score than I probably deserve.  Skeptically speaking that is.  Leading me to ponder whether I should even care – Lone Wolves rock!

Well, I certainly can’t say my Manager/Company has been ignoring me.  With the book club combined with a battery of assessments, and social/team interactions, I think I’m going to schedule a colonoscopy and finish the job.

GAP

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Triangle – the series continues…

This is the second corner of a triangle I’m devoting to the term “engagement” that is prominently used in Corporate America today.  (Missed the first one? http://thequoteguys.com/2016/03/triangle-the-series/ )

Much has been said and much has been written about the term engagement in our modern marketplace.  Employee engagement as spoken by human resource professionals; customer engagement as spoken by marketing professionals; leadership engagement as spoken by management consulting professionals.  Engagement seems to have us surrounded.

Last week we examined leadership engagement.  In this week’s segment of the series let’s explore employee engagement.  Employees serve a key bridge between our companies’ leadership vision and the actual experiences felt by our clients:

If you want happy clients, first make sure that your client services employees are happy.  Everyone has run into that disgruntled client service representative who hates his job.

I recently read a report about millennials in our workforce and their lack of overall engagement.  Troubling – isn’t this the generation that will lead us into the future?  If they’re not engaged, how will we compete?

The report cites five reasons blocking millennial employee engagement https://hbr.org/2016/02/motivating-millennials-takes-more-than-flexible-work-policies . When we look at these reasons each one seems easily addressed, true?  What are we all waiting for?  (Is it the leadership engagement I wrote of in the first part of the series?)

If employee engagement is critical to business success in today’s global, competitive marketplace we have to get fired up!  For example, one of the oldest American industries is littered with failed businesses – big failures too; wiped out by competition.  Yet one company has arisen from the ashes as analyzed by a leading management consultant:

“We have the hardest working steel workers in the world”, said one Nucor executive.  “We hire five, work them like ten, and pay them like eight.” 

Jim Collins

We all get it – engage us; motivate us; lead us; pay us and we will forge steel with a level of effort on behalf of our company never before witnessed.  We can do it; so what’s stopping us?  Is it all of those silly, little, internal administrative processes that disillusion and ultimately diminish employees’ enthusiasm?

An angry worker goes into her company’s payroll office to complain that her paycheck is $50 short. 

The payroll supervisor checks the books and says, “I see here that last week you were overpaid by $50.  I can’t recall your complaining about that.”

“Well, I’m willing to overlook an occasional error, but this is two in a row.” 

Paul Dickson

OK, it could be that our company “bigness” has begot internal inefficiencies that irritate our employees from time to time.  It could be these minor mistakes are milking our pride; making us think our company is being run by a bunch of monkeys.  Could be, but…

There are many companies that still remain a beacon of pride, whose brand beams quality – dare I say “ENGAGEMENT”?

Welcome to Nordstrom… Here, almost in its entirety, is Nordstrom’s employee handbook:

We’re glad to have you with our Company.

Our number-one goal is to provide outstanding customer service.

Set both your personal and professional goals high.

We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. 

Bob Nelson

Hang tough millennials (and all generations in today’s diverse workforce), we too have great confidence in your ability to achieve your goals.

If we are a team of five, let’s produce like ten.  Let’s engage to make our company a beacon of pride.  Our customers will help us; as I will discuss next week.

GAP

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