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Posts Tagged ‘overcoming resistance’

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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Problem statements…

I’ve written recently about the large amount of change we are going through at my company.  And even though sales professionals are in the business of selling change, we tend to be quite change adverse ourselves.

During times of change, followers often make “problem statements” (aka protests, complaints, bitches) to our leaders, yes?  And during our period of change I’ve observed one of my colleagues consistently making such problem statements to the boss.  In turn, the boss has been quite consistent – he puts the problem back in my colleague’s court and asks him to come up with a solution.

It’s not that the boss is above input (or criticism) on his game plan for the team; just the opposite in my opinion.  You see, my boss is stellar at setting our strategic course based on the company’s priorities; hiring skilled, experienced people for his team; and empowering us to get the job done.  We are nicely compensated for our contributions, too – just like those that implemented dramatic changes in the United States steel industry:

“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

However, “getting the job done” at our company isn’t easy – I bet that holds true at your company too.  And on more than a few occasions, my colleague will make a “problem statement” seeking to throw the issue over the fence into my boss’ yard.  He doesn’t like the boomeranged result.

The reality is solving these problems (aka issues, concerns, difficulties) is the reason he hired us to begin with.  He’s very skilled at anticipating our problem statements:

The boss always scheduled the weekly staff meeting for 4:30 on Fridays.  When one of the employees finally got up the nerve to ask why, she explained; “I’ll tell you why – I’ve learned that’s the only time when none of you seem to want to argue with me.” 

Unknown Sage

So I get it – don’t expect to throw the problems of getting my job done over the fence and expect my boss to handle them.  Those problems (aka challenges, complexities, trials and tribulations) are the reason why he hired me in the first place.

And I’ve been around the block enough to understand the realities of team member complaints (aka grievances, grumbles, moans):

Zimmerman’s Law of Complaints

Nobody notices when things go right.

I may have an advantage as compared to my colleague (to be fair though, I’m not totally knowledgeable about his background before joining our team).  But I’ve been the boss before. During that time, I attempted to follow the teachings of great business leaders such as Alfred P. Sloan who led General Motors to the powerhouse of his industry during his time:

The job of a professional manager is not to like people.  And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts and indeed the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to.

I know my colleague doesn’t like it when he hits the boss with problem statements and doesn’t get whatever burden lifted off of his shoulders.  It’s not a “like” thing to begin with.  The boss is simply demonstrating faith in my colleague’s ability to perform.

The good news (aka happiness, silver lining, positive side)?  Like Nucor, we are all quite capable of the meeting the high performance he expects.

GAP

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Resistance…

I find the dichotomy intellectually interesting.  Sales professionals by and large make our living selling the next new thing to our customers and expecting our customers to embrace the change that comes along with replacing their old, tried and true things with our new-new things.  Yet, we sales professionals are among the most change-resistant folk on the planet.

A few months ago I was assigned the task of building a new course in my company’s sales training curricula.  When I reviewed the draft of the content I was to use, I whined.  Actually, I whined, stomped, argued, pushed back, pleaded, plotted and cajoled in every possible way I knew to try and avoid the assignment.  My boss was patient, pleasant, and steadfast.  He reminded me of my responsibilities; reminded me that the President of our company stated this course would be rolled out by September 1st.  My boss asked me if I could get it done by the deadline (but he really wasn’t “asking”):

At first speechless, Acheson had said he was not qualified to meet the demands of the office.  “This”, responded Truman, “was undoubtedly so, the question was whether he would do the job anyway.”    

Harry S. Truman

It is more accurate to say I didn’t have to develop the training from scratch.  I was expected to “tweak” the training that had been developed for another part of our company so it would better align with our resellers.  Since then, there have been frequent meetings with my cross-functional team trying to decipher just how to “tweak” the class and deliver the assigned content…

In all my years in business, I have found that people in meetings tend to agree on decisions that as individuals, they know are dumb. 

John M. Capozzi

Of course, all along the way I looked for opportunities to insert my personal, professional preference – which was to do nothing.  I didn’t like the new content; I preferred staying status quo.  “No change” was my mantra.  I was reacting just like many others when faced with making a change – hide!  But, as we all know progress is based on progression:

The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you’re finished. 

Benjamin Franklin

So I toiled on to complete my assignment to the best of my ability.

I mean, just because this new content was not something I dreamed up doesn’t make it bad.  It’s just new; different; requires me to make a change.  Who knows?  It might turn out that I actually like the new-new way.

I’m not sure what the root cause of my resistance has been.  Maybe I thought I would fail with this assignment; let my boss down; disappoint my clients….

It seems to me that the largest impediment to a healthy attitude toward failure is our inability to distinguish between just plain being stupid and failing on the way to great success. 

Unknown Sage

Yes, change comes with challenge.  As it turned out, I was able to create the new content.  And to help with my deployment plans, I delivered a “dry run” for my internal colleagues.  I “crashed and burned”.

It was back to the drawing board to make the necessary improvements.  Then, last week I delivered my 2nd go ‘round – this time to live clients.  The outcome?  Well, no one quit; no one got hurt; so I’m calling it a success!

They’re still a little reluctant to the change their ways and adopt the new training, but that’s OK.  I can relate.

GAP

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Plumbers…

“Pokorn, you are a plumber!”  That’s what my high school basketball coach would bark at me.  Our sophomore team went 20-1 that year; I was the team co-captain and leading scorer.

So when Coach Wyllie would constantly critique me during practice and called me a plumber, I interpreted that term as a derogatory inference.  That might have been his context, but when it comes to plumbers my appreciation (and respect) has certainly changed over the years.

I was leaving for the airport recently; running late; and glanced down by the kitchen sink where a small pool of water had accumulated on the floor.  Rut row!  I opened the cabinet and sure enough, something was leaking.  I only had enough time to empty the cabinet and detect that the leak was coming from my garbage disposal.  Been there yourself, you say?

Returning from my trip, I put my plumber’s hat on – you know the one that says “Clueless”?  Anyway, I knew that this leaking disposal was a Badger 500 I had purchased at Home Depot.  (It seemed I had just replaced this thing a short while ago – but of course, I didn’t keep the receipt to see if it was still under warranty).  And I remembered when I installed it back then it was an all-day ordeal.

Have you ever noticed that plumbers don’t carry hammers?  In every other trade, the tradesman can “get it close” then pull out their hammer and “tap it the rest of the way”.  Tradesmen “tap”; hackers “bang on it”, true?  But plumbers?  Well, H2O doesn’t appreciate this man-made concept of “getting it close”.  That’s how leaks start – H2O’s sense of humor I suppose.

Now I’m no plumber, but this time I thought I could out-smart the disposal.  I’ll simply buy another Badger 500 at Home Depot; pop the old one out; pop the new one in and it won’t require any “plumbing” at all.  That’s when Naeser surfaced:

Naeser’s Law:

You can make it foolproof, but you can’t make it damn-fool-proof. 

Unknown Sage

With my new disposal in hand, the connection to the sink bottom worked out perfectly, just as I planned.  The hook-up to the dishwasher waste hose too.  I was even able to reuse the electric cord from the broken disposal.  But the drain pipe connection?  They changed the design!  Was that Murphy in the background?

Murphy’s Eighth Corollary:

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

Unknown Sage

So, it was back to Home Depot for me – where’s a plumber when you need one?  I brought the parts and pictures of the piping from under my sink, hoping I would find a helpful plumber in the plumbing parts aisle.  But no luck; no one was around; old Clueless was on his own.

Amazingly, I found a connecting pipe that looked like it would do the trick (fingers crossed).  $2.38 later I was back home hooking things up just like I knew what I was doing.  What’s that you say, “…even a blind squirrel…?”  And to my amazement – no leaks!

I headed to the shower planning my victory dance for my wife who had just returned.  That’s when she said, “the dishwasher isn’t draining”.

Just when you think you’ve graduated from the school of experience, someone thinks up a new course. 

Mary H. Waldrip

Back to Home Depot – looks like an all-day ordeal was lining up.  The $2.38?  Not even close.  Coach Wyllie, if only you were right about me being a plumber.

GAP

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CIO…

May I ask you to change the way you always have been doing it, please?  Yeah – right!

“Change”, now there’s a provocative word in our vocabulary.  And just when we get comfortable with how things are working.  Hey everyone, Windows 11 is on the way – great!

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order. 

Alfred North Whitehead

In the sales profession, what we sell the most of is change, true?  Or we try to – sometimes we face difficult obstacles from our prospective clients as posted on LinkedIn recently:

CIO

We’ve all worked with members of this org chart before, yes?  Truth be told, I have served in one or more of those capacities myself when I have been on the “change” side of the equation.

In business, change is constant.  Here’s a little ditty one of my readers shared with me a while back based on another LinkedIn post:

Just Monkeying Around 

…While eating lunch together with colleagues one of his friends was attempting to peel a banana.  As often happens the stem was not cooperating and a struggle with the banana ensued.  Another friend observing the struggle said “you know you are doing that wrong”.  Everyone at the table turned to hear the revelation on proper banana peeling technique. 

The observer explained that if you watch monkeys, who clearly have been dealing with bananas much longer than we humans, they peel bananas by pinching the opposite end and gently pulling the peel away from both sides of the banana.  

What followed at the lunch table was a mass return to the lunch counter for bananas and a series of very successful tests of the monkey banana peeling technique.  The author observed how often we use the phrase “This is how we’ve always done it” and how inhibiting that is to even looking for new techniques.  Secondly he observed how incredibly valuable firsthand experience or “seeing is believing” is when it comes to learning and embracing change. 

As I read the post and spent time pondering the appeal of his story I started thinking of innovation and change working together.  Not all change is innovative but all innovation implies change.  Like the banana story if we are so comfortable or set in our ways even when they are only marginally effective we miss the opportunity to monkey around with more effective techniques.  Innovative ideas for more effective and efficient ways to work are all around us.

Of course, dealing with change in the business world is one thing; dealing with change in our lives is something altogether different:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. 

Unknown Sage

What’s good for me isn’t always good for you, and visa versa – don’t you agree?  The phrase, “not in my back yard” is very Americana, isn’t it?  Yet change is inevitable and more than that, often needed.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For, indeed, that’s all whoever have. 

Margaret Mead

So come-on fellow members of the Chief Indecision Officer’s org chart – let’s get over the worries and get into the fun of making positive change in our lives and those of others.

I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time.  Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult. 

E.B. White

That’s my call-to-action.  What’s yours?

GAP

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