Recently I had lunch with a young salesperson. This salesperson’s manager doesn’t really care about him—or any of his other sales people. When we first talked about this young salesperson taking this job, his first job in sales, I wanted him to go somewhere where he would have a sales manager that cared enough about him to help him grow. I wanted him to go somewhere where he would get great training and where he would be developed. It didn’t turn out that way.
Instead, his manager believes that salespeople are a means to an end. He treats them as if they are means. He makes no investment in their training, their development, or their growth. He does no coaching. People aren’t means, and it’s degrading and demotivating to be treated as such.
When he is scheduled to ride along with his salespeople, he cancels at the last minute. Even though the salespeople have scheduled appointments with clients and prospects, prospects who are now expecting to see the salesperson and their sales manager, he no shows. This has taught the sales manager’s team that his word is no good. It’s a violation of trust.
This sales manager is always mad at his salespeople. He yells at them. He’s tough on them. Sometimes that may be a necessary approach. But even when they are doing well, there is no praise, only more yelling that they must do more. There is no victory that is worth celebrating. He is stingy with praise, and praise is free.
My young friend is making his number in spite of having no real sales management or leadership. And he is gaining from this experience.
First, he has learned that he can make his number on his own. He has learned that his work ethic and his individual effort prospecting for new business is the difference between him and his peer group (who are not making their number). His manager has nothing to do with either his work ethic or his diligent prospecting efforts.
Second, he has learned that even though he doesn’t know what he is doing, if he finds opportunities to help his prospects get what they need, things seem to work out okay.
What Not to Do (Phrased in the Positive)
But the most important lessons he has learned will serve him well later, when he is a manager and leader. They are lessons on leadership. He told me: “I know what I am NOT going to do when I am a sales manager.”
People Are Ends, Not Means: This young salesperson has made the observation that sales managers that care enough to help their people succeed have people who walk through walls for them. He has seen other sales managers with salespeople who go the extra mile every time because of their relationship with their sales manager. Because these other sales managers treat their people as ends, they produce better results. People want to work for them.
Your Word is Your Bond: He’s learned that as a leader, you have to keep your word. If you promise to do something for your people, you have to do it. If you don’t intend to do something, don’t promise to do it. And don’t ask people to do something you don’t really want them to do.
Create and Protect a Positive Culture: He’s also learned that an environment of negativity and fear isn’t the kind of environment that produces the best results. He recognizes that praise, gratitude, and a positive environment produce better results, because he can see how different managers approach their role–and their very different results.
Knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do. You have been subjected to lessons like these. If you were wise enough to capture them, you know what not to do.
Think back to what you have learned from the best managers and leaders you have worked for. What did they teach you about your role as a manager or leader?
Think about your worst manager or leader. What lessons did you learn from them about how not to lead or manage?
Are you using the lessons you learned from your best managers and leaders?
Are you avoiding the crimes that your worst mangers and leaders were guilty of?
What must you do more of to be a better manager and leader?
What must you stop doing now to be a better manager and leader?