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I have a tendency to be softer than necessary with my sales team. I manage a team of 8 sales people (newly hired to veterans) and have a difficult time speaking my mind to them when the need arises. I know that I need to spend more time with new hires and ensure that they understand my expectations (and more importantly, understand the consequences of their actions should they not perform) yet it is difficult for me to "lay down the law" so to speak. I have always been more of a friendly type of manager and am to the point where a change is just a "want" it is a "need."

Any advice?

I'd love to chat via pm if more details are needed...thanks.

Mark's picture

Yahtzee-

Your problem (my guess anyway) is fairly normal, so don't worry too much.

But, that said, all you've done is characterize what's going on. Please DESCRIBE what you DO in what situations, and tell us what you think didn't work and why, based on specific responses you got or didn't get which you expected. Tell us what you mean by softer, and what you mean by lay down the law. It would also help to know what your team sells and where and how effective they are, and why you believe this change in your style is necessary.

Mark

lazerus's picture

Please don't chat via PM! I have challenges in this area, also, and am interested in Mark's advice.

The problem I have is that I wait too long and I think too much before I speak, in addition to not wanting to "hurt someone's feelings". This is shorthand for "I'm afraid". Therefore, my style is overly wordy, a little "tame" for the people I work with. For instance, I was doing some work which required a lot of concentration (database analysis). My peer/direct/wildcard decided this would be a good time to check out hockeyfights.com on the web and turn it up really loud. An audience started to form around this guy. I made the mistake of trying to work through this party right next to my desk.

The best part is that this guy complains to me repeatedly (weekly) about direct reports using the internet too much during work hours. I really want to point out the hypocrisy, but I chose instead to just LISTEN to what he was saying, rather than use that moment to give feedback/correct behavior. Feedback is more effective when done immediately or sooner. I think my window of opportunity has closed on this one.

I joined Toastmasters recently to get over the fear thing. I think this will help me a lot.

Looking forward to reply in public view!

WillDuke's picture

Jeff - I totally get where you're coming from. I often feel like a wimp too. My advice - get over it. :) Just do it, it might feel uncomfortable the first time, but it gets easier.

Feedback. That's the tool. If you haven't had your One on One with him since the hockey fight, give feedback there.

If you're not giving feedback at all yet, listen to the podcasts. Learn the model. Then start with positive. Lots of positive feedback. Let people get used to the model. Let them relax and realize it's just one piece of feedback in a long stream of feedback. Then start introducing adjusting feedback.

"John, can I give you some feedback? When you turn on the hockey fights and gather a crowd it sends the message to everyone that it's okay to spend work time on entertainment. From our previous conversations I know you don't feel that way. What do you think you could do differently next time?"

(Okay, I probably wouldn't leave the previous conversation comment in there, but if you feel he doesn't get the connection you might decide to leave it in.)

Since feedback will have become "no big deal" this won't be a huge confrontation. That's the fear right? "Oh my god, what if they make a scene?" They won't. And if they do, use Mark's technique. Put your hands in your pocket, smile at them, and be quiet. Look at them with a "are you serious" look.

But he won't. He knows there's no legitimate reason to watch hockey fights at work. He'll simply say "I guess I won't watch hockey fights at work." Great. That's all you need. Smile at him and know that he'll respect you for it. In the long run, you're doing him a favor by keeping him on track at work. You're helping to make him more successful which not only protects his job but helps him get raises and promotions. He'll be happier, and he can watch the hockey fights at home.

yahtzee's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Yahtzee-

Your problem (my guess anyway) is fairly normal, so don't worry too much.

But, that said, all you've done is characterize what's going on. Please DESCRIBE what you DO in what situations, and tell us what you think didn't work and why, based on specific responses you got or didn't get which you expected. Tell us what you mean by softer, and what you mean by lay down the law. It would also help to know what your team sells and where and how effective they are, and why you believe this change in your style is necessary.

Mark[/quote]

I manage a team of sales reps in the technology industry. I have difficulty providing consequences to any actions that aren't met by my team (not getting the set number of appts in a week, not making the specified amount of calls in a week, etc).

In alot of cases, my team works with me as if I were their friend and/or peer. I know EXACTLY what actions need to occur but I am continually hesitant in saying anything demanding and can't figure out why? Some of my team comes from other jobs (internally and externally) and are making more money at my company by selling 30% to quota than they made at their last job. Not much incentive to really get out and perform. A specific person was very aggressive in both of our interviews. This morning I told this person that I was a bit puzzled by the change in attitude. I told the person that I was disappointed in results over the past 60 days since beginning employment. I also told the person that the perception that my manager and I got during the interview was that of hunger and drive and that, to date, we had only seen an ability to punch a clock. This person has had the same training as everyone else and is quite clear on what I expect. The answer I continue getting is "I'm trying really hard."

Another instance is a rep that is supposed to be focused on larger businesses (not elephant hunting) but because he doesn't focus on them he beats his head against a wall knocking out quota (or close) one sale at a time. Just today, made a call and the prospect wanted to know when he could meet. He left 5 mins after the call and went straight there. I told him that the perception of the customer isn't that he is willing to help - it's that he has nothing else to do and is desperate. He is the hardest worker I have (if you base it solely on work ethic and time put into the job) but is in last place when it comes to the smartest worker.

I have a tendency to take things off of my reps plate and run with things on my own (hoping to make the rep feel as if they appreciate it and will then work harder to succeed, for me and them). I could be better at delegating to each rep and not juggling so much at one time on my own, on their behalf. By the end of 2007, I was mentally drained. I think I felt that way because I just had so much stuff going on that WASN'T what a manager does (on top of what a manager does) that I was just fried.

Like I said, I know what I need to do I just don't do it. I listen to all of the podcasts, I have been through weeks of really good mgt training and often am even selected as a most valuable participant in the classes. I get what is being taught, but I just have a hard time taking action.

I am asking for help here because I want to get better at my job. I have the passion, the opportunity and the knowledge to be VERY successful....just need a swift kick. Thanks.

ramiska's picture

It sounds like you know what to do but need to build the courage to do it. Cowboy up! Remember to take it in steps and don't get discouraged.

Give regular feedback and systemic feedback. If you haven't yet, listen to the casts on developing a sense of urgency in your team. Set deadlines and stand by them. Otherwise they won't mean anything to the team.

I am in the very lucky position where watching hockey fights is part of the job. :D

LouFlorence's picture

Yahtzee-

May I make the gentle suggestion that you may not know exactly what to do. I say this based on your comments about a conversation you had with one of your reps:
"This morning I told this person that I was a bit puzzled by the change in attitude. I told the person that I was disappointed in results over the past 60 days since beginning employment. I also told the person that the perception that my manager and I got . . . ."

You were puzzled, you were disappointed, you had a perception. There is a common element here.

Feedback is not about you -- it's about the person receiving the feedback.

I would suggest that you provide your reps with very clear expectations of what their results should be. Then, provide feedback that either reinforces behaviors that produce those results or steers them away from behaviors that are not effective. If the desired results are clear and you focus your feedback on behaviors, you won't get any more nonsense like "I'm trying really hard."

Listen carefully to the feedback podcasts. Grit your teeth, wind up your courage and follow the methods exactly. Once you have a little success doing that, you will find yourself motivated to continue.

Persevere and keep us informed.

Regards,
Lou

bflynn's picture

[quote="yahtzee"]I have a tendency to be softer than necessary with my sales team. ...

Any advice?
[/quote]

Two thoughts -

First, make sure that you really do need to be stronger. Are your people accomplishing your goals? Are they reaching stretch goals? Are they exceeding the goals?

Second, implied in the above is that you should focus more strongly on results. I'm hearing that you know you should be looking at the bottom line and that sometimes you believe you sacrifice efficiency for smooth sailing. That is not entirely bad, but if you think its making you less effective, you're probably right.

My feeling is that the struggle you're having is between being nice and accomplishing results. You can frequently do both, but at times, you have to make a choice. Focus more strongly on results if you want to avoid being too soft.

Brian

US101's picture

Yahtzee,

Check out this classic article "Demand Better Results and Get Them" by Robert Schaffer. It's a top 10 HBR article of all time. To me, Schaffer is #2 behind Drucker in management experts.

Schaffer argues that the capacity for demand making is the most universally underdeveloped management skill.

WillDuke's picture

Jeff - I learned a lot when I took the DiSC evaluation test. It cost me $25 and explained why I react the way I do. I'm a high I and S. That means I like to help people. I'm really not into confrontation.

Now that I know that I can choose to override my default reactions. If your personality test were to come out like mine, I'd offer up the following insights.

If you don't give your people good usable feedback, they will fail at their job. If they fail at their job then they will lose their job. Sure, it might take a while before you work up the courage to fire them, but eventually you'll have to. You are NOT doing them a favor by being nice to them. You are setting them up for failure.

Secondly, what is the opposite of nice? We assume it's mean, but it's not. The opposite of nice is real. Every time we say we're being "nice" we're lying to someone. "Well, I didn't want to hurt their feelings, so I was nice to them." Implication - you told them something untrue. This untruth leads them to believe they're doing okay in their work. They don't get the opportunity to fix whatever is wrong, and they don't succeed at their job.

So here's the hard reality. If you don't give feedback. If you're not willing to do the unpleasant part of your job, then you're not doing your job. You would be a bad manager. People would suffer under your lack of leadership. Eventually someone will notice and you will lose your job too. Unfortunately, you'll take others with you before that happens.

So, you know what to do. Do it. Don't wait. Don't make excuses. That just makes it harder. Do it. Do it now.

Then come back and tell us all what a great success you are! :)

Mark's picture

JonP points out a CLASSIC and GREAT HBR article. It is so good that we have a client who had another consultant/speaker (to whom I referred them) use it almost entirely in one of his talks with them, and then we collaborated with the GM on a corporate specific podcast on the topic.

HIGHLY recommended.

Mark

yahtzee's picture

[quote="LouFlorence"]Yahtzee-

You were puzzled, you were disappointed, you had a perception. There is a common element here.

Feedback is not about you -- it's about the person receiving the feedback.

I would suggest that you provide your reps with very clear expectations of what their results should be. Then, provide feedback that either reinforces behaviors that produce those results or steers them away from behaviors that are not effective. If the desired results are clear and you focus your feedback on behaviors, you won't get any more nonsense like "I'm trying really hard."

[/quote]

Can you give me an example of how you would have handled that same conversation? Thanks for the reply.

LouFlorence's picture

Yahtzee-

Thanks for asking. I appreciate your persistance.

So much of the difference between effective perfomance conversations and ones that are ineffective comes down to the words we use.

Let's breakdown your first example:

"This morning I told this person that I was a bit puzzled by the change in attitude . . . ."

You can't observe an attitude, so you are setting yourself up to be rebuffed by a simple denial. What you need to focus on are specific behaviors: no prospecting or sales calls in the last three days, watching YouTube videos all afternoon, not showing up until noon, etc. What were the behaviors you observed that led to your conclusion that their attitude had changed?

In short, never talk to anyone about their attitude. It is always ineffective. Attitude does not cause or prevent results. Behaviors do.

The other piece of this is that you start the message with "I'm puzzled". Again, this is irrelevant. Leave it out of the communication. Your state of befuddlement or lack thereof does not impact the other person's behavior. And their behavior is all you want the performance conversation to be about. Not your feelings -- those are your problem (to paraphrase one of Horstman's Laws).

The next bit of that example was: "I told the person that I was disappointed in results over the past 60 days since beginning employment."

Again, leading off with you feelings is ineffective. Next, how did the results of the first 60 days compare with the specific goals that were set out at the beginning of that time? If there were no expectations, it's hardly fair to complain.

Finally, you spoke about your perception of a person's hunger for the work when hired. Again, were specific commitments made or expectations established? If there were not, then it's really all happening in your head and has nothing to do with the other person's behaviors.

So, how might this conversation have gone?

"________, can I give you some feedback?"
(mumbled assent accompanied by annoyed look)

"When you stop making sales calls after lunch (behavior), it makes it more likely that you won't meet your quota and that I will be looking to replace you (consequences). What can you do differently?"

If you get the standard B.S. response that they will try harder, bring it back to the specific behavior (not making calls, not following up, going after the wrong clients, whatever). Just keep going back to the behavior and asking what they can do differently. I guarantee the conversation will come around to behaviors and consequences.

You don't have to be hard or harsh when delivering these messages. In fact, they usually are better heard when delivered with a smile. Just stick to expected behaviors and results. It's ok to be nice (that is to say, polite and friendly in a professional manner). I am a seriously nice guy; I've fired people while being nice to them. It's not a question of nice or not. It's all about what you are talking about. If it's attitudes, feeling and perceptions, then the conversation is not going to help you get results. If it is about behaviors, expectations and consequences, then results will follow.

Sorry to be so long-winded. This is just so important. Hope it helps!

Regards,
Lou

tomas's picture

Yahtzee,

In terms of being more direct, I would really recommend reviewing all MT episodes detailing the feedback model and the episode about how to create a sense of urgency in your team.

Developing good feedback skills makes you more direct in a good way - it removes the emotional aspect to a great extent by focusing on behaviours and outcomes rather than feelings and perceptions. It also doesn't rely on you being able to punish for poor performance. It would have been much more effective to give your new hire immediate feedback as soon as you noticed them clock watching rather than waiting 60 days before confronting them. Lou's comments about focusing on their behaviour rather than your feelings and perceptions are spot on.

I would question your implied assumption that just being more direct would improve performance. Simply being able to exhort your directs to try harder will only work if they are in fact just being lazy. There may be other reasons for their lack of performance and you will need to identify these. One on one's would be a good way to do so.

lazerus's picture

Thanks Will, Mark and Yahtzee and everyone else here for sharing. I did get the DiSC assessment for Christmas (along with the interviewing series!) and you'll see my profile in my sig now. I also understand the DiSC profile of the person I'm dealing with. High D off the chart! So, here is an interesting dynamic: high C manager/high D direct. My feedback would be ineffective using "C type" communication, and as Lou points out, it's not [b]ABOUT ME[/b], it's about THEM. And it's about the best interest of our company. I can see that this is where my breakdown is happening.

This quote also hits me between the eyes: [quote]The opposite of nice is real. Every time we say we're being "nice" we're lying to someone.[/quote] Being a high C, the logic built into that statement really works for me. Good good point, thanks. {Using the word "good" twice was not a typo.}

I plan to follow the feedback model to the letter with this person. I do it with all my other directs. And I certainly will report back with a success story Monday at 5:00PM MST :D

yahtzee's picture

I can't thank each of you enough for the replies to my concerns. I am determined to get this right and know that I can get it turned around (especially with your help). I plan on revisiting the podcasts on a few different topics and will be continuing to ask for advice (I hope to be giving advice soon).

I spent most of Friday in preparation for "the new leaf", beginning Monday. I purchased a large brass bell (see attached pic) and installed it next to my sales board in my teams cube area (I just had our extra training room built out into what I am now calling the Mission Control Center for my team to help promote more team comradere). I also had a 12' banner made up with our logo, team name and "MISSION CONTROL CENTER" on it to add some pizzaz to the area.

Our branch had some shuffling between the teams (effective 1/1/2008) which will allow me to have more focus. I will begin the new year with a sales meeting this Monday, followed by O3"s throughout the rest of the day with 5 of my 7 team members (I have scheduled every Monday for my lesser experienced team members and every other Friday for my 2 veterans).

I have performance improvement plans to deliver to my bottom two performers on Monday. I will do my best to provide feedback to all 5 of them on Monday. I am tasking myself with the following meeting structure each monday:

- 30 minutes of role plays (will need to develop customer scenarios prior, obviously)
- 30 minutes of "train the team" ( I have chosen one rep to pick no more than 2 topics to train the rest of the team on and then that rep gets to pick who will be doing the training at the next meeting)
- 30 minutes of a review of their previous week's activity
- 15 minutes of updates on generic information

Lastly, I have also set up a ride-a-long schedule for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays of each week with each of my lesser experienced reps (half days each rep). I am confident that I can get on the right track.

Thanks!

[img]http://www.daryl.com/links/bell.jpg[/img]

yahtzee's picture

BTW, I just dug around on my companies university site and found that I could take the DiSC profile at no charge to me. I took it and found out that I was a high "i".

2-7-5-2 - Counselor

Interesting....

"enthusiastic, gregarious and persuasive"

Some work habits.........."you probably squirrm at the thought of criticizing othersor pointing out their performance issues. Therefore, disciplining people may be an awkward task for you to perform."

"Low-performing colleagues may feel that they can get a free ride from you. Those who reach a higher level of performance, however, will usually find you to be a tireless advocate for their well-being."

Dead on.

P.S. - I'd like to ask my entire team to take this profiler. What is the best way to facilitate the results?

Mark's picture

Go for it!

Two thoughts:

One, don't put your best foot forward and then drag the other one behind. Stick with it even after the flashy beginning. [b]High I's are TERRIBLE AT THIS.[/b]

Two, just because that is your profile doesn't mean you can't do anything you want. Some things are harder, is all...and some of those things are things you're paid to do.

Please keep us updated - it seems a perfect opportunity for us to follow you through the year.

Mark

yahtzee's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Go for it!

Two thoughts:

One, don't put your best foot forward and then drag the other one behind. Stick with it even after the flashy beginning. [b]High I's are TERRIBLE AT THIS.[/b]

Two, just because that is your profile doesn't mean you can't do anything you want. Some things are harder, is all...and some of those things are things you're paid to do.

Please keep us updated - it seems a perfect opportunity for us to follow you through the year.

Mark[/quote]

I have big feet, too...

Thanks!

lazerus's picture

I committed to reporting Monday at 5:00 PM MST, so here it is. I do not want to diverge from Yahtzee's original post, but I want to honor the contributers to the topic and managers at large with a timely follow-up.

I "talked" to my direct/peer/wildcard (I don't know a better way to frame the reporting structure), and BUILT THE RELATIONSHIP. To the point for a high D personality, it was "When ANYONE on our team is misbehaving, here's what happens- we all look foolish and it damages trust, we lose respect. Can you come up with some GOALS (please make them MEASURABLE and TIME BASED) that we all can work on? I will also come up with some, and together we can prioritize, make decisions on common goals for our dept."

So he is happy to do that, by tomorrow morning when I come in. I know I tweaked the feedback model almost beyond recognition, but I feel like I successfully communicated what I need to AND built on the relationship in a positive, professional way.

I guess I'll see what happens tomorrow morning!

yahtzee's picture

[quote="lazerus"]I committed to reporting Monday at 5:00 PM MST, so here it is. I do not want to diverge from Yahtzee's original post, but I want to honor the contributers to the topic and managers at large with a timely follow-up.

I "talked" to my direct/peer/wildcard (I don't know a better way to frame the reporting structure), and BUILT THE RELATIONSHIP. To the point for a high D personality, it was "When ANYONE on our team is misbehaving, here's what happens- we all look foolish and it damages trust, we lose respect. Can you come up with some GOALS (please make them MEASURABLE and TIME BASED) that we all can work on? I will also come up with some, and together we can prioritize, make decisions on common goals for our dept."

So he is happy to do that, by tomorrow morning when I come in. I know I tweaked the feedback model almost beyond recognition, but I feel like I successfully communicated what I need to AND built on the relationship in a positive, professional way.

I guess I'll see what happens tomorrow morning![/quote]

Great job, Jeff! I like how you phrased that. I changed up my methodology today as well and felt like I was actually providing feedback vs. telling them what they weren't doing properly. Thanks for the follow-up.

Mark's picture

I must be terribly confused, but okay.

Giving the feedback to a potential peer in the 4 step model is "building the relationship"?

Not if it were me.

Mark