Tag Archives: courageous management

Support decisions from your firm: an objective on which there are disagreements is better than no objective at all.

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We have all seen it. Whether we participated or not in the discussion, upper management takes a decision we don´t agree with it and that we know will be unpopular within our own managed team. We fought well but in the end, the decision was not the one we recommended.

Disappointed, worried about losing the bond with the team, no one can dismiss the temptation, especially young managers, to distance themselves from such decisions.

This is a very dangerous road that one should avoid travelling on. One of them being that manager might not have all the information to judge, but that is only part of the reason.

You may think implementing an unpopular decision weakens your influence on the team members as they will not see you as the ally you wanted to be. And sometimes the friend you wanted to be. Nothing good will come from that.

One of the TV series that I am never tired of watching is „Band of Brothers“. In the episode „Breaking point“, the soldiers are awaiting orders in a place called „Bois Jacques“ in the bulge. German soldiers are well equipped and bombard the American lines with artillery barrages that take a human and psychological toll on the men. There are casualties and wounded men every day. It’s a harsh winter, food is cold, and the situation seems stuck.

To make matters worse, they are under the command of a very poor superior officer appointed by the higher-ups in the military staff: lieutenant Dyke. Morale is low, and some of the men fight their stress and dissatisfaction by mocking their commanding officer. At that point, one of the platoon leaders, Lipton, overhears the imitation done by George Luz . He tells him that although the imitation is immensely funny, he asks him to stop doing it as “it does no good to anyone”.

In short, it is worse to have no leader to travel with than a leader who takes you on a dangerous road. Immobility is a much greater demotivation factor than a non-unanimous goal. Immobility, feeling of abandonment, creates restlessness, loss of confidence, loss of purpose.

And what good will come to your team from standing out as „rebels without a cause“? Will they grow in the organization because they refuse to do something considered unwise? Will they make management change their decision? No, they are making the situation worse for themselves, and the manager is not leading them to a better reasoning.

And what will they think of a manager that is neither capable of being convincing when discussing with the higher-ups nor capable of action within his own team.

Now most certainly, nothing is more ridiculous than blind propaganda when beginning to travel on a path that seems so unappealing to the people you work with, that is a question of communication. But keep the lines moving.

Agree, disagree, get in touch!

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Management: do what´s right even if it costs popularity in the short term

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Beyond the corporate culture clichés, dazzling videos of teams cooperating hand in hand for the victory of their firm and themselves, reality is much more complicated when it comes to developing a working organization.

And with the new generations of young people, highly individualistic and defiant, the job of making teams functional and expansive is even greater.

Teams are strong, and the stronger the collective, the more the manager feels alone during conflicts.

Personally, I have always viewed my job as to encourage the development of strong collectives. The cooperation between members gives much more business through faster growth of the new employees, and customer satisfaction. But I am always aware that there is a price.

Because the good working atmosphere is not the goal, but the means, and the real objective is reaching targets set for the team. On occasions, you will need to do things that are right for the organization, even if those actions are viewed as unpopular.

If the thought of being unpopular worries you, remind yourself that:

  • Change, extra work, new methods is always disruptive to comfort, and many people value their comfort. Some to the point that it might threaten their results. Negativity is to be expected.
  • You are doing it for the greater good. How many leaders have been dragged in the mud during their reign to be rediscovered later as long-term thinking individuals? Take Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the U.K. from 1979 to 1990 for instance. She was not after popularity, she knew what was right, and she gave back a job and a future to millions of Britons. Things might not be so dramatic where you are (it is not where I am), but that´s the confidence you need to feel.
  • The team is not your family, you have no moral obligation to defend them in all circumstances. There´s a line, everyone´s interpretation differs to where it is when it comes to work habits and the relationship with the manager, but you have to let go of someone if that person cannot be put on the right track, even after trying to reason him or her. You did what you could.

 

I won´t go into the communication aspects with the team because that´s a whole chapter, but I need to emphasize one thing: do it with confidence and resolve.

Agree, disagree? Get in touch!

 

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Leadership: do not panic as your technical skills are surpassed!

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It passed by without me noticing it, but it now has been two years since I was given the responsibility to take the lead in the troubled Bratislava office.

I have recruited all but one of the people I have trusted to develop our sales. They all have made tremendous progress as I watch the month of February come to an end with a new record and an outstanding month of January.

I am beginning to work with people who know more things than me on the technical level however: they understand better how the tools work, they know where the switch for changing this setting or this setting is, they know the power output of the nozzles and can assess on the power of the previous customer installation…I fold as their concrete experience has grown and turned them into skilled sales technicians.

Smoking a cigar at home the other day, I wondered how someone like me needs to envision the coming months or years to keep the organization tidy, functional, and successful as my output no longer includes higher technical knowledge or experience.

In general, the manager needs to bring something more to the table than simply a more detailed knowledge, or info, or capacity to do a higher discount.

Here is how I prepare my complimentary cocktail:

1) I stand by the company and my upper management any minute even when I disagree with their paths. Once something is decided, it needs to be applied. I explain and we go ahead. Playing any other game might make you sympathetic to your team when the decision taken is unpopular but it does not help leadership at all. On the contrary, you look like a “loser”.

2) I take decisions quickly and explain my reasons to the team member when a situation arises. I take full responsibility for it and should it be a mistake or should that decision be challenged by my upper-management, well so be it. Once I am convinced, my team can take my decision to the bank.

3) I encourage personal responsibility and return many of their requests to their own personal judgment.

4) I encourage them to review the situations they are in from a different perspective and share experiences I have had in the past. I tell many anecdotes of my work experience, of my business relationships, of my personal readings and research and my “gut feeling”. In short, I try to help them see things through a “people” perspective.

5) I am not afraid to keep my rules valid. It is not because a salesperson starts to be successful that that person can play outside the rules of the firm. You still come on time, you still help out your colleagues, pick up the phone, take down the bin to the container (and I do so myself as to set an example) and there is no eating in the office outside of break hours. Actually for the last one, I wish that was 100% true, but I still have to raise my voice.

There are no guarantees in this business, and you can always be challenged. Perhaps one last thing I see important might be discutable. I work with the opinion leaders of the team and always try to have them as ambassadors and help them understand the reasons of doing what we do. More generally, it is important to listen to each and every one. As a sales manager, you are still selling them the motivation to do their job well, the promising rewards of personal and permanent self-improvement, and the potential enjoyment of working with you and their colleagues. And we all know selling is listening first.

In one word, perhaps one of the pillars of leadership is to demonstrate you care: you care about the company and you care about the people you work with and you want the best for both. And you demonstrate that every day, with your own personality, your own life experience, and your own dreams.

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Involvement requires taking a chance every day

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One of the skills involved pointed out in management is “involvement”.

For me, that latter skill translates as not being afraid to take a risk.
If you get involved in the work of your team, your opinion, your explanations and your advice all become material and are put to the test. If it works, you win, if it does not…you lose. But you do not lose as much as if you had not taken that chance.

One of the deeper impressions your management should project is credibility.

When I started out, I viewed credibility mainly as proving to those I managed that I was capable of doing the same things they were. I personally remember my first 3 months of managing among other people a salesperson over thirty years my elder who had total disrespect for me. I got my lucky break by being able to do a sale he had described me as impossible an hour earlier. And he begged me to put the sale on his salesperson code as one of the products sold came with a hefty bonus. From that day on, I told him how it was going to be.

Perhaps that is one of the original aspects of the quest for credibility: you cannot learn it, you can only seize it.

With time, your management position might go up and even if that does not happen, the needs and expectations of the team members grow as fast as their skills. They require new input, require new motivational goals, and require understanding better their point in the overall organization.

This year, as I am starting my third year on full time with swepro, I know that there will be new challenges for me just as for my team. From one company with one employee (I fired three a couple of weeks after my arrival), we now have three companies on the Central European market with ten salespeople introducing products beforehand unknown to this region. We are profitable on our older operations (Slovakia and Czech Republic), although much still needs to be done to reach the profitability we enjoy in competitive markets such as Germany where our products reduce production costs.

My personal objective is not to lose the edge over the technical aspect of selling. There is still a lot to do regarding the basic sales skills. We will work on reformulation and better reaction to objections. But with those that are the most ahead, the challenge will be to improve our strategic approach with our customers: managing time better, mapping the firms not forgetting people, processes and potential.

January has always been the month where I sometimes started smoking again. Because there is always a little stress factor taking a look at the challenges of the coming year. And evidently the risks that need to be taken from getting involved in the work of the team.

I hope they will look up to me. And they will if they know that I put what I tell them on the line and that I test it in real life.

In short, it takes energy not to retreat behind a computer and manage the daily issues. But there’s no other way than jumping in and sharing what you know, and sharing your vision even if it requires you to be occasionally wrong.

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