We have all heard it: Someone isn’t measuring up. They aren’t good enough. Or they just can’t cut it in the big league. We blame the people in our team, the ones we recruited and/or lead. In fact we blame everything or everyone – but we don’t tend to blame ourselves. Which raises as interesting question:
What if we, as leaders, are the problem, rather than the people we lead?
Or to put it another way, what if – by recognising ourselves as a potential issue – we can effect a positive change in our team? That’s a Win-Win if ever I heard one. So let’s expolore that idea a little more.
Firstly let me make some assumptions here.
- I am assuming that you recruited, or at least had a hand in choosing in the team around you. If you inherited someone else’s rag, tag and bobtail outfit, then there may be mitigating factors – but that’s another blog post for another day
- Let me also assume that you are working with Sales professionals here: People are trained in Sales, and whose sole mission and purpose in their job is to sell
This may sound like a reasonable assumption – but on the other hand I know of countless companies have “part time” Sales staff – staff who do an Operational/Production role in the morning, and sell in the afternoon. Utter madness? Yes absolutely. You wouldn’t ask a mechanic to fix cars in the morning and split the atom in the afternoon .. Why not? Because one of these things is a person’s core function, and the other is a random job that has nothing to do with their skill set. Yet many companies still do not understand what Sales actually involves, and that you need dedicated Sales people to do it. (You can read more on this in my accompanying post “Sales Professionals are Professionals”)
Anyhow. Let’s work on the basis that the 2 assumptions above are correct.
Good Strategy Equals a Good Team
With a good, well drilled working strategy (see “Strategy : Begin with the End in Mind”), and good leadership, you can develop a collection of Sales people into a very good team of Sales people. Almost every Sales professional I have ever met needs guidance somewhere along the line, and a good strategy provides underpinning foundations for people to follow. Something for reference when they get lost (because we all do from time to time). If your strategy is robust, and you have leadership capabilities, you should have a great team.
Round Pegs in Round Holes
Fact: Different people have different skills. The same is absolutely true of Sales people. Some can cold call, and some are good at the customer facing side of the job. Utilise your best people in their best positions. All the time you should be developing them to be more rounded, and either to excel in a particular area, or to become Jack of All Trades – because the flexibility your Jacks of All Trades bring is a really important aspect of a good team
I like to think of Sales teams as being like football teams: You need your striker (Order Taker), but you also need your defenders (Key Account Managers). Most of all however you need a utility player (Jack of All Trades) who provides the glue between the defenders and the strikers. Jack can defend when needed, and can also get forward to support the attackers when needed. Or to put it another way, a reasonable cold caller who can also make orders happen, is literally worth their weight in gold. They may not be the best at either role, but the support and flexibility they provide is invaluable.
Why do people fail?
I generally find it’s down to a lack of direction. Teams become disheartened because they don’t know where they are going, or how to get there. So let’s return to the idea of a strategy.
The strategy provides both a goal, and directions of how to achieve that goal.
Add to this your own leadership skills, and you have a winning formula. If you, as the team leader, are guiding and mentoring effectively, you should be able to spot any lost sheep. In fact, if you are a leader of any sort, you should see it the very moment someone comes off their game. Not in terms of revenue or anything quite so vulgar, but in pure human emotional terms. If someone is unhappy with their direction, or feeling that they are not achieving all they could, or that they are being micro-managed, or any other number of things that make people unhappy in their role, then you – as the team leader – should know.
There are always those who will have their head turned by a better offer or a new role somewhere else. And what you do about that is up to your company. BUT, if you are earnestly trying to build a cohesive team that uses every member to the very best of their skills, and one of your team comes to you saying they have had a better offer elsewhere, I would suggest that is was you, the leader, who missed the signs.
- You must know your team’s individual skills
- You must trust your team. If you don’t trust them, you will micromanage them – which makes people feel unempowered and unhappy
- You must have a clear and cohesive strategy, which all the team understand
- If your team fail, you as the leader must look at how you failed
- If you know you have good people, and you are putting them into the right roles (those roles which utilise each person’s individual skill set) then your team will not fail