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« Creating a Consumer Brand via Distribution | Main | Improving the design of your sales organization »

Management and Leadership

Let us talk a little about management and leadership.  But first a couple questions… does anyone like the traffic cop who takes perverse pleasure from writing speeding tickets?  You know the type, they claim they do it for “safety” yet they’ll drive past a stranded motorist on the side of the road.  They like the power, the ability to slap someone down, being boss over someone.  Would you consider this type of individual a leader?  Someone who others will voluntarily follow?

Or how about a spouse or parent who always has a “but” to add, regardless of the good work?  You know… oh that’s great you worked your butt off and painted the house, but you got paint on the roses.  Or that’s great you got 95% on the test but you did miss this easy one.  Or it’s great you behaved so admirably, but you shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  Always the “but” no matter how good the act.  The “but” not only generally erases the positive comment - and its associated positive emotions… it actually turns positive things into negative things. 

Or how effective would a basketball coach be if all they did was scream at you every time you missed a shot.  Would you learn?  Improve?  Become a positive team member?  Would it perhaps have just a little impact on your overall attitude?  ;-)  My father, who was a pretty good youth baseball coach had a general rule of thumb… he’d never yell if you dropped the ball (he’d work to help you improve your skills), but if you threw the ball to the wrong base… then you’re going to hear about it.  Do your best physically and that’s all you can do.  Do less than your best mentally and you’re in the dog house.  Perhaps you can’t run very fast to get to the ball – little you can do about that.  But once you get to the ball, you had better throw it to the right place – that is 100% within your control.

Now let’s think about management and leadership.  Do you see any of these traits in yourself?  Is your only goal when you go out at retail is to find something wrong?  Suppliers (a certain one in particular) seem to be infected with this one.  Do you race to the cooler and start checking dates?  Hoping and hoping to find a problem… ahhh, and with that you have done your job and can sleep peacefully tonight?  We all know where the most likely problems are (just like the most likely place for catching speeders).  It’s sad.  They don’t really get any pleasure out of NOT finding problems (just like the traffic cop doesn’t truly get any pleasure out of everyone following the speed limit).  No, they only seem to think they add value when they can find something wrong.  Don’t fall into this perverse trap, measuring your worth… your effectiveness based solely on finding fault… and wrongly thinking this is your primary objective. 

Or every time you go out to retail do you ALWAYS have to find at least one problem.  Hey sales rep, this store looks incredible and you’re beating the pants off the competition, BUT you’re missing X.  All the warm and fuzzies of the first part of the sentence are destroyed by the second.  Perhaps it’s just that I am getting older and more relaxed in my old age but I’m always surprised when even I (a world-renown pain-in-the-rear) walk into an account with a manager or owner and I think it’s pretty dang good… but the owner is immediately on the phone (a terrible management practice in the first place) calling about some minor imperfection in the account.

We are all emotional creatures – whether you like it or not – and we respond emotionally.  If an account, or back room, or driver’s performance is 90% kick-ass, shut the heck up about the 10% that isn’t - those who know me know that in person I’d use a little bit more colorful language to make this last point ;-)  Save your discussions for improvements for a later time… and even then, frame these in a constructive fashion.  Don’t destroy a great performance – and more importantly, positive emotions - by always pointing out the small part which isn’t perfect.  Do you like it when your wife does it?!!  Then it is highly unlikely your employees like it much either.  Spend more time being a cheerleader and focusing on those things your employees are doing well… and working to constantly expand those things that they are doing well. 

Or do you only comment on the negative aspects, never once commenting on the positive and worse yet… never offering any concrete suggestions to help your employees get better.  Again, do you like it when your parents or spouse do this?!  That coach who only screams at his player’s failures while offering no assistance with improvement will never be too successful.  As a manager, by definition your success depends on the success of your people… and you will catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar. 

Some mistakenly believe this implies you have to be a push-over for your employees.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Most successful leaders are extremely demanding.  But they are much more than solely demanding… they help their people succeed.

Remember that effective management is ultimately effective leadership.  And leadership is a voluntary act… i.e. others have to voluntarily choose to follow you.  Try as you might, you’ll find it very difficult to force them to follow.  They might “let” you be the boss, and do their job, but that is a far cry from leadership.  And it will show in your organization and the results this organization produces.  Regardless of your position in your company, work to be a leader.  You might be surprised at the results.

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