Spreadsheets, more meetings, incentive plans, and talks about "the bubble" are all symptoms of a manager becoming extinct.
This is something I learned as part of my recent path of self discovery.
Yes, after 20 years of leadership experience full of failures, successes, as well as working with many leadership styles, I have finally decided on directions for my life. One of those will be a leadership program. It will likely be a book and online program. I will talk about my other "purposes" recently discovered in my upcoming posts.
I know, right? Another management/leadership book? After so many years of trying to "fit in" to management culture, I finally accepted the feedback from my teams. I'm different. God has given me something very unique - sad that it has taken over 40 years to unwrap the gifts. I hope it doesn't take you as long to discover yours.
Many managers are generational leaders. This simply means they have held on to the leadership styles they studied from a mentor and set out to mimic those as much as possible. This is what we are taught, but there is one significant problem: The world changed but management styles have not.
I'll admit that I despise Excel and spreadsheets. In fact, I will admit that I always flew under the radar and avoided producing them as much as possible. Hold on! I do track my numbers. In fact, I love graphs, trends, and numbers, especially graphs. However, many managers are so obsessed with Excel, they could spend over half their week indulging in formulas and selecting color schemes until, well, they forgot to lead. Next, they return Monday morning to update those numbers that are no longer accurate because, well, they forgot to lead. As leaders, we can not become so lost within the spreadsheets that we simply miss the opportunity to create the numbers which fit into those little boxes. I can say with years of trials and errors that leaders must shift their focus to creating the numbers instead of simply watching them. Besides, it's so much more fun!
The weekly sales/team meeting has become passe. Seriously, I can walk into most companies on any given Monday around 8:45 am and write their agenda bullets on the wall. They are predictable, uninspiring, and have simply become a time to herd the team and tell them once again how important this week has become. It is time to blow up the weekly sales meeting! What can we do that inspires someone to: hear the alarm clock without pressing snooze; jump into the shower; and bop into work on Monday morning with great enthusiasm and energy? Ok, this may not happen weekly, but it should be the goal and we should be able to accomplish this periodically vs. never. I have seen this happen and it is awesome!
The incentive plan; the dangling of the carrot; the promise. If you produce this, we will give you that (Yaaaaawn!). Let's just pause and rethink: Why do people choose sales? I believe it is for: Autonomy; Flexibility; Recognition; and Money. Also, when I mention recognition, I am talking about physical award and the sense of accomplishment within a team effort. Sales is a team sport and teams enjoy holding up that trophy together. However, somehow many leaders have gotten stuck in the rut of x+y=z. Often, the carrot isn't attainable and we rarely give those who do actually grab it the chance to relax and just nibble for a while. Let them savor that carrot! Instead, we have them chasing another before they can get the first one in their mouth. I call this overburn. Many companies are experiencing overburn and turnover with mediocre results due to their inability to fix this problem. It can easily be fixed.
Last, but certainly not least is "the bubble" talk. I have heard this phrase from 1995 until 2015. That, in itself, should yell "STOP!!!". But, most don't. In fact, many leaders spend hours and hours each week talking about those who are being "moved" out the door instead of taking the responsibility to lead these bubblers to success. I believe people fail due to one of two reasons: They do not know how or they do not want to. If they do not know how, but provide the effort, that is the leader's responsibility. If they know how, but do not want to give the effort, they need to be openly and swiftly informed they are in the wrong place or career. Companies have quickly stopped talking about the costs of turnover because they have given up on the ability to control it. In fact, more and more companies are trying to learn how to make it profitable - and, funny as it is, it can be! But, we are entering an era where the tenured sales executive will have power over the grasshopper once again. Managing turnover deserves a new conversation. As more and more businesses begin to sell the same products/services, the client will be making more decisions based on trust and relationships - it has already begun.
Customers hate the "I'm your new rep call". So, why do we continue spending more time discussing who is on the bubble and how we get them out rather than how we can lead, inspire, and motivate them?
If your leader is a dinosaur, then your company is dying. Slowly, it is becoming extinct. Excuses; spreadsheets with hidden or slowly changing data; and turnover are eroding your financials. Often, this happens one bite at a time until the CEO or VP realizes their plate has been cleaned.
So, what's the solution? Well, you will have to wait for the book. Just kidding - kinda. I certainly do not have all the answers, but I certainly have experienced enough significant and unusual successes that I have identified some key trends.
Here are a few hints and tips:
a) Do not hire leaders simply based on experience. Hire leaders that inspire you in the interview. If they show you the "it" factor, they have the "it" factor. It is not learned, it is a gift. Inspiring people comes from a bit of divine inspiration mixed with a sincere passion to help others become excellent. MEASURE them based on the "it" factor. Try it!
b) STOP THE SPREADSHEET INSANITY. Most spreadsheets are just a bunch of numbers that change repeatedly. Stop spending more of your time watching the action and focus more on creating it!
c) If your Sales Meeting is ANYTHING like the sales meeting your mentor conducted, blow it up! Get rid of chairs; have the sellers produce the agenda; have it virtually, or do anything possible to make it different - Yes! do it almost for the sake of being different. Because, just like great marketers, if you focus on being different, you can create something very.....different!
d) Incentives need to be about causes. Forget about the numbers and create a team initiative that inspires something beyond making the company and the CEO more money. For example, create the sales plan needed to remodel the break room into a Google-type playground; create the strategy to send everyone on a team training cruise; Stop giving them a number to reach with a 10% cost of sales bonus. They see through that- if you have a savvy team. They may not tell you, but it's just not exciting anymore.
Finally, I will say that vision, energy, and environment will be focal points in my upcoming book and program. Without vision, the people will perish. Jesus gave us that advice.
Energy fuels momentum and great momentum can hardly be stopped.
Environment is a stronger influence than DNA. What??? Yes, it is.
Thanks for reading this unusually long post about leadership. I have recently become passionate about helping in this space. Thank you to everyone that told me I should.