As the role of a Sales Manager evolves from only managing tools and processes, to being a sales coach, it becomes necessary to change behaviors as well. Creating a leadership environment means shifting from an authoritarian style to a collaborative leadership style. (Read more about this in the article "Sales Management Math: The Sales Coaching Formula to Increased Performance")
Recently, Steve Denning wrote an article for Forbes that provides very practical ideas on how to keep your team inspired, even when you have to say "no" to their ideas. Try using these three answers instead of saying no.
"Saying no while also inspiring people"
When a leader says “no” to a follower who has passionately put forward an alternative way of doing things, the sound of “no” can deliver a spirit-crushing blow. It can carry dead the weight of hierarchical authority, the stench of soul-destroying command-and-control.
In traditional management thinking, there tends to be a tug of war between two types of people: “leaders” who try to inspire their followers by saying “yes”, and “managers” who keep things running on track and on time by saying “no”. The net result of the tug of war is a global workforce where only one in five workers is fully engaged in his or her work.
So what’s a leader to do? How does a leader practicing radical management say “no” while maintaining focus, enthusiasm and inspiration?
The trick of inspirational leadership is to use one of three, and only three, answers, when a follower proposes doing things differently:
1. “Yes!”: Ideally, of course, if the follower’s idea is a good one, the leader should embrace the idea with enthusiasm. That may not be the case. So the leader has to go to the second or third response.
2. ”Let’s explore” If the idea has promise, but the timing isn’t right, or if more work needs to be done on it before it can be implemented, a “let’s explore” answer can recognize the merit in the idea, while not allowing it to distract from higher priority action items. The item goes on the list of things to be explored, but it isn’t consigned to oblivion.
3. “What if?”: This answer involves the leader taking the trouble to understand the substantive merit behind the follower’s proposal and then come up with a better way of achieving the same result. There can then ensure an adult-adult conversation about the merits of the proposal.
If a leader can maintain focus without having to say “no”, the gains to the work will be major.
Part of the ongoing reinvention of management is thus a shift from top-down authority-based directives to conversations in which different points of view can be explored constructively so as to contribute to the common goal of delighting the customer.
Based on research, we know now that this is only part of the formula for driving performance.
It is no longer about managing tools and processes better than the other guy. Rather it is the addition of a human element and leadership skills. Coaching is not a component of the job, coaching is the job! At the EcSELL Institute, we have created a model that refines what it means to be the person in charge of a sales department.
Steve Denning’s most recent book is: The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace For the 21st Century (Jossey-Bass, 2010).