Today, I’m going to leave the research behind and talk about how I recently failed as a manager. Don’t worry…this story has a happy ending.
I have a five-year-old daughter. She’s a glass-half-full kind of gal. She approaches everything in life with a positive attitude and smile on her face. I can already peg her as the kind of person who really stops to smell the roses. All that lollygagging to smell said roses birthed her nickname, Lolly.
This is Lolly’s second year playing soccer. Lolly’s perspective of how the game is played has been just like her personality, which I think is best described as happy-go-lucky. She’s been known to skip hand-in-hand with a teammate down the field during the game and she gives me glorious thumbs-up as she trails 15 feet behind the beehive of kids with the ball. Saying I’m competitive is an understatement and her lassie-faire playing of the game completely baffled me. She wouldn’t engage. The ball could go right past her and she wouldn’t even make an attempt to kick it. I’ve had several other parents smile at me and sympathetically comment how she “just doesn’t have a competitive bone in her body” but how she looked awfully cute in her matching pink cleats and shin guards.
I tried several approaches to get her to engage. I bribed her with prizes. I yelled instruction. I threatened the loss of the post-game team treat. I begged. At the end of the game two weeks ago, she clobbered me by saying she didn’t think I would ever be proud of her playing soccer. I completely failed as a manager.
With my failure glaring, I changed my approach. I didn’t withhold the prize she failed to earn by kicking the arbitrary number of kicks I set for that game. We went and celebrated her one kick with ice cream. We talked about how fun it is to play and what a good teammate she is by cheering on her teammates.
She had another soccer game this past week. Rather than the usual militant pre-game discussion, we spent the drive to the field talking about happy things and how proud I am of her for running fast each game. As the game started, she ran onto the field in her pink shoes and cleats with a big smile on her face.
In all the previous games this season, I could count all her kicks on one hand. In this game, she engaged. She kicked the ball! She had a couple breakaway kicks down the field! She even took two shots on goal! I nearly passed out.
How did my management failure become a success? I let go of my ideas of how she needed to be coached and took direction from her as to how she needed to be coached. I got caught up in my competitive nature comfort zone and failed to manage her based on her happy-go-lucky nature.
If the people who live in the same house can be so different from each other, we can’t expect the people in on our sales team to be any similar. As sales managers, a key component of our job is to effectively motivate our team. To be successful at this, we need to look at coaching our team based on their needs and individuality. Here are two helpful reminders:
First, be prepared to step outside of you personal motivation comfort zone. Any given sales team is a group of individuals with individual motivating prompts. Rather than force our ideas of how things should be done, we need to expand our management repertoire to match the rep, the team, or the environment.
Second, get to you kyour reps on more than a superficial level. Knowing your team on a personal level makes you better able to coach to each rep’s style and needs. Whether it be formally or informally, opportunities to connect with our reps is time well spent.
If you are interested in learning more about effective tools for sales motivation, please visit our website at www.ecsellinstitute.com.