Managing, coaching and/or leading a team can be a very rewarding role when things are going well. There’s a method to the madness in motivating and inspiring team members. When things don’t go well, the accountability has to fall back on the manager, and tough questions need to be asked. One of the questions that has always intrigued me is,
“Do you know your team members?” (yeah, yeah I do!)
“Do you really KNOW them?”
I heard a story once about a sports star who was allegedly upset that his General Manager did not phone or visit him while he was in the hospital recovering from surgery. This caused a great debate – whether the manager should have had to make personal contact, or if it was satisfactory that his support team did the checking in.
I had a strong opinion on the situation initially, and concluded that the player was another over paid athlete who was whining and wanted a “big hug” from his adoring fans! A radio announcer quickly put it in to perspective for me. He said that although it was ridiculous to expect a General Manager to make calls to a player in the hospital, he needed to know his players. If all it took to keep a multimillion dollar player happy was an occasional phone call or visit to the hospital, was it really that big a deal? Maybe he only had to do things similarly with a handful of players, but it would have kept harmony within the team. Speculation ensued and the player ended up being let go in a very public dispute.
“The Blind Side” movie provided another great lesson about knowing players. A high school football coach had an offensive lineman on his team who was having difficulties blocking opposing players. The coach got frustrated, and did not know how to teach the player to block better, and protect the quarterback. The player’s mom was watching that practice, and went on to the field and gave some insight to her son. She knew that he had scored very well on testing at school when the topic was protection. She gave him examples of how he had protected the family and others close to him over time, and how it related to the football team concept. It really sparked something inside him.
From that point on, he did an incredible job protecting the quarterback. The mom commented to the coach that he needed to know his players better. Every time the player struggled and was not blocking as well in the future, they just had to remind him again that this was his “football family” and he needed to protect them too!
In today’s business environment, now more than ever, Sales Managers and Executives need to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of each of their team members. In the sales profession, some reps will be better at presenting, others will have more technical knowledge, and some will be customer relationship building standouts.
Work your butt off to understand the different personalities that you are managing, and adjust your style when dealing with each of them . Focus on assisting them in areas of weakness, and capitalize on their strengths. Well-rounded reps will be much more successful on your teams in the long run than those who are one-dimensional.
Managers need to be prepared to change-up their leadership strategies based on their team member’s needs. If your team genuinely knows that your number one priority is their success, life at work should already be good if not great. If things aren’t going well with your team, ask yourself:
- How well do I know each individual?
- What motivates them day-to-day?
- What are their long-term goals?
- What can I do to get to know each person better?
- How can I further their career development? (i.e. one-on-one coaching, encouraging continued education, job shadowing, mentoring)
Taking time to get to know your employees gives you valuable insight into leading your team effectively. Happy employees are more productive which is a win-win for everyone.