One of the key tasks of a sales manager is to continually seek ways to improve the manner in which their team operates – constantly challenging paradigms and questioning “the way we do things around here”, will ensure the team remains at optimum performance levels.
However, it is also important to stay within an overall long term strategy and not effect change for change’s sake. Here are some thoughts on moving forward in a structured manner.
First, keep the key management functions in mind
- Define objectives (your own and others)
- Plan (and time) action
- Communicate (throughout the process)
- Support others’ action
- Evaluate performance (and link to the future)
- Then relate this to the task, the team and the individual people
Keeping the Overall Management Process in Mind
- Task – Identify task and constraints
- Team – Set targets and Involve team
- Individual needs – Agree targets and responsibilities
- Task – Establish priorities
- Team – Structure and delegate
- Individual needs – Assess skills, train and delegate
- Task – Brief and check understanding
- Team – Consult, obtain feedback
- Individual needs – Listen, advise and enthuse
- Task – Monitor progress, check standards
- Team – Co-ordinate, reconcile conflict
- Individual needs – Recognize, encourage and counsel
- Task – Review, re-plan and summaries
- Team – Reward success; learn from failure (and success)
- Individual Needs – Appraise, guide and train for the future
This view encapsulates and simplifies, the whole process.
With this picture in mind, certain key issues are worth a mention:
Link to the Future
Ongoing success, as a manager, is influenced by:
- The attitude you take to the transition
- What you do before you move into a new appointment
- The early focus you bring to bear on key issues
- The relationship you thus cultivate with staff
- The working habits you create for yourself (and others) in process
Together, all the above influence early success in the job – and how you take things forward into the future.
From the beginning, always operate on the basis that managing people:
- Takes time – you cannot get so bound up in your own workload that you skimp on time you should spend with others
- Takes effort – it is a challenge, there are no magic formulae or quick fixes that will do the job for you
- Needs thought – the obvious or immediate answer may not be best, things may well need research, analysis and thinking through
- Is not a solo effort – seek and take advice from where you can, including your own staff
- Will not always go right – as Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes.” Admit your mistakes (publicity if necessary) and learn from your experience
Remember too that managing people:
- Is a process of helping others to be self-sufficient – this implies trust and that management works best when you take a positive view of what people can do (and do not see your role as a sort of corporate security guard)
- Is based on good, regular and open communication – something that pervades many issues commented on in these pages
- Needs to be acceptable to people before it can be effective – hence the crucial role of motivation as part of the management task
- Become self-sustaining when it works – i.e. if people find your management helpful (to the job, the organization and to them) then they will support it and support you
Overall, management is not what you do to people, but the process of how you work with people to help prompt their performance. Work with people from day one, and go on doing it throughout your management career.
At the end of the day, success comes down to a considered approach. Charge in, desperate to make an impression, go at everything at once in order to make an impression, and disaster may closely follow. ‘Twas ever thus:
“First organize the near at hand, then organize the far removed
First organize the inner, then organize the outer
First organize the basic, then organize the derivative
First organize the strong, then organize the weak
First organize the great, then organize the small
First organize yourself, then organize others.”
General Zhuge Liang
Perhaps we should highlight the last sentence: “First organize yourself, then organize others.”
Being a manager is a challenge, but it is also almost infinitely rewarding to create and maintain a team of people who deliver excellent performance and produce whatever results are targeted. It is a task that takes time, requires effort and needs a considered approach.
All sorts of things can help, but only one person can guarantee that you become a good manager – and that’s you!