It’s true, you can’t be responsible for your people but by necessity you must be responsible to them. There is a big difference between being responsible for someone and being responsible to someone.
When we feel their success or failure is our responsibility, we begin cutting corners for them, making excuses for them and even going so far as to adopting them. Their success or failure is their responsibility, it is not ours. Certainly there are things we can do to aid their success and be responsible to them, and we will cover some of those in part 2 next week. First, we must accept that they are accountable for their success.
One of my mentors, Steve Brown, Chairman and CEO of The Fortune Group, an international training firm related a story that happened to him in the early 70’s when his company was in it’s infancy, and he was personally managing the sales organization. He had a salesperson, a man working for them in Florida who had been very successful for several years. Steve said he was closer to him than anyone else in the company. Then the once-successful man went into a slump, and his sales had fallen.
The company had a policy, they brought him in, worked with him, retrained and coached him but nothing seemed to work. He was not succeeding and company policy, thought out with calm cool reasoning, said if someone was not performing and had been re-trained and subsequently didn’t respond, they were to be terminated. Steve said it was his job, but he couldn’t do it.
He said every time he brought himself to the point he backed away because this man had a wife and 10 kids. Steve also said he realized this man would not have the same financial opportunity anywhere else so he kept putting it off. Finally, Steve was speaking in the same city where the man was based and at the break, he came to Steve and asked if he could stay over after the session, as he had something very important to tell him.
Steve said of course and got so excited because he thought the man was going to do his job for him – Quit! After the session they had drinks and dinner and the man shared nothing. Finally, Steve said to him, you ask me to stay over because you had something very important to tell me.
The man looked at Steve and said that it was so difficult. Our relationship has been so strong and you have stood behind and supported me so much. Steve said, “You can tell me anything!” The man said, “ I fallen in love, I leaving Betty and the kids!”
At that point Steve said he finally understood adoption. Steve said he was more concerned about the man’s family than he was. Additionally he said he also knew something else, if he had done his job following company policy and terminated the man, he wouldn’t have had time to fall in love!
Most sales managers had at least one person they have adopted and they never do it for person, they do it for themselves, it inflates their ego. Steve said he took an ego trip at the expense of a family. If you have a person on your staff whose success, meaning a good steady producer, would surprise you, follow your company policy but terminate them as soon as you can. Why? Salespeople seldom fail alone, they generally fail in pairs. If one fails alone, who would be responsible? Them! If they can drag another down with them, guess whose fault it would be? The sales manager!
The belief that we are responsible for our people can be very costly to the person and our company. Understanding that we are responsible to them leads to just the opposite, and as I mentioned earlier we will cover that in part 2 next week.
To learn more about this and many other areas of effective sales management, please explore our “Practical Sales Management Strategies for Today” multimedia training system and the process we use to implement it into your organization. It is my hope that this has helped!
Jim Strutton, CEO
© 2011 Accountability Plus, Inc.
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