The Tap on the Shoulder

I am dedicating this Blog to a young gentleman I hired a few years ago in my previous role as Vice President of US Sales. He died Monday, August 29th after a tragic

 cycling accident. In 2010, he won Territory Manager of the Year! I pray GOD graces his beautiful wife; young son and baby daughter as I am sure their journey of uncertainty will be a long and painful road.

This blog has now taken on a new meaning and purpose. I was originally going to share my story about being asked to take on the role as VP of Sales for the division that wasn’t performing. Perhaps, that is the reason I struggled to post a new Blog until now!

I am sure you are like me, it’s hard to fathom why GOD would take a young, healthy, happy, father, son, husband and friend. Why does he have to leave this earth so soon? I do believe GOD has his plan. 

There is a meaningful story that I am compelled to share.  How many of you can reflect back on your careers and say, “that people followed me when I move on in my career or to a new position?” Well, this gentleman worked for his manager for over 10 years. Not in one company, but two companies.  Yes, I hired the gentleman to join the team, but the Regional Manager brought him to the company …based on his long standing relationship, built on locality and belief that he was the best talent for the job!

The Regional Manager was NEW to the company, his reputation was at stake, and he had a great deal to prove to the senior leadership team.  He took on a newly formed region, with a small customer base of business, unpopular past representatives and a General Manager not impressed with the manager’s choice in hire.

In Walks the NEW GUY!

It took patience, perseverance, consistency, focus and passion to turn the region and the territory around in just two short years.  Together, along with the team, they focused on results, executed a plan and enjoyed the ride.  On the night of the February 2011 National Sales Awards Banquet, the manager called late leaving me a message on my cell phone.  It was one of the most rewarding messages I have ever received in my career. They had won Region of the Year, he had won Regional Manager of the Year and Mike won Territory Manager of the Year. That message was uplifting and so meaningful. He thanked me for my support, my belief in them and the encouragement I offered before and after leaving the company. I was so proud, sad I wasn’t there to celebrate with them but they knew I was there in spirit. Hiring the two of them and the members of that region were some of the best hiring decisions I made in my tenure with the company.  However, it was the Regional Manager’s style of leadership that motivated, inspired and belief in his team that led them to overcome their challenges. Leaders are born, but they also can be made. Natural leaders rapidly rise from the ranks! That is what happened with this team of leaders.

Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent: “Hire the Best of the Best”

Over the years, I have hired hundreds of sales leaders.  Hiring top talent separates you, your company from the competition, establishing the future of a organization.

Today, in a world where fierce competition is at an all time-high, keeping top performers has become even more of important issue for most employers to recognize.  The economic climate is driving employers to develop strategies for recruiting and retaining high performers.  I believe there are six key factors employers/hiring managers need to consider when building a world class organization;

  • Hire people with the innate desire to be “the best”,     repeated career successes

  • Empower employees through trust and respect

  • Openly communicate so employees are informed

  • Provide consistent feedback and recognize  achievement

  • Support employees in times of personal crisis

  • Reward and recognize positive results beyond compensation

Mid-level managers are the closest to the field and play a critical role coaching and developing their teams. Managers act as a “resource” to the team and need to understand the corporate vision, strategy, and communicate those concepts to their teams. They must know how to develop and motivate their employees and they must have the skills to conduct challenging conversations with non-performers.

Empower Managers to Act

Too often, middle managers have responsibility but no authority. Here is an analogy I recently read in a paper published by The Boston Consulting Group, about middle management. They are in a gunflight with only one bullet in their revolver or playing five-card stud with only two cards. They need more responsibility to improve their overall performance.  I believe it’s the companies challenge to empower middle managers to do the following:

  • Make Organizational Changes: Allow the managers to organize the team’s work and drive process improvement.

  • Manage Performance: Incorporate processes that managers can use to evaluate and set objectives for their team members

  • Offer Compensation and Recognition; Give middle managers leeway to use incentives, reward small wins, reward short-term achievement and long-term achievements.

  • Create Development Opportunities: You can’t hold your middle managers accountable if you don’t offer them the skills, responsibility and meaningful development. They deserve to be developed!

Although this list seems like common sense, most companies do not allow their middle managers to apply these levels fully or exercise their managerial skills. As I stated above, it’s unrealistic to hold your managers accountable regarding performance and execution if they don’t have the ability to implement two of the four tools.

Here is my advice to those of you who are middle managers: if your company is not providing the tools needed for you to lead successfully, challenge them to empower you.  Focus on your leadership development, the development of your people. There are resources out there to help you achieve your goals to be the BEST. Always take opportunities to reward and recognize individuals on your team every chance you get. I promise if you just focus on your people, always watch their backs and it’s never about you…your team (and you) will always be the winning team!

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