“Hey, Tim…do you have a couple of minutes to talk?”
As I said “Sure”, Bill came into my office and closed the door behind him. That type of entrance always gets my attention!
Bill is one of the top performing salespeople on the team, very smart, and has great relationships with his clients. He is an outstanding salesperson and he also potentially could be an outstanding sales leader, too.
“Tim, you’ve got to do something about Julie…I don’t trust her, I can’t work with her, and our shared clients don’t want to meet with her. She needs to be off this account.”
“Let’s go for a walk, Bill, and talk this out.”
The best managers that I’ve ever worked for always had a complete open-door policy in that I, or anyone on their team, could come in and talk about any issues at any time. When I became a sales leader, I vowed to use that policy myself and to find ways to improve upon it when possible. One thing that I’ve done is follow the well-known and accurate cliché of “Praise in public but criticize in private.” When someone on the team wants to vent in my office, I would rather suggest taking a walk outside around the building. Why do I do this?
- Whenever someone comes into my office and closes the door, people start popping up like prairie dogs in their cubes to see what’s going on…and, if there’s someone venting in my office, it’s better done privately.
- I believe that people think more rationally and less emotionally when they are taking a walk rather than sitting in someone’s office…moving around is good for thinking.
Encouraging the Team to Solve their Own People Issues
There are occasionally some levels of friction between teammates…whether in sports or business. I say ‘occasionally’ because I’ve been on teams that, for the most part, worked together great. But sometimes there are individuals that can cause problems.
In Bill’s situation, he shares a ‘split’ account with Julie. Bill is the stronger salesperson but Julie is geographically closer (on a different coast) to one of the clients…so she is working on the business, too. Julie has a reputation for being headstrong and opinionated but is also a strong salesperson and achieving her sales goals.
The best response for me to resolve the problem is to encourage Bill to reach out to Julie and work things out. If I just ‘ordered’ them to behave and work together, that would just mask the situation…not solve it. I encouraged Bill to reach out to Julie at the upcoming sales meeting and grab a coffee or lunch. By learning more about Julie, Bill might have a better understanding of where she is coming from in terms of her personality and behavior. Bill’s role here is not of a therapist but as a teammate looking to find ways to improve their relationship for the benefit of the entire team.
In Bill’s description, it’s Julie that is causing all the problems. But I’ve found, in my career, that there are usually multiple sides to a story. The best salespeople and sales managers have the ability to ‘step outside’ themselves and objectively look at a situation. Taking emotion out of a charged situation and viewing it rationally can lead to more obvious solutions presenting themselves.
Taking a Walk
Historically, the philosopher Aristotle gave his lectures while walking with his pupils in ancient Greece. I’ve been in some classes where the professors would lecture, pause, and walk with their small group of students. I’ve found walking with people to be very conducive to good conversation and good thinking.
I believe that analyzing and discussing needed behavioral changes for anyone can be far more effective if done outside of a traditional office setting. There are too many distractions within the office and other teammates can also become distracted. I’ve had success in dealing with these situations by leaving the building with someone like Bill and discussing his concerns. Encouraging Bill to talk with Julie to find a way to better work as a team will be more effective than me, or another manager, just giving orders or publicly commenting about their dysfunction.
When Bill came into my office ready to vent and rant about Julie it was time to go outside for a walk.