If Our People Fail, We Have Failed As Managers


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In our Future Selling Institute Office Hours last Friday, my friend, Jonathan Farrington, made a comment in a discussion about coaching. He said, as managers, if our people fail, we have failed as managers. It’s an important statement that deserves much more in the way of discussion.

As managers, our job is to maximize the performance of our organizations and each individual within the organization. We do this through a number of mechanisms, including:

  • We have strategies and tactics in place that clearly position us within our target markets and customers. We keep them current.
  • We have processes, tools, training, and other things which help our people execute our strategies sharply.
  • We have hired the right people–not only those with the right capabilities, skills, and experiences, but also those with the right attitudes.
  • We do evertyhing we can to eliminate barriers to our people’s success.
  • We have set expectations about performance and have clear goals and metrics to help see if we are achieving the right levels of performance.
  • We personally set an example of the behaviors and attitude we expect. We have high expectations of ourselves and of all we work with.
  • We constantly coach and develop our peoplehelping them to achieve their full potential.

While this is not all inclusive, it represents enough to illustrate my point. The job of the leader is a very difficult role. There are lots of moving parts and never enough time or resource to do everything. Also, conditions are constantly changing, so we must constantly update everything listed above. If any of these is not done, if we focus too much of our time in one aspect, neglecting others, we set ourselves and our people up to fail.

Bad strategies, tactics, processes, tools, training; poorly defined goals and metrics can all cause “systemic” failures for our entire sales teams. It’s clear to understand how management has failed in this case.

A few people who aren’t meeting performance expectations can be deceptive. We’re tempted to blame it on them—”the wrong person,” “couldn’t hack it,” “a bad fit,” “bad skills,” “bad attitude,” “poor work habits.” We tend to find whatever excuses we can to make it the fault of the sales person. While some of these may be valid, we cannot absolve ourselves of our own responsibility as managers. Our job is to address and correct these types of issues, it’s as simple as that. If we have the wrong people on board, then we have to correct this—move those people out, bring the right people in. If they don’t have the right skills, attitudes, work habits, we need to coach and improve these.

From time to time, we will fail with specific individuals. We cannot fix everyone or everything. There will be people we cannot coach and develop to achieve the expected levels of performance. They continue to fail to achieve expectations and we have to take action to correct the situation, but those actions should be taken only after we have tried everything we can–within the constraints of time and affordability. We don’t like these failures, but every leader has them–the important part is we have done what we could and we have taken action.

The worst form of failure is taking no action at all—too often, we don’t take the time to coach and correct people, we let them linger in the organization–impacting the performance of the entire organization. Or we use the convenience of a “lay off” rather than step up to our responsibility of managing performance. These are, to my mind, inexcusable failures.

How are you managing failure?

Reminder: This week at Future Selling Insitute, we’ll have Rebel Brown, author of Defy Gravity, and our strategic partner as a special guest in this exciting discussion. To get the most out of it, we suggest you look at Rebel’s Module in the Strategy–Breakthrough Thinking Section. She provides some controversial ideas that help leaders excel!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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