The national sales management team were typically ex construction managers and engineers by trade and being increasingly being expected to perform as sales performance managers using approaches such as 1:1 meetings, appraisals, performance reviews and coaching sessions. Many of these managers were either unskilled or unimpressed by “modern” management and leadership techniques and models and therefore using outdated and autocratic approaches to leading their teams towards the achievement of targets. Staff satisfaction results were poor in some key areas and morale was low. Sales people were feeling pressured and bullied without any real development or guidance and managers were feeling that they were being asked to conduct unnecessary activities like coaching sessions, observed meetings, performance development meetings, appraisals, all taking them away from crucial operational management tasks.
Actors were engaged to play the role of a number of sales people types including the over performer, the under-performer, the “you can’t teach me anything” character and the down trodden potential leaver showing passive resistance. The actors were fully briefed in their behavioural types and provided with a background performance history along with relevant management information. On day 1 and without any training input, the managers were asked to coach a number of characters whilst being observed by our performance coaches. Positive and challenging feedback sessions were then conducted before further attempts were made. Day 2 began with the creation of a list of identified and desired development areas in the areas of performance management, coaching, observation skills, feedback skills and conflict handling. A number of these areas were then explored with the managers and new skills were explained and demonstrated. Day 3 was spent exploring the advantages and disadvantages of the “modern” management approach including good discussions around the effective use of time and the “lazy manager” approach along with other management models to facilitate efficiency and job satisfaction based on the development of positive relationships. Day 4 and 5 were spent in conducting a series of coaching interactions with the actors so observation skills, feedback skills, coaching skills and conflict management skills could all be developed.
A newly equipped management team returning to their sales teams with new skills, models and techniques for effective sales performance management with time to affect a healthy balance between operational and people management. Surprisingly, the greatest level of positive feedback along with requests for more, was around the “lazy manager” approach in which ownership and accountability was re-positioned and passed (with care) to the sales people. Previously, the managers had been carrying the weight of responsibility for performance, reporting, development meetings, CPD, appraisals etc. fully on their shoulders. Our approach was a revelation to them all and for some, reported as “a life changer”!