This is a question that business owners, managers and HR professionals have been asking for years. There are many books and studies conducted on the topic. What is the best management style? Should you lead by “top down” or should you allow your sales employees to work with minimal supervision or in cross-functional teams?
Writing as a marketing manager that has worked with many types of salespeople and high level sales managers throughout the last 15 years, I have found the best way to manage is by allowing your employees to think for themselves. I know what your thinking, duh, that’s a “no-brainer”. Ah, but is it…?
I’m not suggesting that you never touch base with your employees and review company objectives, projects and goals, but I believe micromanaging and hovering over your employees shoulder can and is counterproductive.
When I started in the business world, I began as a B2B sales representative. If you have not worked in this profession before, you are not privy to the extreme stresses and pressures that are put on you. Daily travel logs, expense reports, working with demanding accounts and sales goals all need to be addressed. If you want to amplify these stresses, throw in a sales manager that manages with a “top down” style. I can tell you from experience that this did not help me and it certainly didn’t help my fellow sales reps I worked with. We all disliked our jobs and were consistently looking for alternative career paths. How do you think this type ongoing stress affected the moral and sales objectives of the company I was working for? Not great I can tell you.
Fast forward, now I am working as a marketing manager and am sitting across the desk from the same disgruntled sales reps I used to work with. On the first day of my new job I made a pact with myself. My pact was to try my utmost to be as helpful and open as I could possibly be during my sales rep interactions. Guess what, I was able to develop very strong business relationships and had reps being extremely forthright in providing ongoing help in any way that could help us both succeed. As they say, win-win.
My point is, adopting a solution based approach to business affairs helps everyone. Don’t assume that your employees are “beneath you”. Far from it. They are the ones that are in the heart of the action every day. Imagine what they know. Listen to them, encourage them to share their ideas. In fact, adopt their ideas and integrate them into the business objectives when appropriate. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.
One note on teams, I think the “concept” of teams can sometimes get out of hand. Sure you want to be on the same team and work toward betterment, but don’t have a team for everything. Unless those teams do the same thing I’m discussing, truly working together and adopting each other’s ideas, etc. Sometimes (many times) having too many teams can be very unproductive and creates the divisiveness that you should be working toward eliminating.
That all said, “how do you get the best out of your employees”? You treat them as equals, you encourage their input and adopt their suggestions when it makes sense. Trust me. I’ve seen this happen in my own career. It works and when done well, it will take your business success to a whole new level.