Management Made Excellent by Kathi Simonsen
In today’s crazy media landscape some companies clearly stand above the rest in sales success, long-term customer relationships, employee retention and growth. Over many years in this industry I have observed that the companies which perform the best are the ones led by a certain type of leader. What are the characteristic of these heroes?
According to management expert Stephen Covey, there are three types of leaders; dependent, independent and interdependent*. Much of what he says can be applied to media sales leadership.
The interdependent leader is my favorite so let’s start there. This person usually comes from sales, though not always. But they always know what empowers salespeople. They work with and for salespeople, not on or around them.
I’ve worked with a number of great sales leaders over the years and it is clear to me that salespeople are happy and willing to go many extra miles when they are engaged by an interdependent manager. I’ve seen the companies these leaders work in grow significantly, despite the challenges that have plagued publishing.
Here are some of the things they do:
- They give as much freedom as possible (CRM and accountability systems are useful, but salespeople, by nature, are very independent).
- They respond positively to both positive ideas and negative feedback.
- They do their utmost to provide the resources that are needed for each individual salesperson’s success.
- They remove fear through the elimination of intimidation.
- They listen to their people and implement their ideas whenever possible. (One of my customers told me recently that many of his most profitable programs have come from the suggestions of employees.)
- They believe in and trust salespeople to make good decisions while supplying them the information needed to make those decisions.
- They don’t micromanage.
- They don’t cover their own lack of sales experience with the power of their title. Their motto is; “we will conquer all obstacles and be successful together, we are a team”.
Interdependent leaders are a major part of the reason that a few companies are wildly successful in spite of the problems that media faces today. Their salespeople love working at these companies and are willing to work harder and give more because they feel that their leaders have been good to them and that their best chance of success will come by following them. They empower everyone, and as a result, a lot of new, creative and innovative ideas contribute to their companies’ growth.
By contrast, dependent leaders rely totally on their salespeople’s abilities. They see their own job as that of a drill sergeant. Results are achieved through dictate and the demonstration of power, often relying on intimidation, to ensure that goals are met. In many cases these leaders have come into their position having never sold and with little idea of what it’s like to deal with the ups and downs of working a sales territory. They can also fall back on controlling as a means of covering their lack of sales experience. Needless to say, the turnover (of talented salespeople) in companies run by these leaders is extremely high, while the salespeople who remain are miserable, lack creativity and only give what is absolutely required.
Independent managers have often been promoted from a position as a star salesperson. Though this can be a great promotion strategy, there is always the risk that the company has lost a good salesperson and gained a poor manager. The new leader’s selling skills may be excellent, but it does little good because their management skills are deficient. They believe that everyone should be like them. If one of their salespeople is not producing, they are tempted to find a new one, or just take over the sale process and leave the salesperson with menial tasks and feeling like a gopher. This is poor use of two individuals’ skills.
*Stephen Covey, 7 Habit of Highly Effective Managers
If you’d like to learn more about how to be or develop an interdependent leader, contact Kathi Simonsen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-268-4717
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