LESSONS FROM REAL LIFE

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Peter Brook
Peter Brook: role models.

'Are you responsible for the way others behave,í asks ?

The ability and skills to guide individuals to perform better in their roles is perhaps one of the key ingredients in highly effective managers. Having the determination to achieve results through a team by developing their skills and behaviour provides a sound platform to drive profitable business performance.

Yet the measures of line managers, particularly those with profit and loss accountability for sales, are often more focused on the more tangible areas of measurement like deployment of sales teams, adherence to company strategy, successfully activating activity at the point of consumer or shopper purchase, achievement of targets and the identification of new channels of business as opposed to the primary focus being on the development of their teams.

Role models

Individuals working within teams would ideally look to their managers as role models: they seek individuals who have the experience and a real understanding of what they as salespeople are tasked with achieving on a day-to-day basis. They expect their manager to have a keen eye on developing the capability of each member of their team and, frankly, primarily themselves.

In life we all assume different roles at different times. In the work place this can include being a subordinate, a peer, a manager, a customer, a supplier and numerous others. Our roles extend even further outside of our work place into being a friend, a son or daughter, a grandchild, a lover, a team mate and . . . the list goes on and on.

For me, becoming a parent was the one role through which I have discovered that actually the roles we have in life are not all that distinct and that good managers are ones who can learn from all their experiences in order to make themselves even better leaders of their teams.

Children

Having children later in life has been for me one of the most rewarding yet at the same time challenging things I have ever done.

If I had benefited from all of the learning I have had in my first six years of parenthood I know I would have been a better line manager. I would have spent more time understanding what lies behind individualsí behaviour; I would have been better at demonstrating the benefits of any of my actions and communications with the teams with whom I was working. I would definitely have been more selfless and, perhaps most importantly, I would have taken far greater pride in seeing my team members develop their skills and behaviour, discovering for themselves what drives and motivates them as individuals.

In any sector of business, measurement of performance includes:

  • top line organic growth;
  • cash flow;
  • profitability;
  • market share performance;
  • innovation;
  • cost of sales;
  • connection with consumers;
  • management of customers; and
  • sustainability.

Line managers are critical to delivering in all these areas, and many others beside, with their superiors typically measuring performance by whether they deliver their numbers in whatever shape or form they may take.

When the going gets a little harder, which it always will do at some time or another Ė as evidenced by the economic climate in which the world finds itself in now - it is not unusual for managers to revert to more direct management tactics, bringing with it a culture of telling as opposed to coaching.

Relationships

Building sustainable and mutually successful relationships with customers and consumers is the cornerstone of all successful businesses.

Itís the salespeople who speak most often to customers. Ensuring that they are motivated and equipped with the skills, knowledge and behaviour to outperform competitors and grow market share is a major determinate in driving sustainable business performance. To make this happen each and every day is down to ensuring that line managers operate in an environment where how they deliver their numbers is as crucial as the numbers themselves.

Coaching

Coaching is about equipping line managers with the ability, motivation and skills to guide individuals to perform better in their roles in order to create excellent performance.

In no way does this lead us down a path of advocating an environment where poor performance is addressed through reasoning and training. There will always be occasions where you have to make tough decisions and more senior individuals have to address people issues personally.

Direct action

There are times when line managers need to take direct action for the good of the business but understanding the consequences of direct management action as opposed to nurturing and coaching the capability of people is crucial. You have to find a balance.

My youngest son is currently learning the art of putting on his own shoes. However, whenever we are in a hurry I catch myself reverting to the old way: I put the shoes on for him with the net result of getting out of the door considerably more quickly. If I were to practise my coaching beliefs, in my role as a Dad, by supporting his endeavours to put his shoes on instead of bypassing his learning to meet my immediate needs he would be self sufficient a lot quicker.

To overcome this depends on timing. This means getting ready to leave five minutes earlier or coaching the sales person in techniques to make their job easier before it becomes business critical

Get out what you put in

A lesson is to always remember that we will only get out of our relationships what we are prepared to put into them. This means that line managers must take a proactive role in building the skills and capabilities of their teams. So the answer to building highly skilled and effective teams does not rest on having personal reviews with team members to identify skills gaps and then sending people on either internal or external courses. Thereís more to it than that.

Passionate about team development

The secret to success rests in making line managers passionate about developing their teams themselves; itís about equipping them with the tools and methodology to improve the skills of their teams through daily coaching.

It is then the organisationís responsibility to recognise that the traditional measures of line managers are not enough. The priority is to measure how highly people development is regarded and reward and recognise those that reward and recognise the skills and commitment of their teams.

Responsibility

In my experience, it is clear that you are responsible for how others behave. If a line manager is not 100% committed to building the capability of their team they cannot expect it to be done for them by others or blame individuals within their team who are falling below whatever the required standards may be.

Members of any team need to feel nurtured and inspired by their boss. Line managers must reinforce learning needs at every juncture and be committed to developing their people through the application of tools and techniques that create a common methodology of execution across the organisation.

Success is then much more than purely numbers. As well as the brands, route to market, pricing and all other business fundamentals great numbers are just as much a by-product of a high-performing team. It makes sense measuring line managers on their ability to develop a talented team as well as delivering the traditional financial measurements.

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