Sales Superstar Flunks Office Rapport 101
You are a senior executive in charge of sales for your company, which sells electrical systems to manufacturers. The good news: Your top sales performer, Karen, is a hit with her clients. The bad news: She is a tyrant in your office.
How can the same person be both? Karen’s clients are plant managers in a no-frills industry. They don’t require any TLC or much relationship connection. Her no-nonsense approach appeals to them. Unfortunately, with her colleagues, Karen is kind of a bull in a china shop. She needlessly steps on toes, runs roughshod, and fails to cultivate give-and-take relationships.
Karen’s behavior is causing serious issues. Some of her colleagues are threatening to transfer because they don’t want to work with her. Also, Karen is not exemplifying the new culture of networking and relationship building that the company is promoting. Ignoring this situation is not an option. What should you do?
The Q4 Answer: Leadership Through People Skills
No doubt, Karen should be aware that this is a serious situation. However, how realistic is it to simply tell her she has to change and expect results without providing a roadmap or coaching? Also, given that she brings in lots of money to the company, Karen may even question whether her position is really in jeopardy. “Laying down the law” is often just an excuse for a manager to give a team member a piece of his/her mind. Changing behavior requires more.
This could be part of a process for helping Karen change her in-office behavior. However, it doesn’t go far enough. It sounds too much like off-loading the problem and expecting other people to solve it. Training must be connected to something. Otherwise, the person being trained may not connect the dots to his/her situation at work, and there is no focus to target the learning.
This is the most well-rounded attempt to set the stage for real change. The 360º survey should indicate to Karen that her behavior is hurting the opportunity for productive relationships at work. Becoming more self-aware can set the stage for being open to change. When coaching follows, tailored to Karen’s specific circumstances, behavioral change will be tied to her working relationships. With follow-up and subsequent 360º evaluations down the road, Karen can maintain her sales stardom while also seeing the benefits of working effectively with her colleagues. Hopefully, she will start exemplifying the new culture without you or anyone else having to dwell on it.