What Managers Do.

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What Managers DoEverybody wants to talk about great leaders these days. But this management stuff is pretty hard work!

Many businesspeople don’t seriously distinguish between leadership and management, but they should.  As Marcus Buckingham says in The One Thing You Need to Know, “Leaders play checkers; managers play chess.”  In checkers, every piece moves exactly the same; there’s one leadership message that applies to everyone in the company.  In chess, every piece has its own quirky individual moves; management is about how you move and plan for the individual.

Over the past weeks I’ve conducted sales workshops for a dozen digital sales organizations, working closely with leaders and managers to “make it all stick” for their teams.  It always comes down to what the managers do; what they commit to and how they hold their sellers accountable.  So as we head into the long weekend and recharge for the middle of the year, let’s look at what managers do.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic Advertising Systems, an advertising technology company focused on delivering innovative software that streamlines and automates media workflow for marketers, their advertising agencies, and publishers.

Managers Break It All Down:  When leaders and companies inspire with soaring missions and motivational gems it can actually have an adverse effect on some sellers.  “I see where the company is going, but I just don’t see how I can get there.” The good manager sees the delta between grand vision and troubled reality and helps the seller navigate it, piece by piece. Which accounts have the best odds? Where will you spend your time?  Who are the right people? The good manager understands that talented sellers often need help building a plan.

Managers Keep Track of Actions:  In The Heart of the Game, Thomas Boswell points out that great baseball managers never obsess about the final score, which is after all just an outcome. Instead, they obsess about the interim actions and decisions that would have subtly changed the course of the game:  the base-running error in the second inning; the missed cutoff man in the sixth; swinging at the first pitch against a tiring starter.  They focus on how the game was played, which is ultimately controllable.  It’s the same with sales managers.  Watch, discuss, correct and reward the behaviors that will lead to sales.   If you don’t, you might be cluelessly celebrating hollow victories, lucky breaks.

Managers Remember:  It’s not sexy, but truly great managers are the institutional memories of their organizations.  They remember what they’ve asked their team members to do and when; they remember the narrative of key deals; they remember the behavioral promises of those they manage. It’s one of the reasons great managers commit to CRM systems and consistent reporting; and it’s the reason why so many instinctive, “lone wolf” sales superstars end up making lousy managers.  If you’re a great manager, your organization and process management are what frees your sellers to play a much bigger game for their customers, and for your company.

So if you’re reading this just before the holiday break, make sure you read it once more on Tuesday when you get back.  It might be the key to unlocking a productive new relationship with those you manage.

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