By Marty D. Blake, Chief Operating Officer, Optimé International Inc.
IDENTIFYING THE GAP
How many companies are successfully preparing their managers for the demands of tomorrow’s workplace? In a Harvard Business Review global survey of managers and leaders, it was found that 67% of North American companies said they needed to entirely revamp their middle manager development programs. In another survey by the same organization, only 15% of North American companies felt they had enough qualified successors in their pipeline for key leadership positions.
Those are troubling numbers for companies looking for sustainable growth and leadership. They accurately reflect what we at Optimé often observe as we work to help our clients develop their sales talent to be their best. We frequently see a gap in the ability and/or authority of many Sales Managers’ to lead and sustain growth-driving behaviour amongst their teams. New managers, typically, are significantly underprepared to succeed in broadened leadership challenges. The skills required to do that are quite different from those required for individual selling success. Just because you are a strong salesperson does not mean that you are prepared to be a strong sales leader.
In addition to not being ready for more senior roles, our experience has shown that although there is a perception that managers have a great deal of authority and freedom to make things happen, they usually don’t. The reality is, they are often restricted by a web of relationships which create ongoing and conflicting demands of them, leaving them unable to be successful.
MANAGER DEVELOPMENT – A BLENDED APPROACH
So, how can you better prepare your managers for the leadership challenges ahead? Our research and experience has shown us that management development is best done when it reflects the daily work of the manager and takes a blended approach. This would include formal training, coupled with on the job learning, coaching and feedback, which focuses on sustainable practices and continuing education. This type of approach, built on relevant experiences, creates the most effective platform for supporting the growth of both the capabilities and the competencies of managers. By extension, this will deliver positive results in the performance of the managers team.
HAVE A PLAN
Ask yourself how you are preparing your sales managers for the career opportunities ahead? Are you connecting your sales development with management development? How much time does your management team spend coaching their direct reports versus managing/directing them? If you don’t have a plan then it is time to create one.
Good Luck and Good Selling!