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from Systema

Part V: Rep Disappointment

Profiles in Sales Management
By Jack R. Snader and Marsha Wells

They say that balance is the key to success--and nowhere does this axiom apply more than in sales management. If you manage sales managers, you understand that these professionals have to balance their task orientation with their people skills. They need to get their own work done while getting things done through others, to keep a clear focus but still be available to trouble-shoot and counsel, to be friendly while sticking to business, to meet deadlines through others but avoid pressuring them.

The demands of the career juggling act are constant, yet a balanced approach demands that sales managers offset the stresses of work by interjecting leisure or work-related leisure activities: golf, fishing, spectator sports, meetings at resorts, breakfast meetings, business lunches, and dinner events. To be a top sales manager requires commitment 24/7...leaving very little room for a personal family life. Which means, in the big picture, an incredible imbalance.

Balancing Family with Work

Of course, there are ways to attempt to balance family with work, and most sales managers, like everyone else, are busy trying. Many create quality time with their kids, go to at least a percentage of their kids' sports or school performances, meet their spouses part-way and offer reassurances, let their families know that all the work they're doing is to help the family. Then they take off for work or the home office and spend most of their day focused on their other family-their representatives, who also depend on them in many ways.

But what happens when a sales manager doesn't keep the family or personal side of life in balance? As a corporate executive in charge of sales managers, how do you handle the top sales manager who is literally living through work, ignoring serious problems in his or her personal life, and heading down the road toward a family and/or personal crisis that promises to drain vitality and sap productivity? While showing appreciation for all his or her good work, is there a way you can help to keep this kind of sales manager from self-destructing over time?

Margaret the Magnificent

Articulate, attractive, and highly ambitious, Margaret won many sales early in her career. Her polished sophistication as a sales rep swiftly catapulted her into the corporate limelight, and to satisfy the itch of her ambition, she vied for a promotion. The competition was tough, but Margaret was promoted to District Manager. Margaret quickly recognized that this was a position in which a new skill-set was demanded. She reached into her reserve capacity, learned the ropes, and excelled once again.

Privately, Margaret was married shortly after her DM promotion. Her husband, Richard, was a physician, and they were happy together for the first few years of marriage while she continued to build her career and he built his private practice. Their only problem seemed to be a shortage of time together, but Margaret attributed the problem to the nature of modern society and not to any personal issues.

After a while, though, Richard became tired of Margaret's demanding schedule, and he felt she ought to leave her job to be there for him during the small amount of free time he had. Margaret, on the other hand, was tired of being left alone so much during her free time, and she didn't feel that she should have to give up her career for him just because she was a woman. She refused to quit her job. More and more, Margaret buried herself in her work to avoid confronting Richard with her resentments, and Richard began staying out more, without explanations.

Spending More Time at Work

...didn't mean Margaret was accomplishing more. In fact, while her performance was still good, her energy level and efficiency slipped significantly. It now took her seven days a week to do the same job she had previously done in about five-and-a-half. Her mood darkened, and the charm of her attractiveness faded. Margaret tried with all her might to focus on her work, but the negative emotions percolating within sometimes caused her to behave erratically.

When she went on sales calls to coach her reps, Margaret began to show an edge to her attitude. Reps who had been helped by her in the past began to feel let down by her new disposition, and wondered why she wasn't her old self. From their point of view, Margaret wasn't really "there" for them anymore, and many of them wanted a new manager.

Managing the Manager

From a management point of view, Margaret appeared to be a highly dedicated worker putting in seven-day weeks, doing conscientious work, and remaining loyal to the company. Yet reports from her reps confirmed that there was some sort of an attitude problem that needed to be handled.

If you were Margaret's manager, what would you do?

Would you let the problem slide, thinking that Margaret's personal life was none of your business? Do you feel that if Margaret wants to dedicate all her time to work, why stop her? If Margaret wants to burn herself out, do you consider it her problem because she can be replaced anyway?

Or do you recognize that without balancing career and lifestyle, Margaret will become a more limited contributor as time goes on? Do you think that good coaching means taking Margaret aside and listening to her talk about her personal problems, then gently guiding her to make some tough personal choices?

What if you ask her to deal with her personal issues, and then she decides to quit in order to comply with her husband's request? Then again, how will you feel if you don't deal with the problem at all, then witness her gradual demise? If you deal with the problem indirectly by making a rule, keeping the building closed on Sundays, for instance will Margaret get around the rule somehow? If you deal with the problem directly, will Margaret be offended and quit the company?

At Systema Corporation, we understand that good management sometimes means taking big risks when those risks are taken for good reasons. We stress the concept of balance to achieve maximum success, and believe that the best way to help sales managers change when they've gotten off-course is by giving them honest feedback. If a work/life balance issue exists, subordinates will be among the first to notice a problem, and managers who listen to their subordinates' subordinates are in the best position to help their people.

That's why Systema believes in a self-development process. With our confidential feedback systems, executives are in a position to help sales managers like Margaret find ways to identify and face up to their personal challenges, look at their options, and take necessary actions. With that kind of executive leadership, sales managers who are out of balance will have the best opportunity to reemerge as top performers, or at least to get their lives in order and sing the praises of your company for the help you've given them.

For information on Systema's sales management development systems, e-mail us at

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