Recently I stumbled across some rental agency near me that I had kept from a project I had been involved in which involved looking at manager behaviours. The aim of this project was to identify “preferred behaviours” in sales managers when they were working closely with their sales representatives. The outputs were interesting and helped my colleagues identify four main types of sales managers and the differences between effective and ineffective behaviours.
Four Types of Manager.
A few years ago when working as a coach for a multinational Pharma company my colleagues and I were given the task of designing a framework that enabled managers to work more effectively with their sales representatives out “in the field”. There had been considerable discontent from the sales representatives in that, a large proportion of them “dreaded” the “field visit” from the manager as it was deemed stressful and seen very much as an assessment and the manager “checking up” rather than being motivational and developmental.
We studied the behaviours of twenty-five sales managers and interviewed both the managers and a sample of around one hundred representatives in order to come up with guidelines whereby managers (and representatives) could adapt their behaviours in order to make these field visit days far more productive than they had been previously.
In this article, I will outline the four types of manager that we found were “operating” and the effect that each type had on the development and motivation of the sales representative.
The “Do as I say” or “Dictator” Manager
There were a group of managers which we termed “Dictators”. This type of manager “rules the roost” and “dictates” what should be done in his or her opinion. Listening skills are limited and they tend to take a very traditional approach to tasks. A typical response is along the lines of “Do it this way because it has worked this way in the past.”
An advantage of this approach is that people know exactly where they stand and that the rules and company regulations were fully understood and guidelines were adhered to with the result that overall the team was seen as “well disciplined”. People also knew that if the rules and guidelines were not adhered to, then discipline would follow.
The major challenge with this “do as I say” approach was that the representative reported that there was little risk taking and that their opinions and ideas were not listened to, and as a result they often felt frustrated, under valued and in some cases threatened.
The sources of this behaviour appeared varied. Firstly some of the managers were simply mirroring the behaviour of previous managers that they had had themselves and in many ways did not know any form of management. Very little management training had been given to either the senior managers or the managers themselves…
When we worked with some of these managers we found that their behaviours changed very quickly and many were glad to be out of their “do as I say” role as they had never felt very comfortable with it. . Other managers, although having been trained continued to “dictate” either through fear of their own superior, an inability to influence peers and reports through collaborative discussion, and in one case, a misguided belief that their people did not have potential unless they were told what to do! The managers who continued in this fashion tended to be average performers.
The “Now you see me, now you don’t” or the “Disappearing” Manager.
This group we found was the largest group within the twenty-five that we observed. Characterised by seemingly always having other things to do, this group appeared not to like to spend days visiting the sales representatives. They seemed to attend endless meetings, trips to head office and were apparently more comfortable spending time in front of the computer writing reports or pouring through sales figures.
A day “in the field” usually consisted of a quick visit, meeting up late morning, chatting over a cup of coffee, perhaps suffering a visit to one customer before having a “discussion” over lunch and then heading off back to a report or meeting. This type of manager always seemed to want to keep the mobile on during visits – “I’m waiting for an important call” was a favourite catch phrase.