Are you a leader and a manager?

September 1, 1998

Pharmaceutical Representative

Transform your leadership style.

We have too many managers today who are primarily interested in finding out what salespeople are not doing, what they do not know and what they need to do to improve. They believe that in order to be useful, they must find something that sales reps need to improve: sales results, knowledge, activities or skills.

Too often managers can teach only the rules and regulations that are outlined in their procedure manuals. They can't teach anything further because the students have not shown up. These students - the sales reps - do not want to learn; doing so is an admission that they do not know something that will be pointed out by the manager. Or, they don't want to learn because they are busy keeping up a front and covering up their needs. They don't want these needs to be discovered because they will then be punished with low-performance appraisals or with more so-called training.

The way to overcome this insecurity is by replacing more management with effective leadership.

Transform your role

Make a firm decision that you want to move from the role of manager/supervisor to that of a manager/leader.

Look for the good: Within every problem or challenge there is a potential for learning. Begin looking for that potential.

Create a culture or environment that is supportive of learning, encourages risk-taking, develops empowerment and does not blindly punish failure. We are bound to fail in some of the goals we set, and we are bound to encounter some problems that we cannot solve. Our sales teams need to feel safe in learning by trial and error. Oftentimes we learn far more from our mistakes than from our successes. Leaders are people who have learned how to "reward failure." They encourage learning and creativity, step off the beaten path and take control.

Encourage celebration and having fun. An environment that is supportive of learning and risk-taking can be a lot of fun for those who are a part of it. When we have identified problems or weaknesses, we should not feel disappointed or afraid and should not attempt to cover up what we have found. We should instead celebrate our discovery: It has taught us something we didn't know before and given us a sense of direction that we might not have found otherwise. When we are learning, we are able to share with others. This learning needs to be celebrated in the groups we belong to. Fun and celebration should be a vital part of the recognition and rewards given for progress. It spurs improvement, makes the group more alive and gives support and encouragement to all members of the team.

Welcome change. Anticipate it, embrace it and encourage it. The easiest path to take is the current course. It may not be the best course, but we are familiar with it and know its limitations and problems. If we stick with it, we will avoid further troubles: We will also never see further improvement. Searching for a better way to do things brings new risks and unforeseen problems, but it also brings new benefits and rewards. A supervisor simply sticks to the tried-and-true way of doing things; a leader looks for new and better ways. To bring leadership to your company, division or work group, you must be committed to fostering and embracing change. PR

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