Thinking about new management styles

May 1, 1997
Richard V. Michaels
Pharmaceutical Representative

How managers can be consultants for reps.

Industry downsizing, re-engineering and mergers have created flatter sales organizations, team-based operations and fierce competition.

In turn, these changes have affected performance management, or how managers try to get the most from their salespeople.

"Performance consulting" is a new approach to performance management - one that addresses the needs and long-term goals of a changing industry. Unlike the traditional approach, performance consulting provides managers with an appraisal process that is development-oriented.

A manager can be trained to be a performance consultant with choices and responsibilities that are more diverse than those of a traditional manager.

The primary goal of the performance consultant, or manager, is to enhance the rep's competencies - skills, knowledge and personal characteristics. A performance consultant can do this by using a variety of roles, skills and techniques.

The roles

The performance consultant draws upon three roles: manager, coach and counselor. Pharmaceutical sales require that managers rely on all three roles. For example, the "manager" focuses on the priorities and generates quick results, using tools such as field contact reports, sales data and action planners. The "coach" builds competencies in the field and designs long-term strategies, using skill profiles and personal development plans. And the "counselor" assists employees in defining complex problems, relying heavily on interpersonal skills and abilities to actively listen and raise complex questions.

Four different brains

While enhancing their ability to respond to many performance issues, performance consultants, or managers, must develop four critical thinking skills.

Active thinking means making decisions and drawing conclusions to achieve immediate results. This mode is often used to assess performance, make comparisons, collect and analyze factual performance data, judge and make decisions. This mode is mostly connected to the functions of the manager.

Strategic thinking connotes planning for future goals and anticipating future events that may impact an employee's performance. For example, can you predict the long-term effect on your top employee if he or she doesn't receive the regional award for best performance? This view is more applicable to the coach and counselor.

Systems thinking considers a problem, issue or topic from an integrated perspective. This thinking mode helps us to take a new look at the dynamics of the workplace. It helps us to better understand the pressures and stresses our employees encounter.

Quantum thinking pushes the manager to explore other possibilities that they might otherwise dismiss. They challenge themselves to look beyond logic and what has worked in the past.

Making the shift from a traditional management approach to performance consulting. It only requires up-front planning, analysis and a competency-based approach. PR