Think They Have to Have all the Answers.

This is one of the classic problems that many leaders fall into. Especially prelevant amongst front- line and first time leaders, the belief that now as a leader they need to have all the answers. It’s overwhelming for leaders but a learning process follows that should enable us to move to move away from all

The new Sales Manager, (the DL) had enough of a challenge, she had just been promoted. As the best performing sales person this may have seemed a logical step, but her challenge was real as she now led the team she had competed with. The General Manager, when announcing the promotion spoke about her outstanding results and how the company was excited to see how her skills and abilities would now transfer to the team. The way the GM spoke, they expectation was our DL would have all the answers to help support a struggling sales team.

The reality was our DL was successful as a sales person, because she was natural at connecting with the target market of the company.  She was good at what she did and her customers loved her. She had a natural caring nature, which built trust quickly and she remained connected and accessibility to deal with any issue that arose. To her this was quite natural and she always shrugged off suggestions that she teach others here methodology. She struggled to articulate how she build her sales relationships and why it worked effectively.

She knew she had a passion for the product line, she knew she enjoyed the company of people and she inherently loved the competition factor. While everyone congratulated her on her promotion, deep down she had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

As a sales manager, she struggled. She was unable to articulate how she built trust and how she connected so well. The pressure of having the answers for her team was overwhelming for her. She went from loving her job and being confident and lively, to withdrawn and emotionally drained.

The wholesale praise she received from the GM only heightened the situation. She felt she was letting the company down if she mentioned she was struggling and needed help. The team were always coming to her with questions, and that perception that she would impart sales-lifting advice was high. She was compelled into thinking she had to have all the answers, leading to anxiety and stress.

The reality for her was this.

  • She didn’t have the answers.
  • She couldn’t articulate how she produced results
  • She had never read about sales processes and techniques as it came naturally for her.

When her team came to her with questions, she more times than not advised she would get back to them with the best answer. She had every intention to search for an answer, but her sense of overwhelm would often lead to not doing so. Her sales team were often left in limbo, awaiting advice, leading to many potential deals and customers waiting. She kept telling herself to start developing her knowledge from sales books, but felt so frazzled that nothing seemed to stick or resonate.

In the other times where she provided advice it was either poorly thought through or just wrong. Her direction to the team was poor and the goal-setting and competitive spirit started to crumble. The results started diving.

The Scenario

When results started heading south, she started working herself even harder to create the sales herself. She re-connected with all her old clients that had been assigned to other sales members, a move greeted with suspicion and cynicism from the sales team.

Within a very short period, sales dropped, morale and culture waned and her team members were leaving or contemplating leaving. The DL herself, desperately unhappy, started looking for a sales role herself and left when one came up, leaving a disgruntled, shattered and underperforming sales team behind

The 3-Step Strategy

Many leaders find themselves in this position and it’s important to know that you aren’t expected to have all the answers. The art of leadership is about influence, not about being a know it all. If you are a new leader, here is a strategy to help you gain your footing as a leader.

  1. Acknowledge that leadership is not about you. It’s about your team. When you confront this mindset the question you ask is one of service, “How can I best serve my team?” You best serve your team by involving them in decision making, asking for input and utilising your strengths.
  2. Recognise that what got you here, won’t take you to the next level. Develop yourself by developing your team. You will make mistakes along the way, you can’t expect to be perfect and they don’t expect you to be. Look to create a team of leaders, not just be a team with a leader.
  3. Work alongside, not above. Meet your team members where they are, understand what makes them tick, understand what their strengths are and how they contribute to the team. Look for becoming a well-rounded team.