BAD HAIR DAY? OFF YOUR FEED? IN A BLUE FUNK?
Not if you're a manager!
Sales associates can (and will) have their ups and downs - and may occasionally display their emotions; but as a leader, you don't have that luxury..EVER!
When you're feeling really punky, you have but two choices: Either act as though you DO feel good (fake it until you can make it) or stay out of the work place until you've gotten your "stuff" together.
Your appearance must always be one of stability, enthusiasm, cheerfulness, optimism and supreme confidence - even (maybe ESPECIALLY) when every silver lining seems to have a cloud.
That's the name of the game you bought into when you entered management.
(If it sounds a bit like parenthood, you're not far off the mark!)
FROM THE FABLES AND FUNNY PAPERS
A basic principle of leadership is to be believable. If a credibility gap exists, people will be skeptical of your most valid pronouncements.
Fiction offers a couple of classic examples:
The boy who cried "Wolf!" found that manufactured crises lost their impact over time. Warnings of impending disaster are low-level motivators, except when the threat is both real and imminent. At all other times, it's better to downplay the hazard and focus on creative strategies to avoid or overcome it.
Also, whimsical observers noted that, despite Daddy Warbucks' frequent promises, Little Orphan Annie had to wear the same shabby dress in her comic strip for several decades.
The lessons: Say what you mean, mean what you say and always FOLLOW THROUGH!
THE HIGH COST OF PERFECT PERFORMANCE
In setting performance standards and measurement criteria for team members, avoid building in too many penalties for minor failures on their part.
If you come to be known as the supervisor who overvalues both success and mistakes, your team members will tend to avoid innovative ventures, creative thinking and anything with more than a minimal risk of failure.
Except when things go wrong through outright incompetence or poor judgment, you should react to unpleasant outcomes with understanding, forgiveness and support of whatever initiative was displayed.
The old adage that turtles make progress only by sticking their necks out is no less applicable to those in so-called "subordinate" positions.
Encourage initiative on the part of team members and assure them that perfect performance is only a valid objective when accompanied by maximum personal effort and a reasonable degree of risk.
OPEN DOORS, OPEN EARS AND OPEN MINDS
These are the "Big Three" of management communications.
Leaders must be easily accessible figures, patient listeners and flexible decision-makers.
Merely allowing team members to drop in on you and sound off to you is meaningless, unless, both by your attitude and actions, you have made it clear that their opinions, recommendations and complaints really do matter to you and are worthy of consideration.
It is not, of course, either necessary or even possible to follow all their leads, but they will more willingly follow yours after having penetrated your door, your ear and, most importantly, your mind.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM ANCIENT GREECE
Consider this management guideline from Diogenes:
"A man should live with his subordinates as he does with fire...not too near, lest he burn; not too far off, lest he freeze."
While his choice of the words "man" and "subordinates" may be politically insensitive by today's standards, the message is, nonetheless, as valuable today as it was many centuries ago.
In your relationship with team members, total aloofness is certainly detrimental to effective leadership, but too much familiarity can, as another old saying goes, breed contempt.
There is a fine line to be walked between what separates you from your followers and what binds them to you.
One suggested guideline is to avoid doing anything "extracurricular" with a team member that you wouldn't also do with a good customer.
WHAT MOTIVATED THE MIGHTY MITE?
Mary Lou Retton is best remembered for her diminutive stature, mile-wide smile and that perfect 10 in the 1984 Olympics gymnastic competition - at the ripe old age of 15!
Take heed of these tips from the young woman who went for the gold...and got it!
"I don't go into a situation thinking 'maybe' or 'probably.' I go into it thinking 'Im going to DO it!'"
"I tell people yoj've got to take risks. You've got to ask questions. All somebody can do is say no. Then you try again. I tell people you have to seize the moment. When you have a chance to make that sale or win a competition, you have to TAKE that chance!"
"I'm very determined and stubborn. There's a desire in me that makes me want to do more and more, and to do it right. Each one of us has a fire in our heart for something. It's our goal in life to find it and to keep it lit."
"As simple as it sounds, we all must try to be the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the talents we've been given."
Little lady....BIG thoughts!
(See any sales meeting material there?)
ATTACK THE FOUL DEED - NOT THE DEED-DOER!
When you encounter inappropriate behavior on the part of your team members, be sure to criticize what they did wrong, rather than attacking them personally.
Finding fault with what they ARE is an assault on their self-esteem, which automatically triggers a backlash of resentment and anger.
Criticism of what they DID - if it's offered in a constructive manner AND in complete privacy - lays a foundation for better performance in the future.
It also helps to soften the blow if you begin by implying (or just plain saying) that the inappropriate deed came as a surprise and disappointment to you. ("I know that's just not LIKE you, Fred."
It's the difference between building them up and putting them down... the difference between leadership and bossism.
AVOIDING AN UNCIVIL WAR
When two of your people get involved in a conflict, try using these steps (in the order shown) to resolve it:
1. Arrange a face-to-face meeting with you as the 'Chairperson.'
2. Get them to agree in advance that your decision as mediator will be final. (IMPORTANT: If they won't do that, ask them to agree on a mediator acceptable to both of them and participate only as an observer.)
3. Allow the complaining party to state his/her case without interruption, while you and the other party take notes.
4. Give the other party the same opportunity.
5. Ask questions of both parties to clarify their positions, again permitting no interruption of their responses.
6. Allow each party to direct questions TO YOU, then "relay" the queries, so there is no direct confrontation.
7. Allow each party to state how the conflict should be resolved.
8. Promise to announce your solution in a specific manner at a specific time, making it clear that you will strive to be fair and impartial.
The above procedure should be included in your policy manual and made known to both parties before mediation is attempted.