Traditional wisdom suggests that the best way to move up through a sales organization is to be a solid producer with great internal relationships. After 4 years at Thompson Technologies, I was given the opportunity to lead a team of recruiters within the organization.
Here are five important things I learned during the transition.
- Positive employee relationships are important, but leading others with company goals in mind is imperative. Maintaining the friendships with my colleagues in the office was a difficult balance when I still had to give them daily direction. I was torn between giving advice and criticism while still trying to maintain our relationship/friendship. With training, I was able to develop a “style” that worked with my persona where I could still be direct in giving criticism/direction that would not seem overbearing. This did cause tension with some at first, but I understood this was about the company goals and building impactful relationships.
- Water-cooler talk must be avoided. I realize that I must be a part of the solution – not someone who contributes to office gossip. I stay away from gossip or negative conversations and actively provide positive feedback and conversation whenever possible.
- Praise and motivate your team with specific compliments. Transitioning from the role of recruiter to manager I knew I would have to learn how to be a more complimentary person. I had to remember to celebrate both the big and the smaller wins throughout the day. I learned that words of encouragement at the right time reinforced the value each member brings to the team. Organizing simple contents with a short duration can create a collaborative environment where meaningful competition can boost performance/morale.
- I don’t need to hold everyone’s hand. Other team members were successful before my promotion and I needed to be careful in picking my handholding moments. The natural tendency of a new manager to is provide the same level of direction across the board to all employees. I had to understand that we have a seasoned, successful team and that asking if guidance is needed can be as important as the actual direction I provide.
- Seek first to understand. I quickly learned that listening to my team and understanding their perspectives and needs first is critical. My boss once told me, “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. This is something that I have tried to incorporate in my personal life as well. I would sometimes want to come up with a solution to someone’s problem/issue before even hearing the complete story. I would make assumptions first or speak out of turn. I have since learned and am still learning to completely hear out a concern and then collaborate to create a solution.
I have been in a leadership role for several years and the changes and challenges are not as frequent, but I’m still learning each day. If you think that management is the next step in your career, please remember that it’s not the glitz or glam that should drive you. Rather, it should be a sincere interest in serving others. If you are in a company where you don’t think there is room for advancement, remember to prove your value and be successful in your current role- perhaps you can create that next opportunity for yourself.