It's The Hardest Job - Really!
“The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance each other.” Philip Kotler
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but…
All business/business psychology theory seems to agree on one point. Of all the roles in an organisation, the ‘worst and most stressful’ is that of the ‘First or ‘Front’ Line Manager’. Why?
Think of your own organisation. The ‘workers’ just, well… work. Those layers (sometimes only one above, at worst up to five or so on top) of managers and directors/owners tell them what to do and their job is to just get on and do it. For better or worse. Maybe hard work, but simple. Those who run the Division, or business, overall, are required to manage and to lead. Their entire focus is on doing just that. Their life, in relative terms, is also simple and focussed. Only at one level does someone have to try and work with – and please – both upper management AND ‘the workers’ simultaneously. The first line manager role involves more conflict and stress, trying to help both sides of the business organisation equation at the same time, than the other two combined. This is, of course, also magnified where this is a unionised environment and that potential conflict is added to the mix as well. Three different vectors then collide right on top of the first line manager.
Just step back and think of it. Let’s say you are a first line manager or team leader. The Director says something has to be done. You say “yes”. Even as you leave the meeting or finish the conference call, you already know that your team will hate it. Bang! No one else is conflicted but you are already, and the conflict hasn’t even started yet!
Ah, “but it’s not that difficult for me” you say. “I am but a lowly SME business owner”. Or “I have a small start-up, it’s actually quite simple for me…”. Let me assure you, if you are saying that, then you have only just arrived in that position and don’t understand! Why am I so confident? Let’s take the start-up scenario. You had the idea, started the business and now employ maybe 5-10 people. What do you do, day-to-day? You are responsible for the strategy… and execution… and all business functions… and revenues… and cash… and… well, you get the picture. BUT at the same time, you are also the first line manager for your one or two sales heads too – as well as every other function! (Quite likely having never managed or experienced sales before as well). You have the most conflicted job, PLUS all the higher-level work and pressures too. At least in a larger organisation you only have the first line conflict to cope with.
Surely, we must have arrived at the worst possible scenario, haven’t we? Oh, no, not quite. Think of who you manage and have any challenges or conflict with. From all of my years of experience, which function in an organisation is hardest to manage? Sales, every time. Recruited to be creative and frequently outspoken. Confident in themselves, haters of all forms of structure and paperwork. Always knowing the best way for something to be done. Hating close supervision. Oh, and able to argue about anything until you run out of time. I wouldn’t mind betting that anyone reading this who has managed a sales team is probably laughing – or at least smiling - right now… (And I write all of the above as a confirmed life-long salesperson!)
Yes, becoming the first-time manager of sales people is the true business ‘ultimate challenge’. But any first management role is a difficult step up. And so are all the steps that follow. This book has been written to help you manage the process, avoid mistakes - or missteps if you prefer - and create a team that delivers and exceeds, no matter the function you work in.
In managing a small business, start-up or business unit, be prepared for challenges and complexity. It’s your job to lead and to simplify. When you get it right, it’s SO good…
“When faced with a challenge, look for a way, not a way out.” David L Weatherford