Leadership lessons from the home front

In organizations, sales teams are special. They have a sense of drive, an entrepreneurial spirit and a way of thinking that sets them apart from others. Talking to a Sales Manager recently about how he would describe his team, he grinned and said, “it’s like leading a group of ADHD teenagers with the attention spans of gnats”. 

There seems to be a parallel between sales teams and families. Leading these employees can be like parenting young children. We need to respect each individual’s needs. They need enough boundaries and structure without cramping their style. To keep the team performing at their best need constant motivation, reassessment and reorganization. 

Parents look forward to the seemingly self-indulgent psychological benefits of increasing the longevity of their gene pool, the possible immortality of self through offspring, experiencing the world through fresh and magical eyes of the innocent child. In sales teams, managers aspire to lead their teams as a privilege and a responsibility to make a difference in the topline of the organization, perhaps leaving a legacy, transforming themsleves through developing others.

Managers however have been doing it tough. Having to deliver ever more with dwindling resources through budget and workforce cutbacks, attempting to re-engage workforce with low morale through constant restructuring in our rapidly changing world ..... they don’t seem to be getting too many breaks! In global research by consulting firm BlessingWhite, where more than 7,500 survey responses were studied and interviews were cnducted with HR and line managers - fewer than 1 in three workers are fully engaged. There is a strong correlation between engagement and retention. 85% of engaged employees plan to stay with their company compared with 27% disengaged ones. Engaged employees appear to stay for what they give (they like the work they do), while disengaged employees stay for what they get (favourable job conditions, advancement, growth, or job security). That’s hardly a winning business relationship, is it?

Parents are also not being portrayed in best light by the media. It is cool to be carefree singles like Carrie and her unattached friends from Sex and the City and those friends from Friends and Seinfeld. On the contrary, The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond and the Married with Children paint a darker picture of what it is like to be tied down in a family way.

Sales teams also fight a battle being stereotyped as greedy individuals with little to no team spirit and only motivated by monetary bonuses, who play outside rules ‘normal’ to you and me .... this image has also not been helped by the fall of Wall Street giants.  

Society’s unflattering picture of children today is formed by the media’s images, founded in the marketplace and fostered by fear. We may accept our toddler with all the charms and challenges of that age group but other shoppers in the supermarket will only see the tantrum-throwing purple rage of a spoilt tot (the kind we see on SuperNanny regularly) and the ineffectual discipline of a flustered parent caught between the lollie counter and a quick exit. 

Childhood today is institutionalized and managerialized around our image of the workplace: Hours are precisely timetabled, outcomes (health, literacy, crime) are benchmarked and measured, costs are privatized and care (nappy services, childcare, tutoring, entertaining) has been outsourced. Sounds familiar for employees being pigeon-holed into systems that may not be useful to enhance performance?

Consequently, BlessingWhite’s www.blessingwhite.com employee engagement research validates the engagement model which focuses on individual employees’: 

- Contribution to the company’s success 

- Personal satisfaction in the role. 

Aligning employees’ values, goals, and aspirations with those of the organization is the 

best method for achieving the sustainable employee engagement required for an organization to reach its goals. Full engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction(“I like my work and do it well”) with maximum job contribution(“I help achieve the goals of my organization”). 

Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of- sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are enthused and in gear, using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success.

A few questions come to mind for our managers/parents.

Have we lost the natural instinct to lead/parent?

Are there models of effective leadership/parenting ?

Why do we want to be leaders/parents?