This last week I reached out to him for a follow up on the first segment, where we spoke about what strategies he implemented to come in as the manager of a struggling region, and take it to the top. This month I wanted to go further back and look at his transition at going from one of the top account managers, into a regional business director and having to lead a team. I wanted to do this “prequel” because I think that at some point every successful account manager will ask themselves: “Do I want to go into management?”
I hope you enjoy this segment and if you have questions for Jeremy, or an idea for a post, please let me know.
What was the biggest change (administrative wise) from going to account manager into regional business director?
When you become a manager, you suddenly go from only being responsible for your own reports and forecast, to being in charge of getting those reports from an entire team. Each person on the team you manager will have their own, very strong, ideas on what reports they feel are necessary, and when they feel they should have to turn these in. To be honest, very few people in sales enjoy doing reports and forecasts, and so the biggest difficulty will be to get these from your team on time, compiled, and ready to present to your Vice President. My rule as a manager was that I never asked my team to turn in a report that wasn’t, somehow, going to be measured to later show them progress, trends, or items that need improvement. Most of the reports I asked the team to do, were to help set up goals and activities to get you to the next step in your career or to your quotas.
What was the biggest change (emotional wise) from going to account manager into regional business director?
Honestly M, this may be the biggest adjustment to get used to, and something that I think never goes away. When you become a manager, the highs and lows that you felt as a rep, suddenly are magnified at an exponential level. Not only do you have your own emotions and reactions to each situation (win or roadblock) but you are also handling and buffering the emotions that your team feels. They come to you with roadblocks that they need guidance with, both from a business as well as emotional level. You have to be the stabilizing force for your team to keep them on track and focused. I made it a point to really celebrate the wins and share those with the team so that they weren’t just personal successes, but they were also viewed as TEAM wins. And when the roadblocks were put in, I shared those with the team so that you could all lend support and offer positive feedback to one another. I wanted you all to win together, and fight together to help get through the rough times. However, there is a thin line between being optimistic, and being a jackass. We also had to keep feedback and suggestions realistic, make sure we addressed the tough issues and didn’t skirt them under the rug because they weren’t a comfortable topic.
What’s the most rewarding thing about successfully transitioning from an account manager into a regional business director?
I’d say for the first six months when you take over as a manager, you’re kind of thrown into the deep end. I’ve seen managers take over a region that was doing very well, and think they just have to maintain, that things can run on auto-pilot. In fact it’s the opposite. Coming into a struggling region and figuring out how to fix it is much easier than coming into a booming region, and figuring out how to keep up that momentum. Being able to come into a team, figure out what your role NEEDS to be, not just what you THINK it should be, implement initiatives that each person on the team responds to, and watching them work together to achieve these goals, is the most rewarding thing to watch. This takes time, it’s not instantaneous and it’s always evolving and developing, and so you must as well. My biggest goal I set for myself was to take my previous mentality of “this is about a PERFORMANCE driven standpoint,” and turn it into “this is about a PEOPLE standpoint.” I’m not going to make this about the rewards, prizes, and accolades. I’m going to make it about my people, what they need, and what will work for them to create a solid team mentality.”
What characteristics should we be aware of, in ourselves, that could make a good manager…and conversely what should we be aware of in ourselves that might not make a good manager?
The biggest thing for me was making sure I had a handle on my EQ (emotional intelligence.) Having and demonstrating empathy towards others and knowing how they work is the most important characteristic. What drives you and works for you, won’t always work for your entire team. You have to be able to take a step back and say: “this person needs me to manage them THIS way, it may not be how I would want to be managed, but it’s how they respond best. “ Being able and willing to take the ego out of your decisions is what will make or break a good manager.
If you are looking to go into management, ask yourself: Do I care more about getting recognition through awards, having my name in company wide emails, and getting congratulated for the wins? Or do I care more in helping a bigger picture and realize that as I get higher to the top, the recognition and praise actually goes way down, and being OK with that. If what motivates and pushes you is the constant recognition and affirmation of what a good job you’re doing, then management might be a huge shock and actually a negative for you. And that’s OK. Sometimes people think that if they are a successful rep, that they need to groom themselves to be a manager as the next step. There is nothing wrong in recognizing that you might not have the innate characteristics to be an effective manager. And recognizing and admitting this to yourself will prevent you from making a decision that harms not only you, but the team you will be asked to lead as well.
What strategy did you employ to get an entire region of account managers to buy into your vision and trust you enough to lead us?
Well it was a combination of things. I knew there was no “silver bullet” to fix all situations. I sat with each of you and we picked personal goals. Then once you bought into your own goals, I knew it would be only a matter of time before the TEAM vision was accomplished. We remained realistic, we picked milestones, set up competitions and goals for each month as a team, and went from there. I also made sure I was involved in ALL the big trials so that there was personal accountability on my end. I wanted you all to know I was going to take as much accountability as you had on the outcome (be it win or setback) so that you knew we were in it together.
Below: Team SoCal bonding at the “Salient Gives Back” poker fundraiser