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Invisibility Cloak Management

by Chris Bijou

Reality (in business) is often looking in the mirror but wearing an invisibility cloak. We look straight past our current situation without seeing what we’re doing in our daily role. Because we’re invisible (going through the motions), we often miss what’s really going on.

This story is specific but in reality it’s more common than not across all enterprises.

I was recently asked to work with a sales division of one of the largest internet providers. They have about 3,000 sales agents and were looking to create a highly tailored sales approach by region. I reached out to a local sales manager to do some due diligence at the ground level. The manager was in a meeting so I talked to one of his agents. Part of the conversation went like this:

CB: “So, tell me a little about your manager and how he’s helping you today.”

Agent: “Oh, he’s awesome. One of the best managers I’ve ever had.”

Side Note: His manager only had 7 agents on his team so I figured he must be spending lots of quality time with them.

CB: “Wow. That’s great. So tell me, what’s he doing that’s so awesome that’s helping you sell more today?”

Agent: “Well…(pause)…I…(pause)…you know…(laugh)…I’m not sure.”

CB: “How often is he working with you?”

Agent: “You know, as I think about it (now his tone had lost its energy), I haven’t had a 1 on 1 conversation with him in 2 or 3 months. He’s usually doing other stuff. I guess working with the 3 new hires on the team.”

Throughout the conversation the agent validated three perception issues:

  1. Manager wasn’t available
  2. Manager wasn’t coaching
  3. Agent was isolated

When I finally reached the ultra-busy manager I asked:

CB: “So, your team thinks your great. What’s your secret to success?”

Manager: (Laughs) “Well thanks. You know in reality, I just hire well.”

CB: “So, how much time are you spending coaching the new hires?”

Manager: “Not enough, because I’m so busy. I’m just not getting to them.”

CB: “So how “ARE” you coaching the agents today?”

Manager: “Well, when they have a question, I tell them how I’d answer it.”

Throughout the conversation the manager validated three perception issues:

  1. Manager thought he hired well (but had lost 3 of 7 and there was a 40% delta performance gap between the top and bottom agents left.)
  2. Manager wasn’t managing team, he was managing his executive perceptions
  3. Doing question/answer management verses coaching (scaling) development

Now, take off the invisibility cloak. Find yourself engaging in the role and act. Here are some iDeal iDeas you could act on.

Business iDeal iDea: ”Executives should spend more time simplifying and validating at the front line. When the information rolling up isn’t believable, that’s a great indicator your reporting is too difficult and your managers are spending more time managing their executives than managing their front line.”

Manager iDeal iDea: “Track two weeks of time. Hour by hour. Then analyze where you actually spend your time. Not where you thought you did. If you’re not spending 3X the amount of time developing your direct reports vs other commitments…then you’re not managing and you’re not scaling. The funny thing is, nothing looks better for your executives than real performance. An ugly report of awesome team performance looks better than the opposite.”

Agent iDeal iDea: “Self-coach using your peers. Taking responsibility for your own success daily is a life skill. You’ll also find you’re quickly not hampered by the group performance ceiling. Often times the group is performing at mediocre levels because of habit not reality. Make your own reality.”

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