Many years back I got the opportunity to take a position in Sales, at a building company focused on first home buyers. Coaching tennis and operating a successful club tennis coaching business can earn a living but there are limits on potential income. I had two young kids and felt the strong urge to provide for my family so was prepared to go to 7 days per week with both tennis and sales for the short term at least. I also was aware that for the very best sales consultants, yearly commissions from $250k right through to $750k per was achieved. It was cut throat and you had targets to meet to keep your job. Part of this was enticing to me.
I had 2 Sales Managers who I got along with pretty well. I understood they were under pressure to meet targets to the big boss upstairs and therefore there was a lot of performance based conversations in the office. The whiteboard with who has the most sold for the month sat in the corner and the coffeemaker was used at such as rapid rate that it would often break down. The sales staff was a combination of hard closing competitive types, ambitious rebels and adhd achievers ready to roll the dice as a commission only sales consultant.
So I had been there a couple of months when I met the big boss from upstairs. He was talking to one of the Sales Managers who I was due to be meeting. I immediately put my hand out to introduce myself. After the handshake he obviously was keen to confirm his status. His next line was:
“Im a real cunt”
Its at this point which I fight every urge to re shake his hand and congratulate him on his achievement of becoming a cunt. Instead I quickly realised that this guy doesn’t know anything about me and has seen my types (sales consultants) come and go each month fired by the sales managers for poor sales or work ethic. In one door and out the other door.
So fighting my natural aversion to unnecessary authority, I reluctantly gave him his moment of intimidation and went “oh ok, right” followed by some type of “I better keep moving” comment to indicate my intention to keep making sales.
So although my house and land package sales career was over within the year when I resigned at the end of my best month, I have always thought about this moment of leadership where it makes more sense for the big boss to position themselves as someone to be feared, rather than admired. Almost more of the stick, rather than carrot approach.
I think time frame has a lot to with this. If the staff are only there for between 2 months and 2 years perhaps its just not worth investing in those relationships? Such a performance driven workplace means that the fear of getting in trouble and losing your job can be one of the drivers. I had a small business to fall back on so it would be different to someone else who is 100% reliant on a position.
As a leader myself within my tennis academy and club, Its far more natural for me to motivate my staff by providing educational opportunities and encouraging their constant improvement. I also try and demonstrate best practices myself and we have a reward system for loyalty and further coach education. Yes principles must be set and agreed upon and where necessary hard conversations need to be had. Fortunately a tennis coach will often be with us for upwards from three years so this is a timeframe that certainly works better by using the carrot rather than the stick approach.
Director of Tennis