09 February 2023 |

The struggle is real

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

Sales Managers Suck

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Back when Clubhouse was spreading like wildfire, I found myself in a room where a small group of people were talking about leadership and management. One person in the room came off of mute and said two words that have stuck with me for the past couple of years: “managers suck”.

I was angry when he said it, because I knew he was right…but I was determined to change the narrative.

It had only been a couple of months before that clubhouse room when half of my team was on a coaching or a performance improvement plan. Our organization had made significant changes that overnight, fundamentally changed how my team worked. With this change, it became very clear that I no longer had the skills to support my team in the way they needed.

I tried my best to work with my manager on bridging my skills gap. I got better, but it was a little bit too late for one of my people.

During a 45 minute one-on-one with this rep, they opened up the zoom call by sharing that they would be resigning from the company. Then, for the next 45 minutes, they proceeded to highlight each and every single way I had let them down.

I failed as their manager – but it didn’t have to be that way

Once I got over the sting of getting ripped a new one by someone on my team, I accepted that what I was doing to get better wasn’t enough. I’d need to supercharge my growth and completely rethink what it meant to lead a front line team. 

So, I went to work on becoming a better manager.

Within two months of kickstarting my development journey, everyone on my team was hitting 100% of their quota. We’d then go on to be the top performing team in our segment and one of the closest and tightly knit teams at the company.

It’s amazing to look back to that time and be grateful for the wakeup call I received to up my game. But, I can’t help but wonder why it took me failing – and failing hard – to start me on my path of doing better and being better for the people on my team?

It makes sense though – Harvard Business Review shares that the average age of first time managers is 30 years old and that it’ll be another 12 years on average before those managers get any kind of management training.

No wonder why people think that managers suck. We’re not trained in the basic but necessary skills to do our jobs well, like running effective one-on-ones, properly managing our time, leading through change, and managing up.

(managers trying to hit their goals with no training)

5 things I wish I’d done from the jump

Maybe there are those leaders out there who “got it” in their first management gig. They knew exactly what to do and how to do it. It almost seemed easy. But, I’d imagine for most, leadership came with some pretty serious growing pains. 

Here are some helpful tips to soften the first time manager blow:

  1. Employ a coach to define goals, identify your strengths & opportunities for improvement and create an action plan for development. BetterUp is a great place to look.
  1. Work with an internal mentor who is values aligned, is someone you admire and who inspires you.
  1. Work with your peers whose strengths cover your drawbacks. For example, find a peer who is better at using data to support individual and team coaching and ask them what reports they look at, why and how they apply data insights into their day to day.
  1. Subscribe to on-demand leadership training content. Korn Ferry Advance is my favorite source of skill development and training modules.
  1. Share your goals with your team, manager, and skip level manager so you have an internal team supporting you.

Buzzer Beater: One Play You Can Run This Week

The thing I love most about the game of basketball is that it’s all about the shots you take. Doesn’t matter if you missed the one before, the only way you score is to keep shooting.

This week, the play I want you to run is to reflect on why you started in management. And then share that with your team – your reps and also your peers

And if you feel comfortable, share it my way!