As the new Sales Director, I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to recognize the sales team wasn’t gelling. And I don’t mean walking around the office comfortably in Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts! A simple sales team survey supported my assumption – only 19% of the employees knew what was expected of them. A dismal 4% felt their co-workers were committed to doing quality work. The nasty juvenile behavior revealed the dark side of discontent, disrespect, a lack of patience, and downright bad attitudes; Stevie Wonder himself could have seen it! As you well know, bad attitudes in sales teams eventually creep into customer satisfaction, so it was time to roll out “the principles.” I started by offering some behavioral feedback in our next weekly meeting:
- Chris, when you handed Joe the purchase order on Monday, you flipped it at him and abruptly told him to take care of it.
- Joe, after observing Chris’s action, I saw you take that paper and put it at the bottom of your pile, which may be where it belonged, but the look on your face was more like, “Sure, I’ll take care of that when hell freezes over.”
- Mike, when you lost that order from the stock company you stomped around the office raising your voice, and saying things I will not repeat.
I told the team these, and like behaviors, needed to stop, NOW! I explained my expectations using the “Three Principles of Success.” Essentially, I adapted and created them from a quote from Lou Holtz, “Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.”
My “Three Principles of Success” are:
- Do what’s right: The principle of integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness.
- Do your best: The principle of excellence.
- Treat others as they want to be treated: The principle of respect for all people—employees and customers.
The team interactions I observed called for me to focus on the third principle first! “Treat others as they want to be treated.” I shared that it is obvious why we treat our customers with respect – they pay our bills. This dynamic created the perception that we are giving them respect because they are giving us money. We should respect each other as human beings regardless of a transaction.
The principle of respect has a much higher purpose and a much deeper meaning. Respect should not be situational or conditional. I believe, with co-workers, there should not be disrespect for any reason. In fact, you need to begin with respect, in the office to demonstrate it consistently outside the office. Personally and professionally, make respect a habit so it follows you everywhere.
Organizational principles are typically developed by executive leadership with input from the employees. The executive’s values must be aligned with the organization’s principles or the employees will get confused. As a leader, your responsibility is to be clear with your team on how you will hold each other accountable to the principles. If you do not have written principles, you still have the opportunity to influence the executive team through your behavior and by modeling what the principles should be. I encourage you to create written principles for your organization. In the meantime, feel free to use mine. I don’t think you can go wrong! In fact, I felt so strongly about these principles my family followed them at home as well.
Here’s the hard part: everyone must follow the principles regardless of position. Anyone on the team or in the family can bring into question any behavior that violates the principles. Leadership is a responsibility not a position. Be responsible at all times to the principles and to each other.
What principles and values resonate with you? Do you role model your principles – both personally and professionally?
“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”
– Steven Covey