A question for the managers out there – are you a pusher or a puller?
You’ve most likely heard the saying, “managers push from behind, while leaders pull from the front.” As it relates to media sales management in today’s world, all of us should be pulling from the front.
If being in management has taught me anything, it’s that the team takes all its cues from you. The atmosphere and vibe of your direct reports is generally a strong reflection of your management style and tone. If you sit back and push the others from behind, without setting the example of being out front and willing to do whatever it takes, it shouldn’t surprise you when you eventually get resentment and low work ethic.
Pulling from the front also means remaining positive. You’re the leader, a position which is challenging enough, being “Negative Nancy” around co-workers can rub off quickly. We all know there’s plenty of people out there who are always looking for an opportunity to be negative. Our responsibility is to minimize those opportunities and we should never be the ones to feed that beast.
Prioritization comes in to play for the leader who is going to be active and pull from the front. The to-do lists can be long, and some days we start with a lot of items on that list and by the end of the day it has only grown. But, our priority is to help develop business and relationships and to help develop people. Those items have to always come first. The manager who pushes from behind has plenty of time to handle the bottom third of the list, but the out front, in-the-trenches leader must really keep a handle on time management to both make the time to do the leading as well as handle other responsibilities that may not directly impact revenue, but still have to get done.
As a young manager, I was taught a valuable lesson of always taking a little time at the end of the day to ask myself questions. Did I lead out front today? What did I do to develop business or to develop people today? Did I take care of the most important items today – the ones that directly reflect revenue?
Another characteristic of a true leader is a willingness to be flexible. New managers can sometimes struggle with the concept that people can’t all be managed the same way. There has to be some flexibility in the way different people are treated or managed based on several factors. One of those, is obviously based on performance. I heard a great story once about an NFL coach who threw an undrafted rookie off the team, on the spot, for falling asleep in a meeting. Later, the same coach saw a star player sleeping in a meeting and he went up and put a pillow under his head. This is a results oriented business and those that consistently get the results deserve special treatment.
A lot of us struggle sometimes with the idea that there are people out there who have good ideas, besides ourselves. Leaders take input from the team and every now and then, they get to be the smartest person in the room. Part of what we do as managers is getting “buy-in” and if those around us feel they were a part of how something came together, they are much more likely to go the extra mile to help execute.
Being in management is hard work. It’s even harder to be successful if you are trying to push the group forward from all the way in the back.