Now that you have been promoted from being ‘one of the boys’ to being in charge of the ‘boys’, what to do?

Many sales leaders struggle with this transition. And understandably so. Suddenly you are pitted against yourself. You probably were the most vocal in your team, influencing the team to, say, leave work early when they shouldn’t. Or, delay in submitting reports; or, even sometimes defying the sales leader.  Suddenly you are in his shoes, seeing things from his standpoint. And you are horrified: “Is this what I used to put him through?” You find yourself saying the same things he used to say but only half as confidently.

You see, you are torn between your new team (hitherto peers) seeing you as effective sales manager, or dithering hypocrite. And the uncertainty shows in your body language and quaking voice. It shows in your struggle to remain aloof without being seen as unapproachable. You feel like a dog trapped in the headlights of a car and you hate yourself for this. What to do?

Note to self

First, take heed of this advice from a renowned general. When he was completely surrounded by the enemy, and his chief scout asked, “General, what’s our strategy?”, the general replied: “First we need to make a note to ourselves-never get in this situation again.” If you had been positively influencing your team they would have seen your elevation as a natural progression and the transition would not have been as painful as it is now. Admittedly, you most probably would have had to contend with murmurings or outright accusations of sucking up to management. But your dealing with these then, would have only served to prep you better now, that you are leader.

Read: Open letter to seller wanting to be sales manager

But all is not lost. Most probably you were elevated because it was believed that correctly channeled your capacity to influence would be to the betterment of the team and therefore the organization. And the fact that you are struggling with the change proves this. Otherwise, with the leadership position you would move from being confrontational to toxic. But now you find yourself taming (not fueling) your confrontational status. So take heart. Drive the car staring through the windscreen and not the rear view mirror.

Women talk. So should you

But how?  Well, let’s borrow from what psychologists advocate for, men actively shun, and women have known and practiced from Eve- that talking about your problem helps lighten it. But the talking here is not to all who care to listen but to your team. Try this: “We have been peers for several years now but as you are aware I’ve recently been made your leader. Admittedly, the adjustment will have its challenges and you may even notice this. Still, I’m counting on your support to help us grow a successful team.” This gives you room to confidently transit from using the rear screen, to the windscreen.  It sounds counter-intuitive but try it and let me know.

Read: Making salespeople into CEOs might not help firms

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