From Sales Rep to Sales Manager:
What I Learned in My First Year of Management
2017 was an exciting, rewarding, and educational year for me. I was promoted to Division Manager at a company I love being a part of. And I learned a lot.
Since joining Treeline, Inc. in 2014, I have experienced success and failure, and it’s made me a better Consultant, teammate, and leader. Over the past few years, I have been lucky to have the unwavering support of my team and go on to experience several milestones in my career. Over the years, I have been promoted to Senior Consultant, awarded President’s Club, named Recruiter of the Year, and named Account Manager of the Year.
It only seemed that management was the next natural step.
I’ve always considered myself a team player and enjoy helping my Treeline team members in their day-to-day activities. That’s just the culture here at Treeline, Inc., but being promoted to Division Manager meant building and training a team of my own. It meant putting my team before myself and it taught me what leadership really is.
I know I am not alone in this experience, so I wanted to share 5 lessons I learned in my first year of management.
1. Wake Up Early…(Or Be Prepared To Stay Late)
Your team needs your time, and they are going to take as much of it as possible. We work in a player-coach model where, not only am I responsible for my team’s entire revenue number, but I also am held to that same standard. Yes, eventually you will need to “kick them out of the nest” but whether they are a new hire just ramping up, or an experienced rep looking for help closing a large deal, they are your number one priority.
That being said, early mornings are great for hunkering down and focusing on my book of business. If the day gets away from me and I realize I’ve been tied up for the majority of the day, I stay late. Map out time in your calendar to be selfish and understand the majority of your days are helping your team.
2. Get Ready To Get Personal
Your team is going to be made up of people from all walks of life and backgrounds. You have to work to interact with each person on your team differently. Your management style has to adapt and be flexible. Each person responds to a different approach so you need to take the time to get to know each person.
This is one of the most challenging aspects of the role that I have had to work on all year. Everyone needs different guidance, different structure, and different point of views to truly understand the individuals and to get the best out of them. Be prepared to deal with issues/problems both on a personal and work-related basis. It will push you to new and better levels of leadership.
We encourage robust dialog in the office. If you have a problem, my team knows I expect them to address it directly first, and then come to me after if it persists. This is one of the topics of discussion in our weekly ‘what’s up’ team meetings. Sometimes your team needs to see you go to bat for them, but they also need to feel empowered to handle situations on their own, and know they have your support.
On the flip side, it’s important to make sure your team feels valued, and you appreciate the little things they do to help grow the company. I’m not saying everyone needs to get a trophy, but reminding your employees that they are respected and appreciated goes a long way.
3. Make Meetings Count
This seems like a no-brainer, but meetings can often get off track, be a distraction, or even an interruption. If I don’t feel the need to have meetings with my team, I cancel them. We meet Monday mornings for an hour to discuss pipeline and clients and then again on Thursday afternoon. One-on-ones are on an as-needed basis when my team requests them or I believe we need them. I initiate monthly and quarterly meetings to see where each team member is at, how they are doing towards goals, and just an overall opportunity to catch up.
When I started managing, I made it a point to sit down with each team member individually to understand their career objectives, personal goals, and areas they felt like they needed the most support in. This was undeniably important in order to integrate each person into the team to align personal and professional goals, and for me to have a deeper understanding of my management style.
4. Make Mistakes – And Own Up To Them
I am not perfect (although I may claim to be). I make mistakes, I fail, and I keep on going. I’ve been honest with my team members as we continue to grow and let them know I will make mistakes. I ask them to help hold me accountable, just as I hold them accountable.
A few months ago I missed the opportunity to stand up for one of my team members regarding a deal. I sat down with him the next day and let him know I was sorry that I failed him. It’s important for your team to know that you are on their side and are fighting for them. After all, we are all working towards the same goal. It’s important that your team knows you are human and will make mistakes.
5. When It’s Time, You’ve Got To Let Go
This is probably the hardest lesson of management. Whether a team member makes the decision to leave the company and accept another opportunity or you need to let someone go, it’s never an easy experience.
No one likes losing a great person whether it’s to a great opportunity, or if they are truly not a fit for the role and need to find a role that better aligns with their characteristics.
It’s a feeling of failure and letting someone down. It’s something you experience on a personal level. I’m human and I feel, and want each person on my team to be successful.
However, it’s important to not let these experiences fully own you and overwhelm you. It’s also important to understand that you can give someone all the support in the world, put in the 60+ hours helping them, and still not have it work out. Sometimes you may even want it more for them, then they do themselves. It’s important to help those team members understand why the role isn’t a good fit, and help them find one that is.
My first year in management gave me a lot of perspective and introspection. Before being a manager myself, it was easy to assume my management team just did everything with ease and that was their job. You may even, unknowingly and unintentionally, take your management team for granted and lean on them for everything with the expectation that it does not weigh on them. Now I know that is not the case. Going into my second year of management, I understand that I don’t have all the answers, but I will show up early every day, stay late when I need to, and continuously work hard for my team. I also know how important it is to lean on my senior management team for support because they were once where I am now.
I hope this resonates with other first-year managers, and please feel free to comment on the post and share your experiences.