Manager’s Corner: Magic Pills, Good Managers and Good Leaders

There is No Magic Pill

I provided a seminar on Business and Marketing Plans for a group of senior managers recently. At the end of the session, during our final question and answer session, one attendee said, “I understand the value in everything you’ve shared today, but what can I do to increase sales right now?”

Good question. I’m sure others wanted to know the same thing. I wish I had a sure-fire, guaranteed-to-succeed answer. But I don’t. No one does. And if someone says they do, be very careful. Because if something sounds too good to be true – it probably is. And a sure-fire, magic pill to increase sales immediately – without negatively impacting other areas of your business in the longer run – is more fantasy than reality.

Sure you can dramatically reduce prices. You can offer 2-for-1 specials. You can provide freebies, 0% financing, 180 days same as cash specials, huge rebates, and other tactics. And they may well work – if you’ve already got sufficient cash-flow to carry the potential shifts in revenues. However, most businesses don’t. So any knee-jerk reaction to what sounds like a good idea to spike sales, may instead hurt your business dramatically. Could you afford to give away one unit for each unit sold over the next month? You may be able to — with a bit of time and strategy adjustments (i.e., planning).

We can’t force people to become our customers. We can’t force them to give us their business or their money. Therefore, we have to determine what will cause them to choose to do business with us.

How do we do that? We pay attention to them. We listen to them. We notice what they like and what they don’t like. We identify what they view as problematic and determine if we can help make their problems go away. If we can do all of this, we may get more customers. If we don’t, we spend time trying to get anybody and everybody as customers. And we usually end up having spent bunches of time, money, and effort going after customers who really don’t want to do business with us. We typically just spike expenses – not sales.

So, I’m sorry to say, there is no magic pill to immediately, dramatically, and successfully increase sales – without negatively impacting other areas of your business. There is no sure-fire answer. Even if you pay attention to customers and provide what they like, and you can make their problems go away, there is no guarantee they’ll buy from you right away. However, in time, if you continue to aggressively plan your business and marketing tactics to align with what your current and prospective customers want, like, and will ultimately pay for, you’ll find your magic pill.

Yours just comes in the timed-release format.

Good Managers are not Necessarily Good Leaders

I was speaking with a client recently about his company’s heir-apparent: his son. He wants his son to take over as the company “leader” in a few years. His son is very organized. He runs a solid department, manages his staff well, satisfies customers 90+% of the time, and manages his project and department budgets well. However, he’s lost when it comes to thinking long-term, studying the industry and competition, identifying new opportunities to pursue or ponder, or in developing the company – or his department – into stronger more viable entities. His son is a good manager. His son may not be a good leader.

The differences in management skills and leadership skills are as vast as the differences in front-line customer service skills and supervisory skills. Yet how often do we see the most effective customer service representative get promoted into the supervisory slot? The typical, and quite often, incorrect thought process is, “Well, if she’s great at customer service, she’ll be great at supervising others too.” Wrong.

Each position requires its own unique set of skills — skills that are not necessarily transferable. Too often, by promoting the best manager or customer service representative into a position she is not suited to fill, we just end up losing a good manager or a good customer service representative and we gain a poor leader or supervisor.

Good managers are capable of tracking the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly activities of their respective areas of responsibilities. They’re good at managing, supporting, and challenging their employees. They use the resources they have to their fullest, and regularly discover new ways to get the most out of what they already have. They meet deadlines. They manage projects. They manage resources, facilities, people, supply chains, and customer demands. They look at the here and now. They focus on implementing the plan that’s been established. They focus on getting the job done.

Leaders, on the other hand, focus on establishing the plan. They’re responsible for taking the organization on journeys of growth, change, and development. Leaders look to the outside for trends, opportunities, and hazards. They study the competition, the economy, and the shifts in cultures, trade practices, religions, ethics, philosophies, and politics. They anticipate what the world will look like and then they develop a plan to state how and where they’ll fit in.

Good managers and good leaders are each vitally important to an organization. Each helps the organization’s plans for the future become a reality. However, good managers may not necessarily be good leaders. Good leaders may not necessarily be good managers. Don’t lose a good manager by creating a poor leader.