Transition, The Key To A Leaders Success

Published on February 2, 2001

Okay, so you have been promoted to sales manager after having broken all sales records within the company. Congratulations! Now what are you going to do?

If you plan on operating the same exact way as a sales manager as you did as a superstar sales person, you may be in for a tough time. As a sales person, your efforts as an individual for the most part dictated your level of success. As a manager, your success depends on the efforts of others, some of whom may not share your values and work ethic. As a salesperson, you did the selling. As a leader, your job is not to do the selling. It is to evaluate and coach other salespeople on how to sell better.

Get the point? Whenever someone is promoted into a new position, there probably will be a need for you to transition on how you think and how you act. A senior level executive moving up in the ranks to greater global responsibility also faces the same issue. Operating with new responsibilities almost always means a shift in perspective, and a change in behavioral emphasis.

The trick is not to lose the strengths that got you the new position. Rather, how can you harness your strengths and apply them in a way that will enable you to succeed in your new position. If you haven’t thought about this, then maybe you ought to stop and think about it now. Leaders moving up the ladder have to make two decisions:

1. Are you willing to modify behavior to support your new roles? If not, your penchant for enjoying success is likely to disappear as your success dwindles. You can’t take on new responsibilities while acting the same as you did before.

2. In accepting the new position, can you accept and deal with people who do not share your work ethics and values? Do you have the tolerance? Sometimes it is hard for a superstar to succeed in a leadership role because they have trouble dealing with others that do not share their values. Just ask Larry Bird. It was one of the frustrations that led to his stepping down as coach of the Indiana Pacers. If you are faced with this situation, then you either have to replace everyone (which in many cases is not an alternative) or you have to find some way to get through to your team.

The same holds true for accepting others’ methods. They may not do the job just as you did. As a newly minted sales manager, your role is not to make everyone perform as you have. Your role is to accept people for whom they are and use your experience and successes as tools in coaching them to higher levels of success. Jim Cathcart, colleague and author of The Acorn Principle, appropriately describes it when he says it is impossible to turn an oak into a redwood tree.

The good news is any superstar can excel in a promotion, if he or she is willing to modify their behaviors in a manner that will support their new position. If this is not done, then the promotion will turn out to be a very painful experience. It all has to do with what makes you comfortable. Not all great salespeople make great managers and not all great sales managers make great salespeople.

Posted in