Managing a Sales Team

Managing a Sales Team

Most of our knowledge these days comes from the Internet. Basically, everything is to be googled, there’s at least a sentence posted about any random thing you’d thought about searching on the Internet. Unfortunately, no matter how precise question you ask, there won’t be a clear answer on how to handle stuff such as managing others. Either you supervise over only two people or you’re managing a team of ten, you know it’s not an easy job. As with other practical skills: you can find some good advice, some opinions or theories basically everywhere. What you won’t find is a clear recipe. Inspiration is important, but as much as it’s fun to find new quotes, I think gathering in one place some managing and motivational theories along with propositions of using them would be way more useful.

It’s hard to believe in a theory. Especially that nowadays every little thing seems to have a whole story built up to it. I’m sure there’s a theory explaining why you chose this particular pair of socks in today’s morning. We’re so used to theories, that dismissive shrug seems to be the best of what most of them can get from us.

Searching for a really useful theory on managing a team is time consuming (after all you do have to read  everything before you can complain about them) and even if you find the right one it can be explained in language that’s not quite understandable, equipped in a whole lot of unnecessary words. Without any further ado, let’s get on with these management tales.

X, Y, Z

A long time ago, back in 1906, in United States of America, there was a man named Douglas McGregor. He was a social psychologist, a MIT Sloan professor and president of Antioch College. His book, “The Human Side of Enterprise” published in 1960, contained the X and Y theories about how the manager’s assumptions on human behaviour determinate how they’re managing their employees. These theories divide employees into two categories of people equipped with opposite characteristics.

Theory X

To make a long story short theory X is a rather a pessimistic view to have over one’s employees but not the easiest to argue with. I’ve listed below the basic assumptions of this theory, so they were clearer to see:

  • People don’t want to work and if they only had an opportunity to avoid that – they would use it.
  • They don’t want to feel responsible – they prefer to have someone managing them.
  • Need of safety is the most important aspect of work: therefore taking risks isn’t a thing.

These assumptions lead towards authoritarian style of managing a team of employees. The constant supervision, clear and strict reward and penalties system are claimed to fit the style of a management proposed by the theory X. Also engaging employees in company’s life seems to be pointless as they won’t be eager to participate.

There’s a seeable connection between Theory X and Scientific Management (Taylorism). When you perceive employees as a group of people with traits listed upon you come to realization that they need to have clear, simple tasks and constant supervision in order to work right. Scientific management is a theory focused on simplifying tasks into smaller ones in order to increase efficiency (and minimalise skills requirements). Of course, there’s no direct connection between these two theories as Taylorism was introduced in 1920 and is no longer practiced on a larger scale.

The companies that follow Theory X are said to have more or less stick-and-carrot type of approach towards their employees. Moreover, they’re having a full control over them (or at least trying to). Nowadays this kind of policy is rather criticized than followed, said to increase stress and make people more unhappy with their work, although looking at some employees it’s hard to say if it’s the right tendency.

Theory Y

It’s the complete opposite way of managing a team in comparison with Theory X.

  • People want to work, as work is the natural part of human life.
  • They’re interested in taking responsibility for tasks and creating new ones that they could handle, if the situation they’re in allows them to.
  • There’s inner motivation to do obligations that people feel bond with (for example, they’re getting financial bonus for completing them or some other personal awards).

The style of management based on Theory Y should be more participative. Encouraging employees to take more serious, responsible task and be engaged in company’s life would matter here. Although Douglas is usually known for the quote:

The answer to the question managers so often ask of behavioral scientists „How do you motivate people?” is, „You don’t.” 

It’s true when you’re trying to determinate the origins of people’s motivation) The motivational system occurring within the company that shares theory Y assumptions should be treated with a special care.

Employees not only need an encouragement to develop their talents but also the environment that will allow them to do so. Theory Y blames the companies for the poor development and attitude of its employees, as providing them the right conditions is often impossible.

Although McGregor’s theories seem a bit black-and-white (surely it wouldn’t be a problem to find people having some traits accurate for both theories at the same time), they made impressive change in the way world thought about managing a team. In fact, it’s still valid today, when more than a half of a century passed since its development.

Theories Z

Theories X and Y after being introduced to the publicity became fundamental for many other theories. Authors started to build on Douglas’s claims either agreeing or criticizing his assumptions. The topic gained interest and therefore the theories, sometimes completely not connected to anything written by McGregor, started appearing. Opposite to the Theory X and Y there wasn’t any singular Theory Z. This is the common name of theories proposed after McGregor’s by various authors.

One of the most popular is Dr. William Ouchi’s theory. Developed in 1980 during the Asian economic boom. The theory was focused on a sense of loyalty in the team you’re managing. In order to increase that feeling in employees the company was supposed to provide a job for life and focus on employee’s well-being on as well as off the job.

The Theory Z is also a paper written by Abraham H. Maslow, which wasn’t at all connected to what McGregor’s had written. The creator of The Hierarchy of Needs developed a theory that had three assumptions, which tried to explain human motivation as well.

  • Human needs are never completely satisfied.
  • Need of satisfaction determines motivation, therefore human behavior is purposeful.
  • Human needs can be classified according to a hierarchical structure of importance.

14 days trial

Modern problems

One of the biggest problems with adapting these theories nowadays is the fact that it’s been quite some time since they were developed. Some may think that they present an old way of thinking. It’s not true, in fact it’d be enough to observe some managers work to get convinced that these methods, proposed by Douglas McGregos and his followers, are still useful.

Nevertheless, there are some minor factors that weren’t taken into consideration back then, for example the cultural mix. Modern company has to take under consideration that their employees cultural backgrounds vary and a culture of work is a big part of that.

The theories should be improved due to  every company own needs. They are a great signspot, if you don’t know where to start to look for an inspiration. The assumptions of each may be constant but whether you start to act completely strictly to their rules or find some new solutions is up to you.

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