If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse.
-- Walt Disney
One of the most important tools that the management teams I've worked with have used to build exceptional sales forces by valuing and empowering its sales reps would be the "Feedback and Action" form. This form is at the back of our annual and bi-annual strategic business planners, which we give to our staffs twice a year. You don't have to wait for annual reviews to use it though -- you can use it now.
The form is more than a barometer of general sales rep satisfaction or discontent. It has been refined over the years to be a management evaluation tool and a problem-solving mechanism that has helped build hard-working teams that have character and precision. It's not a tool just for media sales -- it can be used by any company to build winning teams.
The Art of Building a Winning Team
Most of us have either heard of or read about the legendary general Sun Tzu, who was regarded as one of the best military strategists in the history of war. Sun Tzu's The Art of War is required reading at West Point Military Academy. Sun Tzu operated in China around 500 B.C. and was known for unconventional ways of building armies. Richard Marcinko, author of The Rogue Warrior's Strategy for Success, described one of Sun Tzu's team-building techniques in his book.
Sun Tzu went to the king of the province. He told the king that he could lead the army to victory and make the king ruler of heaven and earth. The king was intrigued, but he insisted that Sun Tzu first demonstrate his military genius. Sun Tzu agreed to the test. He asked the king to make him the commander of an army composed of women of the inner palace, most of whom were the king's concubines.
The king called forth 300 women and put Sun Tzu in charge of them. Sun Tzu appointed the king's two most beloved concubines to be the "generals" of two companies, each composed of 150 women.
Sun Tzu ordered the women in both companies to wear full armor and helmets, and to arm themselves with swords. He assembled them in front of all the people of the province and told them how to march, turn, and wield their weapons. He told them that when he began to beat his drum, they should being marching. When he said this to them, they covered their mouths and laughed.
Sun Tzu began to beat his drum, but again the women just laughed. Sun Tzu reiterated his orders and again beat his drum. The women began to laugh again and could not stop.
Sun Tzu became enraged and commanded the standard military punishment for failure to obey orders: beheading of the army's "generals."
The king objected strongly. He told Sun Tzu of his love for these two women. But Sun Tzu reminded the king that the leader of the king's army, once installed, held complete control over the army. The women were beheaded.
Sun Tzu beat his drum. The two companies marched flawlessly. Then Sun Tzu dismissed the women from service and requested male army volunteers from the assembled crowd. Only the men of highest character volunteered.
Sun Tzu's army swept to many victories and made the king the greatest ruler on earth.
Sun Tzu knew something about building a team, or in this case, an army. No. 1: There is no team without discipline for non-performance; No. 2: You can teach and build a team that has character.
The key to the "Feedback and Action" questionnaire/form is honesty -- both from you and from your sales staff. Otherwise, it useless. You'll be surprised when you see some of the answers you'll get. Do you think you are running a tight ship with open lines of communication? Just go through this process with all of your sales reps, even your entire staff. You'll find out things you never knew they thought about you and your management style.
The survey is also meaningless unless you do something about the ideas and suggestions that come back from your reps. Your staff's input and involvement is imperative if you're to build a winning team. Using this form is one way of demonstrating that leadership by telling them that you are not afraid to take a shot or two in the way of criticism.
Be careful with some of the questions, such as "Do I get paid fairly for the kind of work I do?" Very few reps respond that they strongly agree with how much they get paid -- they are always hungry. Yet, some of our best compensation programs have come from using the "Feedback and Action" survey. If your reps know they can be honest with you, then you will be surprised by all the good ideas they will generate.
This is also a great tool for your general manager, to let him or her know if they are communicating the company's vision to the staff and if they pay attention to the ideas that the staff generates.
Use this tool. Tailor it to your staff and see if it helps you build your team and open lines of communication that maybe you've never had before. If you would like a copy, just email me at Sean@luceperformancegroup.com.
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for Luce Performance Group International and can be reached at Sean@luceperformancegroup.com or www.luceperformancegroup.com. You can also find Sean's new book The Liquid Fire on Amazon.com.