The following has been on my heart for quite some time but I’ve been so overwhelmingly angry and frustrated by it all that I haven’t found the words. After a discussion yesterday with one of my favorite people, I was comforted by the fact that I am not alone in this discouragement; yet I’m still unsure that there is now or ever will be a solution. Only in heaven is my guess…
I’d almost like to conduct a survey. A survey of professionals in business (or anything for that matter) regarding how they became successful and who has influenced their careers, lifestyles, etc. I’d just love to know how many people find that they thrive in a constantly negative and demotivating environment. Are people motivated by being beat up all the time? Do they really rise to the occasion and do their best work when they continually feel as though they are under duress? Everyone loves to be threatened by their employers, right? Told what the consequences will be if they don’t do better work? Know what everyone also loves? When they seek to learn and get better at what they do yet find that those in place to help them can’t, won’t, or just simply don’t. I have experienced this more often in my life than not, and you know what I say? Shame on you. Shame on those of you in management and/or leadership roles who are really very unfit to be there.
I have had three different positions at three different companies that I feel have really shaped my career, or at least taught me the most about what and who I DO NOT want to be. They are also the companies that have done the most damage to my self-worth and my confidence that I can (or can’t, as the case may be) be successful in doing whatever I choose. Thank God my value on earth means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the Lord. Thank God all of this is only temporary.
I have essentially been in sales since I was 7 or 8 years old. As a kid, I sold cards and stationery to the grown-ups in my neighborhood. I actually made a killing for a little one. Most kids in the club chose prizes for what they sold. Not me; cash please. My parents supported and encouraged me with each and every sale. I’m sure they dreaded driving me around to deliver all of the products I sold, but if they minded they surely never showed me. You know what that does for a kid? Teaches them how to be responsible. To take pride in what they do. To work harder. To have faith in themselves. You know what happens when a kid has faith in themself? They achieve goals. And then exceed them. Because positive reinforcement is the best form of motivation out there. It makes people hungry for more.
It’s important that from here on out I choose my words wisely. I have no problem rocking the boat, but I also know that as much as I value people who speak up for what is right and good, not everyone else does…
Position Number One. I was promoted quickly. As a matter of fact, I became the first and only female department director of the company. Don’t be impressed, though. They certainly weren’t. My job as the director of this department was to take a group of customer service reps and turn them into sales people. In case you are unaware of how nearly impossible that is, I’ll use an analogy. It would be like asking a marathon runner to compete in the world’s strongest man competition. Not that either of these athletes lack skill, just that their skill sets are entirely different. So, not being sure how to take on this task, I asked my “managers” for help and/or suggestions. Well wouldn’t you know…they hadn’t a clue. I tried a variety of things. I even went as far as to bring in a professional sales trainer to work with my management team to teach them how to train our CSR’s to sell. That would have worked beautifully if my company allowed me a budget to have more than one session with the guy. I remember distinctly hitting my set goal in the first month it was laid out for me only to have my boss say, “if it’s that easy, I think I’ll make it harder to reach.” With that said, I didn’t collect my bonus and I was too young and green in business to know I should have called my attorney. I could write a book about how much went terribly wrong at this place. I quit after being demoted from Director of Customer Service to call center rep. I was told I was a terrible manager. Know that I never once received a verbal or written warning; I was just demoted without any idea that it was about to happen. I felt like a battered wife when I left that place.
Position Number Two. My very first outside sales job. Excellent training. Excellent experience. Horrible management. Nice people who wanted reps to do well, but they had NO idea how to encourage people or help them when their numbers started to slip. Instead they used the good old scare tactics. “If you don’t hit your goal this month, we’re cutting your salary.” Oh yes. Totally encouraging. Don’t you think? Imagine how much more money that company could make if they had some answers when people asked for help. No one wants to fail, of course they don’t. So if you want to manage people, learn how to be a mentor. A positive voice. I left this job after losing my requested transfer to another state due to poor sales numbers. Again, no warning, just a haphazard piece of information given to me 6 weeks before my scheduled move date.
Before moving on, please know that I am not one to make excuses. If I’m weak in an area, I’m not too proud to admit it. I sincerely want to improve in every aspect of my life. Sometimes, you need help to do that. I am also not too proud to ask for help. I know my strengths, particularly when it comes to sales, and I believe that with the right guidance in the areas I’m not so great at I’m an asset to a sales department. People like me. I gain trust and develop rapport quickly. I don’t bullshit people. I’m upfront and honest…to a fault. I speak with confidence and I am unafraid of rejection. (At least on a professional level.) It would be very worth it for a person in a management role to invest in me at some point during my career. It hasn’t happened yet, and I’m willing to bet it won’t happen at any point during my current situation. Unless of course I really bust through the red tape. But that’s really exhausting and after being beat up and pushed down, who has the energy for that fight?
“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé).” (Taken from Wikipedia.)
Position Number Three. You know what? I’m not going to share the details. All I will say is that I loved this job. It’s a position that matters. It’s with a company that does good, saves lives, and makes a difference. It’s one of the most difficult and stressful roles I have ever played. The challenge and stress is well worth it. What’s not worth it is the garbage that’s added to the stress that could be eliminated so easily. Changed so quickly. By even just one person. If only they had the courage to step off the pedestal, roll up their sleeves, learn some words that are encouraging, not think of themselves better than others, impart wisdom and positivity and actually help. I want to master what I do. I want to impact people’s lives. I have the ability to be the best, I know I do. But man is it tough to “keep on keeping on” when you feel like your working hours are spent being run over repeatedly by a Mack truck.
I guess I’ll know it’s time to move on when I’m completely defeated. I’m a fighter, though, and I’ve got a great deal of fight left.