When you moved into a leadership position, did you promise yourself that you’d never ask your team members to help you do your job? After all, sales reps complain about their managers all the time. And, then there’s the issue of showing your vulnerable side.
Wayne Baker, a faculty member at the Ross School of Business at University of Michigan, covers this territory in his book, "All You Have to Do Is Ask." In a summary of his interview with Baker, John Baldoni notes that leaders have, “a reluctance to ask for help.” This attitude can be detrimental to the leader and the team.
Nobody wants to look stupid, especially the boss. If you ask someone how the latest piece of equipment works, you fear the worst. Team members will talk behind your back about how much you don’t know. They’ll say you didn’t deserve to get the position. Before you know it, you could have a mutiny on your hands.
What bosses need to understand is that asking for help can empower them and their team members. When you ask a team member for advice, you’re showing that you acknowledge their expertise. Without directly saying so, you’re indicating that they play a vital role in the team’s success. This action strengthens the team member's loyalty and commitment.
When Sales Reps Complain
We have plenty of evidence to show that sales reps don’t like managers to take advantage of them. One individual told us, in our Voice of the Sales Rep survey, that the manager “leaves tasks to me she should have completed before leaving for the day.” We don’t know the context of this specific situation, but it’s possible that the manager hasn’t set goals properly. Instead of trying to do everything yourself and believing that you must have all the answers all the time, do a reset.
If you consistently run out of time at the end of the day, change your to-do list. Train one of your reps to take on more tasks as part of their professional development. And if you hear remarks, as we did in our survey, about managers over delegating, don’t take that as a criticism. Take the opportunity to explain your vision of teamwork and the importance of developing each individual’s skill by giving them the appropriate experience in specific situations.
Setting an Example
In a fast-paced business environment, nobody can afford to pretend they have all their answers. Encourage your team members to share their expertise with each other instead of wasting time trying to find the answers on their own simply to save face. Set the example by asking team members for help when you need it.
You’re in a leadership role to help the company to succeed. In doing so, you should develop the skills of your team members so they can step up when needed. And remember there’s a big difference between taking advantage of people and training team members to achieve new heights in their careers.