Why Counting to 10 Works for Managers

BY C. Lee Smith
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Before we respond to something that has surprised or angered us, we count to 10. We learned this rule as children. Have you ever thought about why counting to 10 works for managers and what happens to your brain while you’re counting?  Larry Olsen has. During his recent stint as our guest on our Manage Smarter podcast, Larry discussed the concept of performance-​driven neurology. Using a microcoaching platform and applying some of Larry’s guidance, you can improvement your management style and help your reps optimize their results.

Our Neurological Responses

Neurologically, our brains have learned to respond to various stimuli. We have immediate go-​to responses for events such as when someone cuts us off in traffic or when an employee is late again for work. Some of those responses might not be socially acceptable though. Counting to 10 works for managers because that time period allows us to come up with a better response.

Managers need these alternate responses. It doesn’t help to blow up at a sales rep who is late for work again. Why? They might be completely intimidated by your unprofessional behavior. And their response will likely be either to fight, freeze or flee. Your poor responses also don’t fix the root problem because what you want is to see a change in the rep’s behavior.

Insecure managers are guilty of responding inappropriately to stressful workplace situations. These managers often believe they must be the smartest person in the room at all times. In truth, they doubt their abilities. So, they try to rule through intimidation and engage in the game of one-​upmanship. If this sounds familiar, stop yourself from immediately responding to a situation that is pushing all the wrong buttons for you. Take an extra five minutes to jot down a few different ways you can approach the rep who needs to step up their game.

Starting the Change Process

When you talk with your rep about behavior that you want to see changed, you may have to coach them through the process. Instead of reprimanding them for losing another good prospect, ask probing questions to learn why they can’t close a deal. If it turns out that they fear the negotiating process, step them through what has to happen. Encourage them to set calendar deadlines for making an appointment to discuss a prospect’s final concerns about the deal before they bring up the issue of signing the contract, for example.

Reinforcing New Work Habits

If you’re facing challenges across your sales organization and you want to make a rapid change, you can operate from "fear or value." Most organizations use fear and their own hierarchy to force team members to change their behavior. When you turn to fear, behavioral changes may last only as long as is necessary to reach a temporary goal. For example, you may require everyone to step up their game and double their calls in order to achieve the 20% sales increase demanded by members of the C‑suite before the end of the quarter.

Fearing a potential job loss, your reps work hard to achieve the goal. They may also temporarily improve behaviors you’ve coached them on, such as working more efficiently. However, they may devolve to unsavory behavior such as promising free support or deep discounts in order to close deals. They might also compete with each other and create factions within the sales department.

In the long term, this kind of environment results in reduced loyalty and sideways conversations. And it’s unlikely that your reps will retain any of the improved work habits they temporarily adopted. Instead, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief when the crisis is over and revert to their well-​established work habits.

A better way to achieve lasting change is to emphasize the value a sales rep contributes to the organization. You’ll know which aspects of the work environment and the sales process pose challenges for each rep by reviewing the results of the sales skills and psychometric assessments you give them. Using this information and a personalized microcoaching platform, you can affirm their value to the organization. And you can help them increase that value by identifying a step-​by-​step process to improve their activity levels on a daily basis.

Why Counting to 10 Works for Managers

The next time you feel you’re losing control, remember why counting to 10 works for managers. Develop a new way of responding to anger-​provoking stimuli. And engage in two-​way conservations designed to lead you into achievement acceleration, which Olsen describes as “growing faster than your current track to being able to perform almost overnight.”

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels.