I wanted to have a whole week of episodes about sales management, and then I met Donald Meador (author of Surrounded ByInsanity: How To Execute Bad Decisions). It only made sense to record a full conversation with him and then break it up into five bite sized episodes.
In Part 1, we talk about:
- When managers must execute on a terrible idea that comes from above
- What you can do about it (spoiler: nothing)
- Five Stages of (management) Grief
- The best thing to focus on as a manager when rolling out change
Make sure to subscribe and catch all the episodes this week to hear the full conversation.
Surrounded ByInsanity: How To Execute Bad Decisions
Donald has survived mergers, promotions, re-organizations, and downsizing. Throughout his career he has led multiple teams of varying sizes consisting of both on and offshore resources. He has successfully led multi-million-dollar projects and was selected to complete a two-year program to become a lean six sigma certified black belt. Donald has a degree in Computer Engineering and an MBA. In-addition to his corporate experience he has co-founded multiple companies. Donald is an award-winning speaker and the host of the podcast “The Corporate Middle” where he answers the most common middle management questions. He is the author of the book “Surrounded by Insanity: How to Execute Bad Decisions”.
Episode 76 – Transcript
Welcome to the sales experience podcast and welcome to something a little different on the show.
Now normally I have a theme week where just me talking, you get the pleasure of listening to me for five glorious episodes. Then I have guest shows that are in addition to the normal shows. These are bonus episodes where I might talk with the guests for 20 to 40 minutes, but this week I wanted to combine two of those things and do something different.
I have a special guest with me that I know from talking to him before a few weeks ago that we’re going to have a fun, valuable conversation for sales teams, managers and owners, and so I’m planning on recording this chat with my guests and then breaking up into a five part series.
Now, unlike other shows that pretend the guests came back five days in a row and try to lie to you and make you think that happened for the sake of production value, this is literally one episode that we recorded, chopped it up into five bits that you can listen to them in those spite sized chunks that you’re used to.
On the sales experience podcasts. Now let me introduce Donald metre. He is an author, podcast host and consultant. Now that might sound standard for podcast guests bio these days cause that’s pretty much all of us.
But what made me reach out to him and ask him to be on the show was the niche that he has chosen. So he’s a management consultant, meaning he consults companies to help their managers perform better, which also literally sounds like every other consultant out there. But here is the twist, which is why I love chatting with Donald is that he is focused on middle managers in business and in the world.
Donald, welcome to the sales experience podcast. Thanks so much, happy to be here yeah. So first off, I just want to say I love the title of your book. Tell everyone what you called it for the people who aren’t familiar.
Yeah, it’s a surrounded by insanity, how to execute bad decisions. Okay, so as soon as I saw that I started laughing because I’ve been in management, I’ve been managed pretty much anybody has somebody above them who is making some kind of decision.
Even owners, especially if there’s a board or it’s a public company, there’s always somebody doing that. But why did you focus specifically on middle managers and this kind of thing? Not to go into full interview mode, cause I know we’re going to just jump off on this conversation, but why middle managers and why insanity? Well, I mean obviously that’s what I know.
I was a middle manager in a large corporation for a really long time, and so that was the experience that I had, but what I found is if you look at all the leadership material, the leadership books, it’s all for executives, right?
That’s really what it’s focused on is this executive audience. And honestly, it kind of paints a little bit of a rosy picture of the world on how great it is and how to be a wonderful leader. And so there’s no, there’s no lack of books on that subject, but there’s nothing that speaks to the frustration you actually have as the middle manager.
What do you do when your boss asks you to do something you think is a terrible idea or you just think is going to fail? And so that’s really what I wanted to speak to because nobody tells you how to do that. Nobody helps you in those situations. I think there’s just this gap in helping managers actually be in a real culture, in a real situation.
So that’s what I wanted to speak to. It’s just the frustration that I had and then I know a lot of my peers that had trying to function in that type of environment.
So for me, obviously I’ve mostly focused on sales in my career and now obviously with the podcast I have seen so many of these types of things come and go. Now, fortunately I’ve worked in several organizations where most of the decisions are good ones, most of them I agree with strategically maybe working with the owner or the person above me that’s making that decision.
So there’s some collaboration and hopefully I can influence things and keep them from being absolutely terrible ideas that are going to cause huge issues on the sales floor.
What is your perspective? What do you think, because you say like help middle managers roll out or deal with a terrible decision. What can even do about that? Like how do you approach that? Here’s the great answer. You can do nothing.
Doesn’t that feel good? It’s nice and positive. First thing you know. But here’s the truth, right? Especially in some of these decisions is there top down, right? Especially if you work in a larger organization, you know, from a sales perspective, maybe it’s a ridiculous quota.
Something you know that no matter what you do a hundred hours a week, you’re not going to make it right. But yet you’re still going to be held to this standard that you don’t believe is correct. And so you’ve got to find a way to be in that situation.
The management and honestly, the first thing to realize is just that there’s really nothing you can do about it. The decision has already been made. But what happens is the first thing you do, the knee jerk reaction is, man I’ve got to fight this. I’ve got to fight back. I’ve got to convince them this is a terrible idea, but here’s the truth.
Once a decision has been made, it’s already been made. You’re not going to be able to actually change someone’s mind. So what I see a lot of times is people spend a huge amount of time fighting something that is not going to have any effect, right? It’s not going to happen.
You can’t change someone’s mind once it’s already made up. So what you have to first realize it’s, that first stage, right? It’s acceptance and it’s already done. It’s already past, especially if you’re in the middle, right? You know someone above you has made a decision.
You may not have been involved in it. You may have been on the periphery, but it’s done. It’s made, this is happening. You have a ridiculous quota. You have a horrible project. It is happening, so accept it and figure out the right way to say okay, I know this is going to happen.
I’m going to fail. The team is not going to make it. What am I going to do from here on to help minimize some of the damage? Because that’s what you have to do is accept it and move on because there’s not much you can do once a decision has already been made. So do you think that middle management, and you know, obviously we’re talking about sales in particular, but it could apply to anything.
Do you think middle management change management follows the five stages of grief? Honestly, it really does. There’s a lot of similarities between that and what actually happens.
I think one of the biggest challenges I think in change management in organizations, whether it be from, you know, larger small, is that people forget the most fundamental thing about people and that is they care about one thing themselves. You know, this isn’t surprising and yet we still act surprised when we see this and it’s not a bad thing.
I mean, it’s a human evolutionary normal thing that that’s what’s most important. But if you look at the communication that’s coming out, you know, from your team and from leadership is always this boiler plates political, hey, we’re doing this to create synergies and just as ridiculous, massive communication that comes out that basically ends up disenfranchising everybody. It’s what we get wrong.
Our communication is terrible. The biggest thing you need to remember as a leader is that the people that work for you, that people that are around you, they don’t care about you, they probably don’t care about the company that much.
What they care about is how these decisions impact them. And so that’s what you have to be communicating, not, you know, here’s the wonderful, incredible synergies we’re going to get. It’s here’s the impact that you are going to see personally.
So if you change the way you’re communicating to people and focus on what are the impacts to them, that’s what’s actually going to move that change management because that’s what everybody wants to know.
What does this mean for me? And so you have to make sure that you’re framing your communication in those terms. And I’ll tell you that’s the toughest part for any middle manager.
Even executive management is ownership or top down decisions that I’m going to be gracious and say for the sake of the business and for the sake of the company is survival and growth as a whole.
That’s not always how decisions are, why they’re made friends. It’s, you know, because of somebody’s ego at the top or something they’re maybe even upset about and reacting to. But a lot of times, and let’s just say it’s for the health of the organization, something needs to change because obviously if the organization doesn’t survive then it doesn’t matter to anybody.
Everyone’s out of a job. And the tough part is having those decisions made at the top level with the view of the whole ship and the direction the ship is going and what needs to change.
So then for salespeople in particular to be at the bottom of the org chart, you know, in their role and other people who are at the bottom tiers of the org chart just as the stack and not necessarily understanding why the decision is being made for the whole group, but just seeing how it affects them.
So like you said, everyone only cares about themselves. And I’ve seen a lot of times where there’s been a change or a new rollout or a new policy, something dramatic where you know that it’s just not going to be accepted no matter what.
No matter how good you sell it to salespeople, it’s not going to matter. Yeah. There there’s so much true to that and I think you hit the right thing. I don’t think your job as a manager is to sell it.
I think if you go into a room with your team or your peers, you know it was not a popular decision and you may even believe it’s a bad decision if you walk in there and give the company line, you just lost everybody.
You lost trust, you lost the whole thing. Right. If you walk in and say, boy we’re going to gain a lot of synergies. This is an exciting time in our company right and they do that people do that right, because they don’t know what else to do.
People really use all those change management in my gosh, absolutely they do. They say, boy we’re really you know there’s so many buzzwords. I almost want it, don’t want to make it too much of a cliche, but they do that in.
The reason they do that is because they’ve never been trained how to handle this situation.