Are we having fun yet?

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At 26, I was a baby sales manager. I knew most of my sales staff before I joined the station because they had all been to training sessions I had conducted. So, they thought I’d be fun to work for.

At first, I was anything but fun. I was the guy waiting by the door each afternoon asking, “Sell anything today?” Later, I learned that if salespeople made a cool sale… they told you! You didn’t need to ask. Asking them on days when they hadn’t made a sale only made them feel bad.

One day, Janice, one of our AE’s, was in my office in tears. “We thought you were going to be so nice.”

What was going on? I was reacting to my fear—my desire to be a star—and putting nothing but pressure on our team. Rather than being a positive force, I was having a negative impact.

And I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing.

Then I started to notice that when I was a little more relaxed and having more fun, things went better. We started celebrating big sales and good months. And, we started to string a bunch of good months together. We found ways to have fun and performance rocketed again. We blew by our goals to launch a new station and were profitable on Day 1—an un-heard-of thing. So, we really celebrated that. We celebrated everything. We had sales meetings outside the office at our clients’ businesses where the clients spoke (excitement). We had dinners (with spouses and partners), where we ended up singing and dancing.

We were doing things from a business perspective that no station in our area was doing and I started calling the team “the state’s best sales staff.” This was a group of sellers just like yours. We had one legitimate star—maybe two—but we also had some pretty average people. However, as our group started to have more fun and be applauded more often, the team actually got better. They became, without a doubt, Maine’s best sales staff.

Many years and several leadership jobs later, I was learning about the Wilson Learning Social Styles model from my partner at the first management training program I ever sold. He was explaining to the group how Expressives (or Socializers in the Alessandra system we use today) are motivated by fun, excitement, and applause. It made me think about what had happened with that first sales staff.

Fun. Excitement. Applause. The principle motivators for 70% of your team, who are in the Socializer/Expressive quadrant.

Here’s the problem. Our business is more stressful than ever. We ALL have bandwidth issues. There’s always another email to answer; another report to send to the bosses. It’s so easy to forget that a leader’s #1 job is to create culture, and for sales staffs, culture is created when people are having fun… feeling recognized… and are not bound by routine.

So yes, even today, I have to remind myself that we need to be the absolute best place for people to work. And, making it fun is my responsibility… not my boss’s, not my team’s… mine!

The power of culture turned out to be the biggest lesson of my first management job. And it was huge.


Do you have Sales Managers who need to get better? I promise, we can help. We’ve designed our Sales Manager’s High Performance Boot Camp around how leaders can create a high-performance culture, recruit and retain superstars, and motivate their teams for extraordinary new business growth. A combination of real-world skills and world-class leadership and culture speakers. January 26-28, 2020 in Tampa (www.jimdoylebootcamp.com)