Not All Praise Is Created Equal
Self-esteem, or self-concept, Sandler insisted, had a huge and determinative impact on salespeople’s outlook about what they were capable of accomplishing. A person’s outlook, in turn, had a huge impact on their actual performance. In fact, Sandler insisted, self-concept and outlook were the critical factors for salespeople – and everyone else – in terms of sustaining exceptional role performance. “You can only perform in your roles,” Sandler said, “in a manner that is consistent with how you see yourself conceptually.”
What does all this mean for you as a sales manager?
First and foremost, it means you need to recognize that your management style can and will impact the self-esteem of your team members in either a positive or a negative manner. Your management style, therefore, can and will impact performance, for better or worse.
Consider the subject of positive feedback – something I have found that most sales managers realize is essential. What they may miss, though, is that not all positive feedback is equally effective when it comes to strengthening a given salesperson’s self-esteem. The following positive strokes were given to two salespeople who made an extra effort to deal with a problem for their company.
Here’s the first…
“Tom, you did a great job straightening out that delivery problem. Good work.”
And the second…
“Bill, I really appreciate you taking the initiative to tackle the inventory problem. Thanks for all your effort.”
Did you catch the subtle difference between the two? Both are strokes given for addressing a problem. The first is what we call a performance-dependent stroke. That is, Tom earned the compliment because he did a “great job” as a problem-solver. What did the manager appreciate? Not Tom, necessarily, but the great job Tom did, the outcome.
The second stroke, however, is not performance-dependent; it’s an outcome-free stroke. Bill earned it, not for the outcome he attained, but simply for taking the initiative to tackle the problem in the first place, for being the kind of person who takes the initiative. In other words, for just being Bill.
By carefully wording your feedback, you can recognize your team members’ accomplishments and simultaneously reinforce their self-esteem, which will ultimately have a positive impact on their performance.
Our experience is that overreliance on performance-dependent strokes can have an unintended negative impact on salespeople. They may be discouraged from venturing outside their comfort zones into areas where their success – and the resulting positive strokes – is less predictable, and where they run the risk of doing poorly and receiving negative feedback.
Of course, there are times when role performance-dependent strokes are appropriate. Salespeople thrive on positive feedback, and many outcomes are worth praising. What I am recommending, however, is that you make sure to balance role performance strokes with recognition that is not exclusively performance-dependent.
Be sure to make the effort to celebrate the person, not just the outcome! I95