What Does It Mean To Be A Boss? It’s not just what you were taught in school

Let the jerks at work be your teachers

#leadership #conflict resolution # team development

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

You can congratulate me.

Now that is over with, you can hand me a box of tissues and let me bring on the tears, or at least the desire to yell.

Here’s the back story: I was the best salesperson in my division, actually in the whole country.

I would still be the best salesperson, except I got promoted.

I am now the regional head of sales for the Southwest. I have 40 people reporting to me. It’s a big deal with big financial rewards.

I should be dancing on the roof. However, I’m going mad. No, I’m not mad at anyone. I think I mean insane mad.

My dilemma: I was great at sales but not so great at managing.

Is herding cats really impossible?

They say that managing salespeople is like herding cats. Everyone wants to go in their own direction.

I make suggestions and they smile, shrug, I feel like I am in over my head and say “Sure, whatever.” And then they do what they want to do.

I don’t know how to take charge in a way that is effective. I am stern, I am pleasant, I am compassionate, I am angry. You get the drift.

I want out if it’s always going to be like this,

I want in if you can show me the way to get these cats to listen to me.


Losing It!

Dear Losing It!,

You will be fine. You are going through what every new boss struggle with. I can read how you are filled with self-doubt. I can actually hear your overwhelm.

Look, before you simply give up, fall down the rabbit hole and claim burnout here are a few suggestions to help you.

1. Show your vulnerability: This should be down further on the list. However, it is first to keep in mind. Let your team know

you are concerned about doing a great job and will need their input.

2. Engage them and then engage them more: Research indicates that individuals who are included in making decisions are more

wiling to help and make adjustments along the way rather than rebel against authority.

3. Speak softly and more important speak short: Know what directions you have for the team and tell them in short, simple sentences.

Do not keep explaining or justifying your requests. it will weaken what you say.

4. Have a “mole” on the team: This is controversial. However, if used effectively it is really fine. You need someone who can tell you

when there are over the top frustrations and your reports are not yet ready to come talk with you personally.

5. Take a course: Learn the skinny about best practices to handle conflict. This is the area that is most important for everyone in  leadership                                                    development to get as much of as they can.

6. Have a team meeting once a month just to get current and let people talk about what is going on personally as well as professionally.

As your team learns from watching you model good communication they will follow suit. Remember, short, clear sentences work best.

7. Give yourself a break: Go for excellence, not perfection. You may want to find someone you trust in your organization who can be a great

sounding board and help you see those blind spots that need another pair of eyes to see.

This is a beginning. Change, any change brings challenges.  Who ever thought we woud see a drone delivering packages? Just take a deep breath and help those you are leading learn from all the successes you have shown over the years of being so great at sales. Now, you can climb this new hill to be a great leader.

Here’s to your success,


P.S. To learn more about best ways to handle conflict that lingers way too long you may enjoy “Don’t Bring It To Work.” and it’s companion book “Pattern Breakthrough Success Guide.” 

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Sylvia Lafair