My sales manager balances the books by killing morale. Help!

Dear Aunty B,

I have a major issue with my head of sales and don’t know what to do.

First and foremost he delivers on budget no matter what. This is what stops me removing him because everyone tells me a sales manager who delivers budget is gold.

It’s the way he does it which is concerning. His staff say he is demanding, a snob, detached, has no idea how to build a team, is a poor communicator, doesn’t include them or ask for their opinion and they would never go for a drink with him unless they have to.

He always looks backwards and focuses on the short-term. Morale is low and a few of them are leaving.

Yes, he is hard on the staff, but he gets results.

Can I have the best of both worlds and change his personality so he is a better leader and still hitting budgets, which is what I want to believe?

A foot in both worlds,



Dear Feet,

Well, you have described the archetypal autocratic manager to a tee — used to be in fashion about half a century ago.

It is tricky. I have had a few of them in my time and thought I could change them.

Here is what I did. I put them on notice that their behaviour needed to change with a first warning. I had to do that to get their full attention so they understood how serious this was.

I then changed their KPIs to include culture and strategy. I talked to them a lot about how they see staff and how that needed to change. I sent them off to read about Douglas McGregor’s XY theory of management, explaining that they pretty much fell into the X side of things and they needed to work out how to change to be a Y.

I set them deadlines and told them I would be checking back with their staff to ensure changes were being made.

My success rate? 50/50. One could not change a bit and didn’t understand what I was talking about. He was furious at being let go. The second did adjust his behaviour enough to change the culture. He couldn’t change his personality but adapted his behaviour. In other words, he faked it until he made it, which didn’t make him the best leader in the world but certainly improved him as a manager.

So the answer to your question, Can he change? Maybe. You have a lot of hard work ahead.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B


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