Achieving the Balance Between Having Your Sales Team Respect You But Not Fear You

Ken: This week we have a guest blog. The topic is extremely important for all levels of sales leadership, especially in challenging situations/times.

Every good sales team manager knows that a delicate balance must be maintained between having your team respect you without having them fear you. We’re going to address why this balance is so important to maintain, and how to achieve and maintain it.

Fear breads contempt. If your team is living in fear of you, or in fear of making a misstep, this can easily breed resentment. No one likes to feel as though they have someone on their shoulder watching their every move or waiting for them to fail.

Additionally, when your team fears you, they may make more missteps because they aren’t acting naturally and instinctively, but are trying too hard to please you. Trust them to do what they were hired to do.

You want your employees to have a healthy respect for you, and not to fear you.

Be stern but relatable. Don’t be a frosty manager. This can create a bit of fear, as people always wonder what the cold manager is thinking about them. It’s okay to be human and to have a laugh with your team to put them at ease a bit.

The trick is not letting the team in too close. When they start to feel as though they are your good friends, they start to feel as though maybe they can get away with a bit more than they would if they weren’t.

Reward success—employees appreciate the acknowledgement.

Incent and reward success. Everyone likes to have something to motivate them. Your team will appreciate and respect that you reward their success.

Don’t reward every single thing, because then rewards become less meaningful. Reward the really important wins, and show your team that these are not given out easily. Those who do get the awards appreciate and respect that you noticed their success and that you are calling it out to others.

Have very clear measures for success. Be clear regarding what it takes to get promoted and to be seen as successful on your team. Those who aren’t performing will stand out if you have metrics against which you can measure them. Don’t keep them on board for long if they continue to underachieve. Consider perhaps how you could route them elsewhere in the organization if they might be a better fit in another department, or let them go after a couple of warnings with no improvement.

If others feel they have to meet their own numbers but an underperformer is allowed to stay, this can breed resentment and disrespect. Taking expected and swift action with underperformers will go a long way in maintaining your team’s respect for you.

Have annual 360-degree reviews. Know what your team thinks of you and let them know what you think of them—get honest feedback by doing 360-degree reviews, and get a sense for whether there is any feeling of fear for you. Work to then change that if it is the case, and always look to improve yourself.

A good manager does not lead with fear, but earns the respect of his or her team and keeps it by being consistent, relatable, and someone who takes action both when things are going well on the team, and when they are not. Leading with fear can only breed contempt and frustration among a team, and is a good way to lose good people. Finding the balance can for some personalities be difficult, but with practice, you can get there. It’s well worth the effort.