An organization that I am quite familiar
and fond of, and one I counsel on various sales, sales management, and marketing
related topics, lost a management team member a few months ago. Neil had been
with the organization for over five years in various roles and in management of
the sales team for the past year. He left to pursue a new opportunity out of
When Neil announced his departure, many
were surprised. He was well liked and viewed as an up and coming leader of the
organization. He had ideas for growth. He was a regular participant in company meetings
and team building activities. He represented the company at many events in the
marketplace and still found time to join coworkers for happy hour. On the surface
Neil was the ideal employee, team member, manager and friend.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a dark
side to Neil too, but not what you might be expecting. Don’t jump to any
conclusions here, he was not committing a crime, or leading a double life. Neil
was in way over his head in business and clearly jumped ship before anyone
found out. He was lying to himself, to his sales team, and to his clients.
The company must share a small amount of
blame too for this situation as they promoted Neil to a sales management role before
he was truly ready. Neil had tasted success but was not “worldly” in a business
sense. He was still young, he had not worked for another company in the past, and
so he could not relate to past experiences to help guide his own direction.
Instead, Neil relied on books that he would read, or speakers he’d go and
listen to, all cheering on his short-lived accomplishments, and ultimately building
a false sense of knowledge.
Neil made poor hiring decisions masked
in excitement. Haley was a nice young lady with a good education. Neil sold her
a bill of goods on her new role with the company, a role she was not entirely
qualified for, and more importantly a role she ultimately did not want to be
in. Neil portrayed himself to be a “coaching style leader” yet he was not
leading by example. We’ve come to find out that he was more talk than action
and lacked a lead by example approach. And, the icing on the cake, Neil began
to lie to his clients, making promises that were not based in reality. Some had
to do with the timing or pricing of delivery, others based around success of
service that had yet to be provided. All the while, the company was kept in the
dark, until after Neil left and the stories began to unfold.
Most human beings want to see the good in
others. Humanity is based, in most cases, upon the ideology that while there
are bad people in the world, most are good. Neil was not a bad guy, he just
made bad decisions, and he did so because he lacked experience and lacked the
character it would take to own up to such a lack of knowledge. The management
team sugar coated these issues for the immediate few months following Neil’s
departure. They did not want to paint him in bad light and they also did not
want to look like sore losers since he left.
There came a time where too many issues arose,
promises made to clients and fellow employees, were just not right, and the
team needed to be told just who Neil was. The ownership of the company needed
to stop sugar coating Neil’s history and behavior and deliver the message clear
and concise. I helped them craft the statement. Here it is:
Neil was a young man who joined our
organize about five years ago. Neil reached success within a relatively short
period of time for which he was rewarded. His rewards came in the form of a
promotion to sales manager. Neil was liked by us, by you and by our clients.
Unfortunately, our mistake as the ownership, was to promote Neil too soon. Neil’s
mistake was he got in way over his head, kept a smile on his face, and spiraled
downward. Neil made several poor decisions, most of which we can put behind us,
but some we cannot. The most serious mistakes were the lies he told to our
clients to close deals. We, the owners, are meeting with our clients now to
make amends. However, in doing so, we have taken on full responsibility of Neil’s
actions, as he was acting on our behalf. That means he was acting on your
behalf too. Our intent is not to tarnish Neil’s name, rather we must set the
record straight. Neil was a good sales person at one point in time, but not a
good sales manager. We, the owners, apologize to each of you for allowing Neil
to continue down a path of representing all of us. Our vow to you is to learn
from this mistake and to work to avoid any similar issues in the future.
Stop sugar coating it and deal with your team straight. They are adults and deserve to know when those they work with
are excelling and when sometimes they are being mistreated (and don’t even know
it). The lessons learned from Neil will stay with my client for a long time.
Neil’s demise doesn’t make him a bad guy. He is immature in the ways in which
business is conducted. Hopefully Neil will learn his own lesson, not sugar coat
things, and speak up when he needs help.