Do this instead of buffalo leadership

22 Oct 2018

Do this instead of managing your sales team

One of popular analogy being used in leadership is buffalo leadership vs geese leadership. Let us understand how this applies to sales management and sales leadership roles.

One of the biggest challenges for being manager or leader is how to make his team members think and own responsibility on their own. This is not easier for many. Most companies have developed a system to identify best performing individuals and promote them to become managers.

Ones the individual contributor becomes a manager, he starts wearing many hats and owns many more responsibilities than what he used to have earlier. There is notion builds in him that, he is the sole person to hold accountable and works like individual contributor but with lot more responsibilities on his shoulder. He becomes the sole guy to look for everything!

This kind of leadership is called Buffalo leadership.

Buffalo Leadership

Buffalo’s are absolutely loyal followers of one leader. They do whatever the leader wants them to do, go wherever the leader wants them to go.

That’s why the early settlers could decimate the buffalo herds so easily by killing the lead Buffalo. The rest of the herd stood around, waiting for their leader to lead them, and were slaughtered.

There exists now also leadership paradigm that tells that that the leader/manager job is to plan, organize, command, coordinate, and control. But in reality, doing this makes any team or organization functioning like a herd of buffalo.

For the managers who follow buffalo type leadership, soon he realizes the team or organization, isn’t working as well as he likes, because buffalo are loyal to one leader; they stand around and wait for the leader to show them what to do.

When the leader isn’t around, they wait for him to show up. They will find a lot of “waiting around” in any buffalo-like organization.

Worse, people do only what they are told them to do, nothing more, and then they “wait around” for next set of instructions. Being lead buffalo is really hard work. Giving all the orders, micromanaging, doing all the “important” work takes 12–14 hours a day and most likely they will be the last person to go home.

Geese Leadership

Then there is another way. That is to have a group of responsible, interdependent team members, similar to a flock of geese. The geese fly in their “V” formation, the lead changing frequently, with different geese taking the lead.

Every goose being responsible for getting itself to lead position when its turn came and changing roles whenever necessary, alternating as a leader, a follower, or a scout. The V formation is not done just for rotation purpose, but it is proven that this helps Geese cover the distance much faster and conserving a lot more energy.

The Geese type leaders clearly see that the biggest obstacle to success is to see the picture of a loyal herd of buffalo waiting for the leader, to tell them what to do.

They know they had to change the pictures to become a different kind of leader, so everyone could become a leader and become more accountable, start thinking and own responsibility!

Coaching Style of Management

The coaching style of management helps in this kind of leading or managing the team. If there is a culture created to encourage people to discover their own potential, then not only productivity increases but also the team will have a lot more energy to function.

To create this kind of environment doesn’t require a huge effort. I would say, having a conversation with a team member as a coach for just ones in a month, can make a lot of difference.

Any manager can adopt coaching style and practice Geese style leadership.

7 Questions for Sales Coaching session

The below 7 questions is all you have to follow in the coaching session and be open to listening! Let’s explore these questions,

1. Start with the question “What’s on your mind?”

(This question just opens up lots of possibilities and helps anyone to get excited and become curious.)

2. Follow up with the leading question “What is the real challenge you are facing?”

   (This can be anything such as budget cuts, attrition in the team, non-availability of tools etc)

3. In coaching one of the best questions is “And, what else?”

(Generally, the first challenge anyone mentions is not the key issue. The real challenge is a level below. Asking this “And, what else?” creates a huge difference and makes other people feel that you are genuinely concerned and listening)

4. Follow up with “What do you want?”

    (Here you are becoming specific. This question helps individual to really think how to address the issue he is facing. This is key for self-management)

5. “What do you want from me?”

(Most of the times, when they answer to Q.4, people understand they have an answer to challenge they are facing. But by asking, “What do you want from me?”, you are helping individual realize that you are available to him when needed.)

6. What are we foregoing here? If you say YES to this, what are we saying NO?

 (Asking anyone to think the different options, helps them to really discover what they miss out. This gives a much better perspective than just doing what comes first to mind. This question is what makes them think clearly!)

7. What was most useful or helpful during this conversation?

(This is key. By asking what was useful or helpful, again you made them think and come out with positives which rarely happens in many meetings.)