When is the last time someone on your sales team disagreed with you?
Okay, here’s the real question: When is the last time one of your reps disagreed with you and actually told you so?
Often we make the mistake of confusing agreement with alignment. Of the two, alignment is far more important. In fact, too much agreement is dangerous.
To agree means to have the same opinion about something. We all have a few salespeople who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Most managers find this behavior unprofessional, or see it as a sign of insubordination. In most cases its nothing more than uncomfortable, but we should actually welcome it.
Why It Matters
We don’t need a team that always agrees with our decisions. That’s not helpful.
When a sales rep is unhappy about changes to a compensation plan, or thinks her quota is too high, we want to hear their opinion. We need to hear their opinion.
Sometimes they are right.
Patrick Lencioni says “Healthier teams are better than smart teams. A sign of a healthy team is it’s ability to have conflict, reach a resolution, and move on.” He says for healthy teams, “conflict is merely the search for truth.”
What We Do About It
I encourage my team to disagree with me. That might sound crazy, and trust me, it’s not always comfortable, but I always want to hear the truth. Too much agreement is unhealthy because you never actually hear the truth.
I learned this from Colin Powell’s book “It worked for me in life and leadership.”
General Powell would say:
“Disagree with me, do it with feeling, try to convince me you are right and I am about to go down the wrong path. Do it with conviction, you owe that to me. That’s why you are here. But don’t be intimidated when I argue back. A moment will come when I have heard enough and I make a decision. At that very instant, I expect all of you to execute my decision as if it were your own idea. Don’t mumble under your breath. Get the job done.”
That is alignment.
Alignment is healthy, and misalignment can be fatal. If a sales team is going to succeed, it must always align with the leader. They may not always agree with the decision, but they must always execute the decision as if it were their own.
When a sales team is aligned they execute without complaining and they quickly overcome challenges. The next time you find yourself in a crucial conversation with a teammate, welcome their perspective. Embrace honesty. Allow them to tell you what they think, and where you might be wrong.
Then it is up to you to gather all the information, analyze it, and try to get the right answer. Tell them how much you care. Tell them it’s ok to get mad. Tell them its ok to disagree. Then tell them to get over it.
The good ones always do.