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Unavailable Managers

December 10, 2007

Some of the best managers I’ve met in my life have the ability of gaining loyalty because they are good listeners and are excellent at building coalitions that help them achieve their goals and yours. They know how to build relationships with both their internal and external constituencies and make themselves available when needed.

I say “available” because I frequently hear from sales professionals that their manager is “not available” or “the boss is incognito when needed”. You wonder how this can be, how does a manager get away with this behavior and keep the job? Some of the ways that they accomplish this is by traveling, being in meetings, delegating difficult issues to someone else that they can point to if the situation blows-up, and by not taking responsibility for anything. Surprisingly many managers go through their careers this way. When things get hot they just move to the next position.

If you have this type of manager you better be self-reliant, figure out how to get help from someone else or find a new job with a good manager. If you’re interviewing for a new job, make sure you find out in advance what your manager is like. Try interviewing them more than once. Also, check with others in the organization and see what they think about the manager. You can also talk with vendors, business partners and customers of the company that you plan to work for. Obviously, you will need to be careful how to word the questions but there are ways of doing this that will help you get the information you need.

Here are some questions you can ask the manager directly

Start out by asking: “Before we get started, may I ask you how why you joined this company”? This will disarm and implies that it is not part of the formal meeting. Continue moving the process forward with these questions:

-Who’s the best manager you ever worked for?

-What did you like about the way he/she managed you?

-What is your management style like?

-What are your expectations of how I should approach you regarding XXX?

-Besides making my numbers what do I need to do to have a good working relationship with you?

-What are the most important qualities you look for in a XXX and what do you think the most important qualities of a manager like yourself should be?

These are some ways of drilling down to get the details that you’ll need to say yes or no to your next sales job.

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