When the cat’s away…

Nicola Cook // August 16 // 0 Comments

“When the cat’s away the mice will play”

(meaning when the cats not around to watch, the mice will get up to all sorts of mischief.)

So what are your people doing when they’re not being watched? Do they do the same things they would if you were physically there?

 It’s the ultimate culture test.

 I often talk, particularly to our new customers, about something I call the ‘Friday afternoon test’.

 Imagine it’s 5.00pm on a Friday afternoon and someone in your team has four equally urgent activities they need to do before the weekend – but they only have a chance to do one of them. Which one do they choose?

Is their choice the same as you would make and is it the one that delivers the most profit? 

Of course, you would hope that better time management would mean that your team is never in this situation in the first place, or that they could delegate some of the other actions, or that they would stay late and complete all of them, but …

 …your team are faced with decisions like this on an hourly, daily and weekly basis and do you have the cultural bones to know that they are making sensible and profitable choices?


Leadership vs. Managementleadership1

First, let me share with you from my years of running sales teams, some good sales management practices to ensure you manage the ‘mice’ even when you are not physically in the same space as them.

 – Use Time Management Software which requires your team to record their activity, allowing you to track resources spent on different tasks within the business overall. We use minutedock.com in our business which isn’t’ used as a clocking in/out system – but rather allows us to see how much time an individual is spending on a particular type of task – great for costing projects. In times gone by, I required my teams to complete manual time sheets.

 – Arrive unannounced. When I was a Sales Director managing field sales and in-house teams I found the most accurate way to find out what exactly was going on, was to turn up unannounced or at very short notice. You will get a great sense of how organized a person is, what is in their sales bag, are they well prepared for upcoming meetings, is their car clean? Ask to see their diary for the previous two weeks and the coming month, drop in on meetings (internal or client, it doesn’t matter), listen in to their sales calls. If you want to see what is going on in the business at 4pm on a Friday afternoon – turn up at 4pm on a Friday afternoon.

I could tell you some horror stories when I’ve turned up unannounced and some of the shocking things I’ve uncovered in teams I’ve managed previously but I won’t get into that.

 – Codify your culture. As your business continues to grow, a culture that used to develop by osmosis when you were a team of 10 or less, will need to be prescribed, nurtured and documented as more and more people join the organization.


However…and this is a BIG BUT…


unless you want to micromanage your people on a daily basis you need to lead not manage so that your team are empowered, feel valued, trusted and they are as driven as you to serve your customer and achieve your company mission – so you need to know when to lead and when to manage.


…and this begins with recruiting right.

In the example I eluded to previously about the horror stories, it always related to people I had inherited in a team who did not reflect our company values, never those I had recruited into my team.

So remember;

  • Recruit Grade A players
  • Induct and motivate them well
  • Consistently communicate what is required, and what success looks like – on a weekly basis
  • Give them clear metrics and consistent objectives to strive for – involve them in setting these for the business, their teams and themselves individually
  • Work on your business culture every week (set a diary reminder for yourself) – do something for your own direct reports that makes them feel valued. It becomes cultural as your direct reports repeat for their own direct reports. How many of you did something for your team on Valentine’s Day? Fear not – Easter is just around the corner!


and then – get out of the way…and let them get on with it!


About the Author Nicola Cook

Nicola Cook is an award-winning entrepreneur and twice published international best-selling author on professional selling and personal & business growth. She is CEO of Company Shortcuts, a business devoted to improving business results by injecting skill, passion and strategy to help those entrepreneurs and sales enthusiasts achieve the sales results they desire.

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