Illustration: Phil Couzens

Conspiracy Theory

A bleeding conspiracy lurks in your company.

A conspiracy that covers its tracks, throws away wealth and sneaks out by 6, with no cares about what happens next week. This conspiracy results in; missed targets, budget-cuts, canceled office parties, sloppy bonuses and weekends of hitting the phones. A “conspiracy of ignorance” is one in which workers collude with each other to buy back comfort, with company money.

Whoever said “Ignorance is bliss” didn’t have a target to hit every quarter.

As Tom Hanks and his sleuthing foretold, all conspiracies have a ring leader, 70% or more “Yes” answers to below will let you, as a manager, know who’s leading that ring. Ask yourself: Are your buyers not pushed for better contract terms, are your sellers not getting what your product is worth? Do you let them settle for less to avoid doing their real jobs, expanding profit margins and growing market share?

Have you heard: “He didn’t call me back yet”, “She couldn’t get those terms through HQ” “ We are not ready for that volume of work”, “Balls in his court now”, “Let’s split the difference”, “That’s not my area”, “It’s only 100,000 yen”?

“An outrage!” you said, but did you let it pass? Do you let your smoking staff take an average total of 48 minutes a day off? Does your non-smoking staff get the same break time to read books, or take a long walk?

Is the answer no, you only give time off for staff to hurt themselves?

Who does all that translation work or take the “Japanese” phone calls that come in, because certain members of your team didn’t bother to learn the language? Is it everyone, or just the poor souls who worked hard to become bilingual?

Are Fridays really Facebookday, where your energy is focused on Saturday’s brunch, the night out with mates, your kids undokai, bank transfers and re-runs of Lost? Do you over conceptualize, over-strategize as a way to avoid fixing problems, answering the question, or making a simple clear revenue commitment?

How often are you hearing " it’s the economy" and letting up on your sales team? Worse, are you saying it?

If you are answering more than 70% Yeses, then this “conspiracy of ignorance”, is lead by YOU, whether you denounce it or not.

Big strategies and open email-based promises do not close deals, do not move contracts forward or increase activity. The excommunication of tiny energy suckers and time wasters does, rome was built brick by brick, everyday.

Exorcise your productivity possessors. (you don't have to do them all!)

1. Select one weekday, say Monday, for 4 weeks when doing any environmental tuning. You can’t ride teams like this everyday, you’ll burn them out (or yourself). Start off slow and focus on specific behaviors.

2. Stop emailing new rules, or new policies. If you can’t even remember them or have them memorized in 2 weeks, forget it, no one else will either. (have a printed document with all policies/work regulations that is used as part of your feedback/quizing during performance reviews).

3. Have “on task” focus sections of the day for back office staff and themed sections for front office to use as they need. Be consistent you'll be amazed at how much time becomes "empty" when people batch-task.

Each batch-section is 2 hours long with a 5 minute brain break to turn off the screen or take a walk out in the hall.

4. Have 4 sections for that day, each representing different parts of your business process (break your process into 4 major stages), for teams to task focus.

5. Observer SILENCE for documentation section or periods of sales research etc, then check the impact at week’s end. Set phones to message if appropriate to your business.

6. Listen to office noise in the front office team and stand next to desks if members stray off the focus section.

Say nothing, just stand there for a few seconds. (don’t speak Japanese enough to understand what they are saying? LEARN!).

7. When members make calls or are doing a good job, a post it note with “awesome call”, “keep it up”, “nice way to handle objections mate!” is more impactful than an email or comment made during a performance review weeks or worse, months later.

8. Make notes, on your notebook, of weak areas, class clowns and deadbeats. Bring up concerns, which will be concrete examples of inappropriate behavior at the next group meeting. “Last Thursday at 15:36PM you were going on and on about XX, please stay on target” is better than “c’mon guys, stay on target” type flaming/screaming emails.

9. Require staff to send you an email explaining why they need to do overtime before doing it (everyday). For 90% of the requests a "No, catch up tomorrow" is an appropriate answer. Send your people HOME!

In the end, weak managers just want employees to like them, so they do nothing, err, until they have to fire one of them.

If they were really nice, they would ride people until they break out of their trance and get them to focus on working effectively and closing deals. No, that’s too un-comfortable, let HR fire them, we can still be friends right?

Stunt man, get “danger pay”, as a leader, you get “discomfort pay”.

Are you earning it, or one of the Conspirati?

Other posts by Jason de Luca:


This is a great post and essential reading for any foreign manager running a sales team. In particular I think the message here is that you need to "inject yourself" into the living, breathing organism that is the sales team. Without such direction, either from you or from a manager working for you, nothing will happen and month by month sales will shrink. Excuses are much easier to create than results.

Another side of this injection of your soul into the team is being able to help them overcome obstacles. It needs to be both a carrot and stick approach. In this case the carrot I'm referring to is one of help, respect, and companionship. But in offering that carrot, the onus is duly put on the receiver to respect the assistance and get with the program.



Not just for foreign managers of sales teams, but for any manager in any function! I know some folks on other sides of the Pacific who could benefit from this article.