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Turning High-Performers into Managers

By Bob Parks

Turning High-Performers into Managers

Salesperson of the Month!

Salesperson of the Quarter!

Salesperson of the Year!

Congratulations on your success! We are going to promote you to Sales Manager!

Now what?

It seems logical that if you take a high-performer and promote them to manager, the sales unit will perform better. We have all seen this scenario play out. The young gun hits the ground running and transforms the sales expectations for the group. His performance is noticed by management and he is tapped to now lead the other salespeople to meet and exceed his own benchmark.

Your new manager has all of the skills for ‘doing’ the job but does he have the leadership skills to transfer from the “doer” to “manager"?

Is this a setup for success or failure?

As a successful salesperson, what motivated your high performer to excel?

  • Fear of failure?
  • The thrill of the hunt?
  • Sales incentives?
  • Prestige?
  • Solving clients' problems?
  • Building relationships?
  • Providing valuable solutions?
  • Money?
  • Closing deals?

Based on his performance, he has the skills of the fittest but how can he transfer them?

Let’s explore the mental mindset of your new manager. The reality is that some of those very things that motivated his success fall away when he takes on the new role of manager. This new challenge requires different skills and motivators. “The "manager as doer" is not sustainable because, as a leader, they are often no longer the one who does the producing as they once did as an individual contributor. The fact is, producers have ultimate control over the output.Therefore the shift in the leader's mindset needs to be, "Rather than trying to manage the output, my role is to create the conditions that will influence my direct reports to be more responsible and accountable for the output. My challenge is how to empower my direct reports to believe and behave as if they own their goals, are accountable, and are responsible for achieving organizational goals and strategies."

As a result, focusing on influencing conditions, instead of trying to control the output, becomes their priority. New skills are needed to empower and unleash people's energy through providing:

  • Clear expectations
  • Accurate and relevant information
  • Consistent and reliable support

Research suggests that when associates are clear and confident about these conditions, their performance and output increase.

Tom Roth, COO, Wilson Learning Worldwide

At a high level, Wilson Learning Research has defined five questions that provide a tactical focus for leaders to address for their associates:


  • This question points to the strategy and goals of the organization. Front-line leaders provide the connection from the high level goals and corporate strategy to the work unit level, and what they mean for them. How motivated are you when you do not know WHY you are being asked to do something?


  • This question helps the individual understand the goals and objectives for which they will be held accountable. The answer to this question should clearly link how their personal goals support the organizational direction and success. If you do not know WHAT is expected of you, how can you meet or beat expectations?


  • This question begs for relevant information and frequent feedback about direct reports' performance. This question addresses the underlying need for reassurance that they are doing a good job, their work is valuable, and what, if any, adjustments are needed. If you don’t get feedback on what you are doing, then how can you IMPROVE?


  • The answer to this question is about recognition and fulfillment. All associates want to know that their contribution is valued by the
    organization—and specifically by the manager—since often, the manager is the organization to his or her associates. Isn’t natural to want to understand if I meet or exceed, what will happen to me or what will I earn?


  • The answer to this question addresses the associate's need for support and safety. All associates need to know not only where they can go for help if they need it, but also that there are not negative implications in asking for help. If I run into problems, can I safely correct the situation? Will someone help me when they occur?

When is the last time you, as a leader, defined these 5 questions for your associates?

Set up your first-time manager for success by acknowledging the mental mindshift that they are going through and providing them with the tools and framework to transition from ‘doer’ to ‘leader’.

Published: December 12, 2014


Bob Parks

Senior Partner

Bob, one of the founders of Strategic Enhancement Group, has over 40 years of experience in business. Prior to starting Strategic Enhancement Group in 1984, he held sales, sales management, senior management and board of directors’ positions with three international companies. Bob earned his B.S. from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Executive Program. SEG has consistently been one of Wilson Learning’s top performing and award-winning partners for over two decades. Bob has won both the Crystal Wisdom Award and the Summit Award given by Wilson Learning for outstanding contribution to the culture and growth of Wilson Learning’s agency network. He served as President of the Board of Advisors to Wilson Learning as well as on several charitable organization boards.

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