It doesn’t seem like 38 years ago but it was. I was a young and very green 2nd lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division. I had just graduated Office Candidate School and was assigned to the 325th Infantry Battalion at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
As was the custom one officer had to be on duty throughout the weekend in order to deal with battalion emergencies. Basically, you hoped for all quiet on the western front! Not this weekend. I received a call from battalion headquarters about 2AM that two privates had been arrested for brawling at a local bar. I went to headquarters to begin writing up reports. As I stood there the two idiots started to fight. I just stood there! The fight was broken up and I returned to company headquarters.
Monday morning the battalion commander-Lt Col. Casey-called me into his office. This 50 something, steely-jawed, silver-haired, 2-time tour in Viet Nam commander of men raked me over the calls for 20 minutes. The gist of the outburst was this-when a person reaches a command position they need to take action when it is required. Casey told me in no uncertain terms that I would be dead within a week in Viet Nam if I handled myself the way I did at battalion headquarters! He stood in front of me (maybe his head came to my shoulders) and yelled at me that the next time I found myself in a situation like that to do something-even if it was the wrong action!
I never ever forgot that lesson. I can still see Casey’s angry, violent face in front of me. He taught me one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned in my life. Take action! Do something! Act! Make a decision! Take charge! The number of times Casey’s words came back to me over the years can’t be counted. The older I got the easier it was to do something. So what made the difference?
The difference was (and is) creating a game plan for those situations that require a sales manager to intervene in a business situation that “smells bad”. When to fire somebody? When to discipline a salesperson? When to exert your influence at a sales meeting when the reps are bitching? When reps are bad-mouthing management or other salespeople? When a sales meeting turns into a sales vs. marketing argument? You will experience times when you, as the sales manager, has to exert discipline and your opinion during the event. If you don’t you will lose the respect of the salespeople and others after the event. That difference will be subtle but it will be there.
The Final Word: All my life, whenver it comes time to make a decision I Make it and forget about it. Harry Truman