Sushi, Sake, See Ya

sushiIf I was dying and granted a last meal, a juicy steak would be tempting, but I’m certain that my choice for a last meal would be sushi. Ever since my introduction to sushi in 1978, we have had a deep and meaningful relationship.

During the early 2000’s my favorite hangout was a local place in Dana Point called Gen Kai. I was so smitten with this particular sushi bar that I leapt at any reason to eat there.

Saturday date night? Gen Kai.

Relatives in town? Gen Kai.

Client dinner? Gen Kai.

And so it was that when my boss came to town, my first suggestion for dinner was my favorite sushi bar.

It also provided the backdrop for one of the most important management lessons I have ever learned.

As we made our way through the omakase (chef’s choice) morsels and washed the bites down with premium sake, my boss spoke about his visits to my territory.

“Shoot, I like coming out here (from N.Y.) just to see you and eat great sushi,” he said.

“What I like best is that we can just do this great dinner, I can tell you what a great job you are doing, and then I can move on”.

At that moment I was flattered, feeling that I did not need his counsel anyway.

Fortunately I was doing a great job and had been number one in my division for over three years. My territory had grown from eight Western states to only Southern California. I enjoyed #1 or #2 market share at every account I served.

My boss was validating all the things I knew to be true about my production and current position at the firm.

And that was the problem.

He fell into the same trap that so many managers fall into.

He did not want to rock a top producer’s boat. He likely felt that any constructive criticism would have been received badly. He may have thought that a candid critique, if taken the wrong way, might lead to my departure.

Yet being a top producer didn’t mean I knew it all, had the job wired, or couldn’t benefit from his guidance.

Over the years I have seen other managers make the same mistake, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

For example, there was the manager that overlooked the ‘quirks’ of a broker (now banned) that consistently grossed $60,000 per month, only to find out they were billing multiple fund companies for the same event expenses. Or that they had a reputation for “dating” staff at his office.

The manager was afraid to rock the boat. Sadly, the NASD rocked his world for failure to supervise.

What’s your role as a manager to your top producers? Are you an ego-stroker? A glad-handing back-slapper?

Or are you a manager that doles out healthy portions of top producer praise while, at the same time, finding ways to add constructive value to the care, feeding, and development of that top producer?

Upon reflection, the dinners that I shared with my boss at Gen Kai would have had a longer-lasting impact, and more meaning, had he chosen to coach me – not simply praise me.

Learn more about professional coaching for professional wholesalers at Wholesaler Masterminds.

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