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Growing Managers: Moving from Team Member to Team Leader

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The business case “Growing Managers: Moving From Team Member to Team Leader” describes a company, ColorTech Greenhouse, Inc. that is growing aggressively toward becoming the largest and most international grower in the Western Hemisphere. In efforts to diversify their offerings and customer base, ColorTech acquired a Colombian company and was considering a purchase of an Ecuadorian supplier.

Melissa Richardson, the top sales person of the Chicago branch, was offered a promotion to a sales manager in Phoenix, the heart of the company with the highest greenhouse production levels. She was ambitious to make her new office the number one in ColorTech. However, with ineffective training from upper management and no support from her direct supervisor, she was ill-equipped for the challenge. These issues, combined with the supplier, customer and internal team matters, left Ms. Richardson regretting her promotion.


1. What does Richardson think makes a good manager? What is the difference between an account or sales representative and a sales manager?

From the information she had gathered from the outside sources, including leadership books, Ms. Richardson began to develop an idea of the leader she wanted to be. She was correct to assume that an ability to motivate employees is a very important piece of good management. She was especially drawn to the lists of motivational ideas, but this oversimplification may have caused problems. Motivation can be both extrinsic and intrinsic, and achievement-based motivation is often not enough. Understanding contingency variables of employee aspiration factors is crucially important for a team’s performance and success.

Ms. Richardson spent her entire career as a salesperson/account representative. The biggest difference between this position and her current one, sales manager, is the responsibility. Account representatives are entirely focused on the needs of their customers, the companies that are purchasing their products. These positions are easily defined and quantified with numbers-driven goals. A sales manager’s focus, however, shifts from selling, and meeting sales quotas, to motivating and supporting a team to do so. This task is more ambiguous, and perhaps even more difficult. This position also requires a significant amount of time and energy spent on performing administrative and accounting duties. Such change in responsibilities appeared to be unexpected and difficult for the new sales manager, pointing to her insufficient training, and complete lack of mentorship from her leader, as a likely reason for the disappointment and feelings of failure.

2. Critique Richardson’s first meeting and her handling of diversity. Describe some ways that Richardson might effectively build her team.

Having received no introduction to the team by her supervisor, Ms. Richardson arranged the first-day meeting hastily and without an advanced notice. Her mistakes included starting with absent members, speaking “at” rather than “with” her employees, allowing a distraction to end the meeting, and assuming negativity in a side conversation in Spanish that she could not understand. Unable to manage multiple priorities, she also failed to keep a commitment to spend time with each employee that day. In a later meeting with Ms. Peterson, Ms. Richardson missed a blatant claim of sex discrimination which further resulted in the attorney’s involvement.

Ms. Richardson could have approached her first interactions with the team differently. Rather than introducing herself, she could have addressed the group, or her employees individually, and asked them what they wanted in a leader. What did they like about their previous manager? What did they dislike? What support did they need from the management that they felt they were not getting? How could she help? In my opinion a good manager’s job is first to support the staff, get to know them and their needs, and not to police them. Ms. Richardson’s initial desire to teach, and “whip her team into shape”, without learning the established work culture and its differences from her home office, was likely obvious and unproductive.

3. What other forces are at play in ColorTech’s Phoenix office that may be affecting Richardson’s ability to lead and motivate her team?

Ms. Richardson sees more challenges than positives in her team. Mr. Hoffman is money-driven, therefore refuses to focus on lower volume selling of cut flowers. Mr. Torres is motivated by creativity and not hard sales, evidenced by his effort with the grocery customers and his ideas for a web-based sales system. Ms. Vega has mediocre sales, and seems unfocused and distracted by events outside of work. Mr. Ruiz is driven by a chance for more responsibility and is insisting on his promotion. Ms. Peterson claims exclusion and demands preferential treatment.

Ms. Richardson’s mostly absent supervisor, Beth Campbell, failed to demonstrate a positive organizational behavior and make use of her employee’s strengths


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