Relationships Matter more than ever in a Data Driven World..

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Relationships Matter more than ever in a Data Driven World by Keith Lynn

Keith LynnToday, we are inundated with data and it drives most management decisions.  Due to the quantity of data available from a myriad of sources many managers and companies have discarded traditional relationship management and make decisions wholly on data driven statistics.  “If your numbers don’t add up, you might, and probably will be replaced, given a bad review or fail to receive a promotion.”  How can there be an argument against managing with data?  Statistics bear out the validity of the decisions.

However, there can be negative consequences:

Management decisions based wholly on data can cause disenfranchisement among your key employees.  When they determine they are not valued beyond the numbers they produce the work environment quickly can become toxic with interpersonal relationships and company loyalty quickly disappearing; especially if the change is sudden and made without proper preparation and orientation of employees.

In this data only environment, local market conditions are often ignored as the data from the larger market fosters the decisions made locally.  The ignoring of this local information often creates false goals, either high or low; damaging the relationships between the local producers, management and “corporate.”

A second byproduct that is even more disturbing is a quickly learned lesson: “If numbers are the only thing that matter, then it does not matter how they are obtained.”  In the sales world, this can lead to questionable sales practices and eventually damage to the company’s reputation as the sales force struggles to remain relevant.   In a team environment it can and often does destroy cooperation as each participant tries to obtain the credit in order to survive.

So, if these are the dangers, how can they be avoided?  

First: don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore the data.  This will lead to failure quickly. 

Second: Don’t make long term decisions on short term data.  I have found that many managers wake up in a new world at the beginning of each week or month, often reacting to the numbers instead of looking at what caused them.  I have found that measuring positive activity rather than short term sales results is a much more effective way of determining successful results and one which all participants can agree.

Third: Trust your producers and listen to them.  Decisions made do not have to agree with all of the ideas presented, but listening and gathering input will foster respect both for the producer and for the manager.  Each will understand they have been heard and the final decision will most times be better because of this interaction.

Fourth:  There is still time in this fast paced data driven world to stop and appreciate your employees.  Just a few words of encouragement, without a hidden agenda, can go far in making a positive work environment.

Data is not going away nor should it.  Better and quicker decisions are made because of the availability of information.  Yet, time proven relationship management techniques can be used to maximize your results and ensure team loyalty.

Keith Lynn is a retired senior sales executive with expertise managing high performing sales professionals.

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