A Regional Sales Director's Quest for Engagement
August 18, 2014 by VIA Contributor ·
For many of us, our work is becoming increasingly isolated. We travel or work from home offices, many without co-workers to chat with in the “break room.” Though we may enjoy more flexibility and spend less time in a cubicle, working remotely definitely has its drawbacks.
For Steen Møller Pedersen, Chief of Retails Sales for a flooring company with a ten-store region, the drawbacks came in the form of feeling disconnected from the company’s Executive Team. A recipe for de-motivation.
“I am located 300 kilometers from my company’s central office. So, I rarely interact face-to-face,” says Steen. “Most of my interaction with my team is done through email or phone calls.”
“I like to be around people, so it was hard for me to feel like part of the team. It may sound funny, because I know there are people who dread attending work seminars, but I always welcome the opportunity to get back to headquarters, to interact with my team. I love learning new things, new ways to approach my job. So, when our company hired a coach to help us learn more about our Character Strengths, I got an extra bonus because I got to learn more about my colleagues, and them about me. It changed my job entirely.”
Strengths at Work
Steen wasn’t surprised when he saw that his Character Strengths included Perseverance, Hope, Love, and Love of Learning. He felt he used each of these strengths often in his work and personal life. “I started at this company 19 years ago as an apprentice and have worked my way up to my current position. I am right where I always wanted to be. Perseverance and hope have always been a big part of my life, and love of learning, too. I knew this. But, there is something different about being told you have these things, having others affirm these strengths in you. It builds your confidence. And, I realized how important it is for me to use my strengths, to share my optimism. I need to stay positive because it really affects others. It affects my job. ”
It was in learning about the strengths of the Executive Team members that Steen found an even deeper appreciation for his job. “It was a missing link for me, saved me so much time and energy because I knew who to go to for advice or perspective on different issues. I became less hesitant in meetings after I saw that the CEO had different strengths from mine. I didn’t take things personally when we had differences, which kept me from getting insecure, which can zap my confidence – not good for a sales person! And, it’s helped my relationship with our Marketing Manager, who I didn’t know very well. Now, when I meet with him, and I know he has humor as a strength, I can break the ice by telling a joke before diving into our discussions. This has made me more comfortable with him, which makes us more creative together in designing ad campaigns.”
Having this insight makes it much easier for Steen to feel part of the team, even though he is often far away. “Dialogue is more open now, it’s freer,” he says. “Now that we know more about each other, it is much easier to understand why people behave in the way they do. With so much of my interactions done over the phone or by email, I can’t see their faces to know how they are reacting to things, but now that I know more about their strengths, what they value, I feel I can see more into their hearts. It might not seem like much, but anyone who has felt detached at work will know what a difference this can make.”
Steen knows what the research says – that many people are not engaged at work, and that having friends at work has been shown to increase engagement and employee retention. “Feeling closer to my co-workers has made a huge difference to me and to my work. I continue the effort by meeting with our coach a few times a year. This helps keep the focus on strengths alive with our teams. We take a look at how things are going, what ways we can further tap our strengths to deal with new issues. We are developing a manual that will correlate strengths to our various positions. We are all feeling stronger as a result. Our company is much stronger.”