In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
Unexpectedly, I came upon a few while reading an interview of Daniel P. Amos who is chairman and CEO of Aflac. The interview appeared in the BusinessSunday section of The New York Times on June 28, 2009. Here’s a brief excerpt from that interview:
Initially, “I was in sales, and I was in my 20s, and we worked on all commission. If the people I managed didn’t produce, I didn’t make anything. So I figured out quickly that you had to motivate people to ultimately make money. [As to lessons learned as a young manager,] “One thing I did that was probably different: I never had a sales meeting that I didn’t either have a customer letter read or a customer there.
“In sales you get caught up in trying to tell people how they can make their quota. I always felt it was important for the fundamentals of our business that you understand why people ultimately buy. Because there’s nothing higher than a salesman’s high, and there’s nothing lower than a salesperson’s low. So, you try to level it out because you don’t want to get too high, because when they fall, they really fall.
“The other thing I did: All salesmen have quotas, and I never would give the person their quota. What I did was give them how much I wanted them to make. So I’d say, ‘I want you to make $60,000.’ They’d figure it out. But it was hilarious that when I gave it to them in the form of a compensation number, they never knew exactly what to do, because they couldn’t say, ‘No, I really don’t want to make that much.’ They don’t know how to argue when you say, ‘I want you to make more money.’”
Later during the interview, Amos suggests, “In business, you should treat your employees like they can vote.” I think I understand what he means by that: people do “vote”: in the sense that they decide whether or not to trust and respect those to whom they directly report. Throughout history, the greatest leaders are those who make the most difficult decisions and these decisions are frequently unpopular at the time when they are made. President Harry Truman made several of them. It should also be noted that he received a gift in 1945: A sign pproximately 2-1/2″ x 13″ in size and mounted on a walnut base. On one side, the words “The Buck Stops Here” and the words “I’m From Missouri” on the reverse side. The sign remained on his desk in the Oval Office until 1952 when he retired from public service.
You can read all of this interview and of several others by visiting:
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob