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Letters to a Young Manager

The Wine Bet, #14
LTYM > Managing People II

Dear Adam,
Early in my career, I had the heady job of being a manager on Wall Street. The "Street" was more a community than a road sign. For financial markets, it was the center of the universe. My customers were the titans of capitalism, and I was selling computer time and services before the dawn of the PC.

Our division had an annual sales contest called the President's Club. We all killed to be a part of it. An exotic trip with all expenses paid for two was the prize, and there were a number of ways to reach it. For our branch office to go, we needed to reach 150% of quota. That meant bringing 50% more revenue than plan, a lofty target.

The goal in 1985 was ten days at a resort in Maui. In August --already seven months into the year-- we were 95% of quota. We had a ways to go, but we were young and on the rise. When our division VP visited, I made him a bet that we would make President's Club. Since we were both fans of good wine, we made it a bottle of our choice. Call it brash, arrogant, or the naivety of a young manager. But we were going to do it.

For the next four months, we pulled out all the stops. We tripled face-to-face calls. We created new applications, tutored clients, even cut deals to run year-end jobs after market close on Dec 31. There was a surge of work and energy that said "we can do this!"

I will never forget that day in January when the results for the prior year came in. Our VP of sales came to visit. We were all gathered in the conference room. He said, "I have good news and bad news." We held our breaths. "The bad news is you didn't make 150%." You could hear a pin drop. "The good news is you made 154%." There were whoops and cheers as the room broke into pandemonium.

The piece de resistance was when the branch manager slowly unbuttoned his shirt to hoots and hollers, revealing a T-Shirt that said "Maui or Bust!"

I will always remember how this team pulled together to achieve such an audacious goal. It was like that steam engine in the child's story, pulling up the hill, slowly gaining momentum, and then racing down the other side. When this happens in business, sometimes the most important thing a manager can do is get out of the way, get the coffee and donuts, and cheer from the sidelines.

Oh, and it was a very good bottle of Bordeaux!
Food for thought,


An audacious goal is powerful

Discussion Questions:

1) When are the times your team rose to the challenge of an audacious goal
2) What was it like when you got closer to the goal? When you achieve it?
3) What were the things the team leader did and did not do to help the success happen?

For Further Reading:

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