Taming Hells Angels

I recently read a tale of management lessons learned by someone in the blogosphere. One of them was a cracker. If you’ve just taken over a salesteam or are shaping one, then here’s a tactic that may just dispel damaging antagonism.

The story went that our hero was sent to a Californian factory to be shopfloor boss. The reputation of the place though was not healthy. Apparently it was hostage to a sect of Hells Angels. Their leader was in charge on the floor. They disrupted everything. The previous supervisor was even stabbed. Not a job you’d normally relish, then.

So the first thing he did was to go to the leader and have a chat. He asked;

“what can I get for you that would help you do your job better?”

The surprised gang chief gave a list. Supposedly mainly of new tools. The newbie promptly got them. From that moment on, he said productivity was fine, and he felt a sense of ‘protection’ afforded to him by the bikers.

His point was that this simple request switched disengagement around to involvement.

It’s a good story. I can hear you chuckling at the metaphor. Your unruly gang of sales colleagues also go in for stabbing. Corporate back-stabbing. I do suspect though, that you’d need to adapt things a touch in the realms of sellers.

Firstly, if you assume that everyone wants to at least be seen to want to do their job better, then it’s probably best to define whereabouts “better” would actually take you. Further questions like, “how much better would that make things?” should be used to identify precisely where improvements would be seen.

Second, I’d say a state of continuous improvement needs to come in to play. If the initial “better” was soon achieved, then there could be a danger of all the gains tailing off unless you have a plan to keep edging up performance and environment in some way.

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