It’s the situation all leaders dread: Dennis Antinori, VP of Sales for the medical products company IVAC, had a national sales meeting on the calendar with several new products to launch. Two months to go before the meeting, Antinori got the news from the product development team: the new products would be a year late.
Antinori, shocked, now had two stressful challenges:
- How to rein in his instinct to blame Product Development, dipping Below The Line and becoming stuck in blame — and keeping his sales managers from getting stuck there, too
- How to help his team recalibrate to hit sales targets without the new products
Antinori took a fascinating approach. He met with his eighteen sales managers and let them go Below The Line: blaming, moaning, trash-talking the product dev team. He let his team wallow in their frustration and a victim mindset.
But not for long. Antinori broke the blame fest by asking one question:
How do we hit our sales targets with no new products?
The question was a wake-up call to the team. Immediately, they realized that they were still accountable for their numbers and that staying Below The Line wouldn’t help them with this challenge.
By letting his team have their collective “Below The Line” reaction — by making space for it — Antinori could then help his team see the problem and climb from blame into a place Above The Line. Getting out of blame allowed these managers to own what was ahead not as their insurmountable problem but as their team’s vital challenge.
It took several months, but by year’s end, Antinori’s sales management team surpassed their targets. IVAC saw a 15 percent increase in sales, one of the best years in the company’s history.
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