Inspired by Brandon Phillips: Sales Manager as the Enemy?

Thanks for the invite Mr. Keenan!  St. Louis is a baseball town and the whole place is energized, in spite this long bout of stifling heat, because of what took place in Cincinnati this week.  The Reds’ loud-mouth spotlight-grabbing 2nd baseman decided to stir the pot and went off to a reporter saying that he hated the Cardinals and that they were all “a bunch of b-word’s.”   So Brandon Phillips accomplished in one sound-bite what no one else had been able to do this season — light a fire under the highly talented but inconsistent Cardinals and evoke a level of passion, determination and intensity not seen thus far in 2010.

The Cards swept the 3-game series and basically wiped the basepaths with the Reds.  As I listened to sports-talk radio on the way to the office this morning, I was struck by the overwhelming consensus that Brandon Phillips’ words actually caused the sweep because of what it did to the Cardinals. He gave them purpose, mission and a common enemy.  So, the question I pose to the sales leader community is this:  are there times when we as sales team leaders should create a similar adversarial relationship with our own people?  For the sake of motivating a complacent or under-performing group, is it appropriate to create an environment (temporarily) where we become their enemy?  Can we create the behaviors and intensity we want in our people by intentionally turning them against us?   

I don’t even like that I am writing this.  It goes against my natural bent, my instinct and my experience.  Dark scenes of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross are coming to mind.  But what took place in Cincinnati this week was real and powerful.  I’m challenged by it and would love your input.

Mike Weinberg