The idiom “red herring” is used to refer to something that misleads or distracts from the relevant or important issue.
Real estate salespeople are in the business of listing and selling properties. Sometimes they need to be reminded of this, because sometimes they try and sell the wrong product. Instead of property sales, they sell excuses to their leaders. These excuses, if the leader falls for them, can be Red Herrings, which detract from important issues.
How it works:
A salesperson attends a seminar. Instead of taking notes and deciding on actions that will increase his or her income, the salesperson begins to pick the seminar apart – if not the content, the presenter. After the seminar, the salesperson approaches the leader to share some thoughts. I say thoughts, but I really mean have a whinge.
This is the Red Herring. If the leader buys into this negativity, as far as this salesperson is concerned, attending the seminar will not produce any results. For this salesperson, attending the seminar is a waste of time.
It is important to remember that there is an attitude problem with this salesperson. Think about it: if other salespeople are getting results from the seminar, the problem has to be with this one salesperson, not the seminar, its content, or the presenter. If the leader buys the Red Herring, the seminar accomplishes no positive learning, or results.
What is the important issue the Red Herring masks?
While the leader is falling for the Red Herring, the leader overlooks the real issues: issues that put the focus on the salesperson USING the information from the seminar.
Instead of prolonging the whingeing, the leader should say to the salesperson:
“You’ve told me the negatives, now let’s talk about the positives:“
“What did you learn from the seminar?”
Whenever a salesperson comes to you with something negative to say about a seminar, switch from the negative and onto the positive: What did you learn? Go over your notes and share some of the good things that you learned with the whingeing salesperson. Focus on actions that can be done, actions that will improve the salesperson’s income if those actions are performed.
Once you have this list, say to the salesperson:
“What actions have YOU taken since the seminar?”
These are two very good questions: “What did you learn?” and “What have you done?” These are the questions a good leader asks. They are not questions this salesperson wants to answer!
Red Herrings are salesperson subversion. As a leader, it’s up to you what you buy into. Do you buy Red Herrings from some of your salespeople? Or do you buy into learning, actions, and results?
Any time you take the focus off action and put it onto whingeing, you feed a monster that will eventually consume your team and its results. Such negativity greatly diminishes your return on investment for training and feeds mediocrity.
Good seminars are sometimes personally confronting to salespeople. They challenge them, and some do not like it. But allow them to avoid discomfort and action by whingeing, to sell you a Red Herring, and your whole team will eventually suffer from ‘attitude poisoning’.
Knowledge and skill gained through education should lead to personal growth, to action, results, and an increase in income. For salespeople with good attitudes and a modicum of courage, this is what you get from your training investment.
But for the wrong people, it leads to excuses, negativity and, if you are not careful, Red Herrings.
Be careful what you buy!