Great Managers Are Like Anaerobic Generators

September 10, 2013

A quick warning for you…this blog is not one for the squeamish!

An anaerobic generator uses anaerobic digestion to create energy from biodegradable substances such as farmyard manure! A million miles from our own ‘clean world’ you might say, so where is the analogy?

Have you ever had a poor manager that just bombarded you with endless ‘crap’ and ‘dumped’ on you constantly?  Worse still they expected you to do exactly the same to your team! Poor managers would do simply that but I have worked for managers that did things differently, and I like to think I have done the same throughout my sales management career. I like to describe these ‘good managers’ as anaerobic generators! Instead of simply passing the crap on, they instead convert it into useable energy for their teams.

The more negative pressure these managers get the more positive motivation they give! They provide a protective layer for their team and maintain a healthy atmosphere, free from the stench of negativity!

As a detailed example I was once told by my Managing Director to get rid of two of my sales team at the end of the month if they did not hit their targets. Both had been good and consistent performers but one of them had recently lost his father and understandably the grief had affected him greatly (the Managing Director was aware). The other was a real grafter that had been a bit unfortunate but I knew would come good again. As the football cliché goes, “Form is temporary, class is permanent”.

I was explicitly instructed to tell them of the deadline and the sacking threat but I chose not to do so. Instead I worked “with” each of them on an individual basis based on their particular circumstances. I prospected their client bases and made them extra meetings and even went out and sold for them on one occasion where we had double booked ourselves.

At the end of the month both had hit their targets and in the coming months went back to their old consistent ways. Of course there was a real danger that had they not have done target I would have had to carry out the sackings. They would have complained they weren’t aware of the ‘facts’ and I would have been open to censure from Human Resources. There was also the danger that my Managing Director could have learned I had disobeyed a direct ‘order’, that could have has serious implications for my own career!

As it happened, all turned out well but just imagine the cost had they left the business?

  • Recruitment fees to replace them
  • Ramp up period for the new starters & commission guarantees
  • Loss of business from not having an agent on patch
  • No guarantee the new hire would work out

I took a decision to be an anaerobic generator and to use positive motivational energy rather than negative. Faced with similar circumstances I would do the same again. What would you have done?

Many thanks

Stuart Allen

Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Kromkrathog at

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