Here's the question (and I'm guessing this could sound familiar to just about every direct sales leader out there):
"I am a leader of a growing direct sales team. For the most part, things are running smoothly and most are working their businesses. I enjoy being a leader, but I have a team member who is draining me. How do you deal with someone who doesn't respect your time? She calls non-stop for questions that could easily wait, and if I don't answer she immediately follows with a text and Facebook message and won't stop until I acknowledge her. I know as a leader I am responsible for making sure she knows what she needs to know to succeed in her business, but we're talking minor questions that are not THAT urgent.
I've told her multiple times that I do not answer my phone on Sundays so I can spend one day with my family uninterrupted, but that doesn't stop her. I'm not a mean person (I'm really not). I don't want to make her feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by saying something but at the same time, I need her to know I cannot be available 24/7. Any suggestions on how to handle a situation like this"?
Here's my answer:
"You have choices here and it sounds to me like you've forgotten that. If you stop responding to her, she'll get the message and stop bothering you. It's not a big deal to ignore a text or delete an e-mail. Let her know that part of your job as a leader is to teach her to be resourceful and take responsibility for her own business so that she can lead others in the same way you lead her.
To that end, set up a once a week, 15 minute appointment with her and let her know you won't be available for the rest of the week unless it's an emergency. And then (and here's the hard part), STICK TO YOUR GUNS! I guarantee you, if you stop responding, she'll get the message and start thinking for herself. It's not your responsibility to be at her beck and call and you do owe your team a duplicatable leader. Answering every single question from every single representative on your team immediately is totally unrealistic, and it isn't duplicatable.
So set the ground rules clearly with this consultant, and then stick to your end of the bargain. There's nothing mean about that and it shouldn't feel uncomfortable or make you feel guilty."
Setting boundaries is always hard, especially for women. We tend to have a strong drive to nurture, and we want to make sure everyone is happy and succeeding. If you're a leader, please get this…the success or failure of your team members is not your responsibility. Take a deep breath and just let that settle. You cannot make someone else succeed, no matter how much you want to. All you can do (and all you're responsible to do) is to give them the information they need and then support them in partnership as they take action, take responsibility, and step up to the plate for themselves. The more you understand this, the more effective you'll be (and the happier your life will become).
And just to wrap this post up nicely, here's the response I received from her:
"I took your advice and stopped answering every time she called. She got the point! Not only that, she's figured out how to be self sufficient 🙂 Thanks again for your help!"
And by the way, if you have questions about your direct sales business, please head over to my Facebook Fan Page, "Like" the page, and post them on the wall there. I'm there all day every Monday (at least) and am very happy to support you with a little advice if I can. Plus, you'll benefit from some of the other brilliant questions and answers that are posted there each week even when you don't have a question of your own.
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Julie Anne Jones is a direct sales corporate consultant, coach, and trainer, and the CEO of Julie Anne Jones, Inc. She is known for her authentic and easy-to-use scripting and specializes in specific language and tools for success in direct sales. To learn more about Julie Anne and her products and services, and to read her weekly blog posts, visit her at www.julieannejones.com.