Hunters and Carers

I’m grappling with the consequences of implementing the strengths based philosophy and a recent conversation with a good client is indicative of the dilemma. This organisation wants their Relationship Managers to be as good at bringing in new clients as they are at looking after them, but few in the team seem to have both strengths in balance (funny that) and training isn’t a viable solution, unless other things are addressed.

The strengths approach (and my experience) says that those who are “hunters” love wooing others (winning them over – to use the Clifton Strengths Finder category) and will never be as good at caring as they are at wooing. When they’ve brought a new client in to the organisation, the wooing is over and the hunter is on to the next prospective client and the new client can suddenly feel a bit “unloved” if no one else takes over to care for them.

The carers in comparison, are a little bit slower in forming relationships with new clients and find the wooing very difficult so they procrastinate. But they love looking after existing clients and making sure they are happy.

A mix of hunter and carer is ideal, but we are more likely to create that in a team than to create that mix in a person.

What happens to a manager of a team who has been tasked with making sure each team member does their share of hunting and caring?

The manager is under pressure to meet new client targets and satisfy clients. The ‘new client’ targets are measured daily, weekly or monthly, yet client satisfaction is often only measured by exception – when there are complaints. So the manager focuses on how well the team is bring in new clients much more than how well they are satisfying them (primarily because the focus of measurement).

The manager is pleased with the performance of the hunters and occasionally e.g. at the annual performance review, gives them feedback that they need to “care more”. The hunters cop this on the chin and keep doing what they do best – wooing new clients then moving on to the next.

The manager is harder on the carers, because they often don’t meet their new client targets, so conflict occurs. When the manager leans on the carers, they get offended, especially if the communication sounds as if the important role of taking care of existing customers doesn’t matter to the manager. They procrastinate and either only perform when the manager pushes them, or they resist. Not a happy relationship for either party and the organisation loses too, because an unhappy carer will be less able to care well for clients.

Many of us know this intuitively, as well as having seen it play out in practice, but we succumb to the continuing attraction of the mixed model. The strengths-based solution requires us to acknowledge the human differences and create separate roles, where some team members have prime responsibility for hunting and others have prime responsibility for caring. The role of the manager is to ensure each group does their role well though focusing, developing and encouraging their performance and the collective responsibility of all team members is to respect the differences in others – a challenging but possible way to develop.

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