Implementing an effective coaching program in your organization is your new competitive edge that will determine whether you win or lose in today’s highly competitive market.
Last week I shared 5 Powerful Strategies to Ensure Coaching Success with subscribers of my weekly newsletter. Due to the high volume of responses and feedback I received, it’s good to see companies and managers focusing more of their attention on what it means to coach and coach effectively. That’s why I’ve opted to dive into this topic a little further so that you can become a powerful coach yourself and create a vibrant coaching culture in your organization.
These five additional strategies will help develop the foundation needed to ensure coaching success.
1. Create a Consistent Culture of Coaching
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear. Coaching is not something you DO to someone. It’s not event based nor used to disguise a performance review. And telling your people you’re now going to coach them around a challenge, while not changing a thing in your directive management style other than now calling it coaching is a surefire recipe for coaching failure and eroded trust. (“Okay Jim, thanks for sharing your challenge. Let me coach you around this. Now, here’s what you need to do…”)
When your leadership team, starting at the top, makes a strong commitment to learn how to coach and you identify a specific coaching framework and methodology to adopt along with a clear path to implement coaching throughout your organization; it’s only then when you can create a true, sustainable culture of coaching. And developing a true culture of coaching means everyone is involved and part of this new, emerging culture. As such, be mindful that there is a degree of planning involved before managers can approach their team and start coaching.
Conversely, when coaching is event based and reactionary, rather than culturally-based, there is no long-term consistency, no overall coaching plan, and no long-term success. Culturally-based coaching programs are typically driven from the top down with senior leadership fully supporting and spearheading the initiative, rather than pushing from the bottom up. Long-term, successful coaching initiatives establish ongoing expectations, processes, tools, support, key performance indicators, even a revised profile or job description for the manager’s role that cites coaching as an essential pillar and leadership best practice. This is what will drive talent transformation. Relying on inconsistent, problem focused, event-based coaching to drive higher performance is the same as trying to stay healthy and physically fit by eating healthy and exercising just one day a month. This is not sustainable and without engaging in the best coaching practices consistently, you will be left struggling to survive in the typical metrics obsessed, result driven cultures that dominate sales driven organizations today.
2. Sales Managers Need to Earn the Trust of Their Staff
Don’t assume that you have the trust of your team. This is a common challenge within many teams that can breed resistance to coaching at the very core of the team dynamic. Take the time to assess the level of trust that your sales team has with you, and perhaps even with their previous manager. What if they had a prior experience that was less than favorable? Has this been addressed? Do your people really and truly trust you and understand your expectations? How do you know? It is possible that a previous sales manager didn’t really want to coach, let alone know how to coach; didn’t believe in coaching; didn’t have a full authentic commitment to want to make their people more valuable and truly put them first? What if a prior manager violated someone’s confidentiality? What if you did?
If not addressed head on, your people carry these experiences with them throughout their entire career. Experiences like this destroy trust, and even prior “untrusting” experiences will be felt by your team and will affect the level of trust you can foster. (“Well, my last manager only cared about the numbers, only talked to me when there was a performance issue and never really supported me, so I’m sure it’s going to be the same with my new manager.”) The good news is, you can re-establish trust through direct and open conversations that help re-align expectations.
3. Establish Coaching Expectations from The Start
Whether by action or experience, misconceptions of what coaching is from both the manager and the salesperson are one of the leading reasons for coaching failure. For example, if managers are only coaching when there is a problem or are only coaching the underperformer, think about the perception you inadvertently created around what coaching is. “If you’re broken and need fixing, then I’ll coach you. If there’s a problem, that’s when you get coached.” Then managers wonder why their good performers don’t want to be coached!
Take the time to even the playing field by uncovering each person’s perception of coaching and what would make coaching valuable for them. Then, create a universal definition of coaching they can embrace, while setting the expectations and rules of engagement for both sides. You cannot change the rules of coaching in the middle nor at the end of the game – unless, of course, you and the person you are coaching made the decision to change those rules together. All communication breakdowns and resistance to change can be eliminated simply by informing your people of what your intentions are while sharing what the benefit is for them. This will defuse all prior and current assumptions around coaching that can sabotage even your best intentions and efforts.
If any of your people are reluctant to being coached, being observed in the field or you sense that, during a conversation your people are just telling you what they think you want to hear, take notice. These are all signs of a lack of trust or fear because your people are working off their own assumptions and experiences and are not explicitly clear about what your true intentions are. (“Is this going to be held against me? Am I being put on a performance plan? Am I getting fired? What did I do wrong that’s causing me to be punished by coaching?”)
4. Assess Your Coaching Effectiveness
If you are coaching correctly, you will see a return on your efforts. It’s really that simple. Conversely, if you are not seeing a good return on your coaching efforts, then you’re not coaching effectively or one of these other factors I’ve mentioned may be playing a role. (See number three above.) Anyone can spend time pushing on a brick wall, but that wall is never going to move. A sales manager can say, “I’m investing my time coaching my team” but is she truly coaching her people or is she simply doing what she did yesterday (inspecting, managing by the numbers and spreadsheets, telling her people what to do, being directive rather than being curious, etc.) and disguising it as coaching?
This may be the biggest challenge amongst sales managers today. Many sales managers think they’re coaching but they are not. They’re not using a proven coaching framework, asking the right questions, being patient, building trust or having the right conversations. It’s critical every manager hold up the proverbial mirror and assess what they see.
Often, the best mirror can be your peers or your direct reports because often, when something is always going on, we become blind to it. As such, we may not be able to see our own weaknesses or gaps, which is why everyone needs a coach! Leverage these relationships so that you can learn from them. But remember, you need to check your ego at the door and humble yourself enough to be open to their suggestions and observations. Don’t fail because you are investing the right time with the wrong approach and mistakenly think that’s coaching. No one can afford the collateral damage that ensues when managers coach with a blindfold on.
5. Stay Away From Toxic Management
As you probably have experienced throughout your career, there are many different types of managers who approach management very differently. Many of these approaches will never help you become an effective and influential sales manager, leader and coach. Here are a couple of the most ineffective or toxic approaches to avoid that sink coaching efforts.
Reactionary Coaching and No Patience
There’s no such thing as speed coaching. One of the most valuable aspects of coaching is creating a safe place for your people to process, work through a situation and self-reflect. You don’t always get that in a five minute interaction and if you rush the coaching process, you are robbing you and your people of a powerful coaching experience.
Just because they don’t ‘get it’ as fast as you do or as fast as you think they should doesn’t make them wrong or less valuable. Honor and respect where each of your performers are regarding their own learning style, decision making process and path of development. If you are curt, negative, downright obnoxious, sarcastic, aloof, distracted or show signs of impatience during a conversation, you can bet that your people will not want to be coached by you again. The value that people receive from your coaching is determined by them, not by you.
Failing to Walk Your Talk
Sales managers who don’t model what they advise, who do not “walk their talk” struggle with building loyalty, commitment and deeper relationships with their team. Trust is built, in part, on integrity, which demands that a sales manager “do what they say” others should do.
The most successful managers know that they are a model of what is possible for others to achieve – and they take this great responsibility to heart, rather than simply giving it lip service. You can embrace this or resist this but the fact is, your team takes on the complexion of you, their manager, both your strengths and weakness. Actually, this is good news!
When you see something happen that’s less than favorable or you observe certain behaviors you want to see changed, start by looking in the mirror and asking yourself, “What type of atmosphere and culture am I creating on my team? In every conversation, in every interaction you are either building trust – or eroding it. The good news is, this, as well as ensuring coaching success, is all in your power.
Photo Credit: Tanakawho