Are You the Coach You Think You Are:
Good coaching is critical to scalable success, but are we any good at it? In a study I completed for a Fortune 500 sales organization, I discovered an interesting disconnect. Leaders scored themselves high on their coaching efforts – around the 80th percentile. In contrast, direct reports claimed they received little coaching and rated their managers low – around the 38th percentile. In short, most of what leaders think they are doing to coach and develop talent, isn’t coaching at all. As a leader, how can you create a culture of coaching in your sales organization? Here are a few approaches that work.
Establish consistent expectations. From the CEO to the frontline sales manager, there must be a shared definition of good coaching. Effective coaching includes a focus on observation, productive feedback, strategy development, and ample opportunities for practice. Setting expectations for coaching must come from leadership – it is a strategic imperative that executive committee leaders must drive. A coaching culture is more than a phrase from HR, and it must be connected to a broader corporate objective, such as a growth strategy to increase revenue.
Highlight the exemplars and use them to spread your best practices. Everyone knows who the top sellers are in a sales organization, but do those individuals always exhibit the behaviors you want to promote? Sometimes top producers are not the best role models. Look for sellers who do the work in a way you would like to replicate and use them as an example for the rest of the sales organization. Remember, when you look for role models, it’s not only about results, it’s about best practices.
Reward those who engage in coaching. Coaching should not be seen as optional or just for when you have time. It is essential. By rewarding those who consistently coach and do it well, you make it known that coaching is a priority and a requirement of the job. For those who do not coach you may want to put them in a role where they don’t need to help develop others.
Sounds like a lot of work? It can be, but coaching shouldn’t take a lot of extra time if you consider the activities in which sales leaders are currently engaged. Take an honest look at the volume of effort that is devoted to sales reporting and scrutinizing results versus the time spent actively engaging in improving results. Create a robust coaching culture and your leaders will spend more energy on improving results. You may even find it takes less time to reach better results.
For more on this topic, I encourage you to read my HBR article Sales Teams Need More (and Better) Coaching.
Performance Management and Directness:
You’d think these two things would naturally go together. But in my observation, they rarely do. In fact, I’d suggest that the lack of direct feedback turns elaborate performance management systems into a low value HR or administrative process that has little impact on developing a leader’s talent. Instead of precision and directness, performance appraisals are filled with broad and ambiguous – and often unhelpful – feedback. For example, instead of providing general feedback, such as “you need to improve your communication skills.” give them specifics, such as: “your communication is unclear because you provide too much tactical detail” or “you tend to answer a question by adding in extra topics and often lose the point.” If you want to bring the value back to the performance review process, get honest and direct with people about the issues that are getting in their way, so they can improve.
This article addresses change management – always a relevant topic. But isn’t all management change management? The article discusses how companies need to describe work by where they are going to go in the next month, quarter or year.
Question to Ponder:
What are you doing to keep your sanity throughout the second half of a crazy 2020?
If you are willing to, send me your answers. I’m planning on compiling an anonymous list to share with subscribers.