Too few managers actively coach. CSO Insights Data indicates the majority of manager spend less than 2 hours a week coaching—total! Too often, what managers consider as coaching is actually very destructive. It’s manifested in several ways:
The manager is constantly in tell mode. The manager thinks he knows the situation better than the salesperson, rather than listening, understanding, and exploring; the manager starts telling. They dictate actions the sales person should take. “Go do this, then do that, then try this, and get back to me so I can tell you what to do next. Each of us knows how badly we feel when our views aren’t heard and we are told what to do. We are demoralized and unmotivated. We go through the motions, after all, if they fail, it’s not our fault–we’re just doing what our managers told us to do, it’s their fault! Alternatively we rebel, doing exactly the opposite, thinking, “I’ll show him how stupid he is.” Whether it works or not, we create a terrible situation with our managers. Inevitably, even if what we did works, the manager says, “Why didn’t you do what I told you to do?”
Alternatively, managers believe they are coaching by finding all the things we are doing wrong, highlighting how badly we’ve screwed up, but offering no suggestions other than, “You need to fix it or you are gone.” Like the other type of manager, this type of manager is demoralizing. They create work environments where people tend to keep their heads down so they stay out of trouble.
Then finally, there are those managers that think coaching is just about getting status updates. Usually, they add no value, other than updating their knowledge of a situation so they can use it in their reports and analysis. They seldom offer suggestions, or engage in conversation other than to elicit data they can plug into their spreadsheets.
None of these environments are healthy. They don’t promote learning, growth, or improvement. Inevitably, performance and morale suffer in these types of organizations. They are probably further characterized by high turnover and consistent misses of goal attainment.
Effective coaching requires a completely different mind-set. It requires a growth mind-set, focused on openness, learning and mutual growth. It takes an attitude of understanding where a person is–both in strengths and weaknesses, and an orientation to build on that.
Rather than telling, criticizing, or only seeking data; effective coaches are actively engaged in understanding, learning, exploring and growing with their people.
These managers tend to take a “Yes, and……” approach in their discussions with their people. They seek to build on and expand the perspectives and approaches their people are taking. They ask probing questions, they ask open ended questions. They provide relevant stories and examples that cause people to think differently, to consider new approaches.
When they must criticize, they do so knowing they have to help the person discover a more successful approach.
Their questions often start with, “What if……” “Have you considered this….” “What would happen if you looked at it this way….” These questions provoke thinking, introspection, conversation. Rather than leaving the person feeling defeated, they try to provide helpful alternatives.
Great coaching is tough, you can’t fake it.
But the pay back of great coaching is phenomenal. It’s the highest leverage activity of anything we can do to drive the performance of our people.