Coaching Is Tough Enough, Why Do We Make It More Complicated That It Need Be?


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I’ve been reading a lot of different stuff about coaching recently. It’s good to see the different points of view, I learn something from each of them. But in the end, sometimes I wonder if we are taking something that is already very tough and making it more complicated than it need be.

I read endless debates about who we should spend our time with, A’s, B’s, or C’s. Everyone has a different view. Some people even try to measure the optimal time spent coaching each person each week—it’s 15.23675899 minutes per person per week–OK I made that up, but you can find similar statistics in various posts.

There are lots of discussions about coaching approaches–directive, non-directive, and so forth. Actually, I think these are very important discussions because they focus on maximizing the impact of each coaching discussion. But some of them take the approach too far and are too formulaic, “use these words, with this emphasis, at this moment…”

In the end I’m more confused than I started (and I’m actually a pretty good coach).

I guess I subscribe to the KISS approach–Keep It Simple Stupid. I like it because I can really relate with the Stupid part.

Here are some principles that have worked on me and for me. Some will be helpful to you–by all means adapt them (send me royalty checks), for those that aren’t don’t worry about them.

  1. The manager’s job is to get thing done through their people. The only way we achieve our goals is through our people. Our job then becomes maximizing the performance of our people. Virtually everything else that manager’s do is supportive of this primary function.
  2. If our job is to maximize the performance of our people, then coaching is the highest impact activity that we can engage in. Sure there are things that help–training, systems, tools. But coaching is where we as managers maximize our impact.
  3. Everybody needs coaching–EVERYBODY, even you. Make sure your manager is coaching you. Coach the people who report to you, make sure everyone is coached.
  4. Now for the first contradictory guideline. This is in direct violation to 3. Don’t waste your time on people who aren’t willing to be coached. In fact, go one step further, get rid of them. People who are willing to be coached aren’t willing to grow and improve. Even if they are top performers today, tomorrow they’ll be dinosaurs.
  5. Now we’ve reduced this to a simpler problem and we can re-invoke item 3, everyone needs to be coached.
  6. Go where the problems are! We tell our sales people to go where the money is, so likewise, if we want to maximize performance, go where the problems are. This means we probably have greater impact by working with our C’s and B’s. (But remember rule 3–and I’ll come back to A’s).
  7. Spend whatever time it takes and is appropriate for the situation. Sometimes great coaching is one or two questions/observations expressed in a casual hallway conversation. There is no quota for coaching, 15.23675899 minutes per person per week is not the answer or the goal. Having an impact on performance is the goal. Do you coach A’s for 12.5267 minutes, B’s for 15.23675899 minutes and C’s for 4.237 minutes? No, spend the time you have to–after all it’s the best way to use your time.
  8. Every conversation and discussion is a coaching opportunity. After a meeting, you have coaching opportunities, in a pipeline review, in a territory review, windshield time, in the hallway or drinking a cup of coffee (substitute the beverage of your choice). We don’t schedule coaching sessions or meetings, we look for every conversation and interaction as an opportunity to coach.
  9. Timeliness is key. Coach when you see something happen if you want to have an impact. Recalling that sales call 30 days ago where someone could have done something differently is a waste of everyone’s time.
  10. In looking at 8 and 9, everyone needs coaching, everyone can sharpen their performance–so don’t forget your A’s.
  11. Sometimes your best coaching for low performers is coaching them to move into a role where they can maximize their performance, where they can become A’s or B’s. It may be a different sales role in the organization, it may be with another company. C’s and low performers can’t be ignored. You have to deal with them and you deal with them by coaching–improving their performance in their current jobs, or moving them into other roles–it’s part of what coaching is.
  12. Here’s one for everyone, but it’s a way to really rocket A performers to even higher levels of contribution. Remember you aren’t just maximizing current performance on the job, you are also maximizing the ability for them to achieve their full potential–maximizing their contribution over time to the company. For example, you may be coaching some of your better performers to prepare them to step up to greater levels of responsibility–perhaps broader or different sales responsibilities, perhaps moving into management. So we coach for both current performance and future performance.
  13. When coaching, ask more questions than tell, listen more than you talk, probe and understand before leaping to conclusions, understand their point of view, be prepared to admit you are wrong. Get them to think, get them to explore.
  14. Here’s the second exception, sometimes the most appropriate coaching might be, “You really screwed that one up!” In the right situation it is very powerful. Sometimes telling is right–I’ll leave you to figure that out (or you can hire me to tell you).
  15. Be human–no one is perfect, no one has all the answers. Sometimes shit happens. Laugh!
  16. Set an example, sometimes the best coaching is what they see you doing — and not doing.
  17. Realize and revel in opportunities where your people may, in fact, be coaching you. It’s subtle, it’s to be treasured. It means they care.
  18. The corollary to 17 is you have to care! You have to care about your people as people, you have to care about their success. If you don’t, you have no business being a manager, and you will never be successful as a coach.
  19. Above all KISS.

(If this isn’t enough for you, email me for our Coaching eBook., I’ll be glad to send it. Just give me your full name and email address, send the request to me at [email protected])

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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