“If my boss only cares about results, I can’t coach my team without his support. All he wants to know is that we’re hitting our sales targets.” Enough already. Let’s all agree to stop the excuses and instead, coach our boss to coach us. To fully leverage your personal power, it’s time to learn how to Coach Up!
During any two-day program I facilitate, every sales salesperson, sales manager or anyone who’s responsible for managing people, gets coached safely and effectively when transforming into a sales leader by becoming a world class executive sales coach.
Yet, for some leaders who went on this journey and are just about to cross the finish line to complete their leadership coach training and development, a reaction occurs. You can feel it.
Because it is at this time when each person needs to commit to what they will do, try or change when they get back to the office.
That’s when it hits them.
“Wait, you mean, we’re now actually going to be held accountable for coaching our team?”
They seemingly freeze in their tracks. And over these two days, these leaders have experienced many times, the power of successful coaching – as both the provider and receiver of coaching!
I Love My Boss!
Still, something happens once all of the conversations have taken place; their course objectives are identified, the coaching framework is introduced, their concerns, challenges and fears are addressed, the various modules and topics are discussed, the simulations and exercises are completed.
Like the bursting of a dam, more and more reasons and excuses for not being able to coach start to surface amongst the group.
Others play it safe and say they’re committed but they just can’t start, “Now.”
And some managers are concerned about making the commitment to effectively and consistently coach each person on their team. (# people on my team x average # coaching hours per person per day + number of hours already committed to in some way - # number of designated work hours per day = “How the heck am I going to fit all of this in my calendar?”
And the one common denominator with each manager when discussing the reasons why coaching will not work:
Don’t Believe Your Lies
This is when I hear, “Based on what I’ve learned, my boss is definitely not coaching me in a way that I find valuable, and I don’t think he’d be very supportive around this. Besides, at the end of the day, I’m evaluated based on whether or not I’m hitting my sales targets, not if I’m a great coach.
Don’t get me wrong. This coaching thing is great and all, and works really well when we’re out of the office, in a conference room where we have created a safe place amongst our peers and boss; with no calls, no distractions, no laptops and our phones are off or on vibrate. But let’s face it, when we go back into the real world, it’s business as usual and we’re paid to get results and answer to our boss.”
I get this. Sure, it makes sense. And in some cases, it’s actually true.
Even so, if we are being true to innovation, maintaining our competitive edge, sharpening our skills, embracing new challenges and honoring continued evolution and change, then we all need to be able to look in the mirror and feel as managers, leaders and as human beings, that we have done everything in our power to positively influence and impact our company, our team and our customers.
The Uncomfortable Truth
That’s why, regardless of your position, tenure or seniority, as a direct report at any level on the organizational chart, it is still your responsibility to not only ask your boss, or at the very least, your peers for coaching and support but to also let them know how you would like to be coached, supported and managed.
Like it or not, if they’re not taking the first step, then it’s up to you to do so.
Unfortunately, many people believe that approaching their boss in a way that would make them open to change, feedback or an observation is a very difficult task. Some even feel that it’s an impossible undertaking or at least one that would make them vulnerable or put them in harm’s way.
After all, no one wants to feel like they will be punished for being honest, sharing a perceived weakness, providing an observation or making a request. So instead, you assume that your boss or your situation will never change and like it or not, if you want to keep your job with this company, it’s something you’re just going to have to tolerate.
Reinvent The Relationship With Your Boss
What if you can approach your boss and have this type of conversation with them in a way that doesn’t put you in jeopardy and still creates the opportunity to reset expectations with your manager around your job and responsibilities, as well as how you interact, communicate and collaborate?
Fine, maybe this question is slightly rhetorical.
Being an optimistic, yet grounded realist, I know that, while most of the power to change your environment starts with changing your attitude and how you interact with people, you still have to work with those other people who may not have fully embraced your highly evolved line of thinking yet, nor have experienced the impact that good coaching and leadership can have.
And maybe there’s even a large population of senior executives, division managers, VP’s, country managers, even the entire C – Suite that, according to practically every front line manager, could also benefit tremendously by developing and refining their coaching skills.
So, rather than try to avoid them, what if you shifted your thinking to wanting to help them? That’s right, your focus is on helping those people who are still trying to survive in the thick of the ego driven, sales focused,
“Bring me results now,
If they’re not performing then just fire them,
You’re only as good as the results you posted last month,
What do you mean you’re not going to hit your numbers?
I know it’s tough but that’s just how it is so get out there and do what you need to get it done
Will I have a job next month?”
Minefield of a culture!
While there are some people who are fortunate enough to believe that this may be an over-exaggeration of the truth, there is one common lesson here. Whether it’s your boss, peers, partners, stakeholders or even cross-functional teams, there is a solution!
It’s Time to Coach Up!
You can coach up! In other words, rather than leaving it up to chance or waiting around until your manager gets a clue that he or she is the person who needs to initiate these types of conversations, you can be the proactive one and enroll your manager on establishing these new boundaries and expectations. Otherwise, if you are waiting for your manager to change or take the initiative, you may be waiting a very long time; possibly your entire career.
Sure, you can coach your direct reports. Now, expand your peripheral view of who else you can coach and positively impact. You can also coach your peers, as well as your stakeholders. What about your partners and customers? And, you can also effectively coach and enroll your boss.
That is, you can deliver your message in a more effective way regarding how you like to be coached, managed, held accountable, communicated to and supported. You can also discuss certain tasks, projects, problems, people or commitments in a way that won’t put your boss on the defensive and instead, create a healthy platform for collaboration and discussion.
So, how can you approach your manager in a way that would open them up to listen to you so that you can create new possibilities rather than another confrontation? It all starts by changing the conversation.
Change the Conversation – Change The Outcome
Let’s say you feel that your manager isn’t providing you with the support or acknowledgment you need to fuel your motivation and keep you performing. (Shocking, I know, this sort of thing never happens in the ‘real world.’)
Or, what if you wanted to approach your manager and set new expectations around how you work together and how you like to be managed, without sounding like your whining and complaining?
What follows is an example of coaching up and how you can reset expectations around how you like to be coached and managed.
Take notice not only of the change in the message and language but in the mindset and the approach needed for it to be authentic and effective. This template not only focuses on setting new expectations around your relationship but also what you can do to make your boss’s job easier.
“Wait, you’re suggesting that I approach my boss and ask them what I can do to make their job easier?
That’s right! Besides, when was the last time you did, if ever? And if you did, imagine how powerful this can be and how it stimulates that law of reciprocity. That is, if I’m willing to help you, then you would be more willing to help me.
Finally, when approaching this conversation with your boss, timing and location do matter. Be mindful of your surroundings, as well as the pulse, disposition and mood of your manager.
Here’s what that can sound like.
“(Boss), I really value your opinion and appreciate your willingness to coach me. I also realize you have different responsibilities and pressures placed upon you, and I really want to support you the way that you support me.
In order for both of us to experience worthwhile results around coaching and hit our business objectives, it would be helpful for me to have a better understanding of your definition of coaching, as well as your expectations of me aside from my sales targets, so that I can make sure I’m doing everything in my power to make our district successful, maybe even make your job a little easier, while also leveraging every coaching opportunity I have with you.
Would you be open to establishing some parameters around our coaching and what else I can do to ensure I’m meeting your expectations and that we’re collaborating as effectively as we can to achieve our goals?”
Pause for a moment. Granted, this is probably a totally different approach, one that you would never even consider. But isn’t that the point? Unless, of course, your current way is working brilliantly. If so, I can save you some time, as there’s no need for you to read the rest of this article.
I know, in many cases, it’s like tying your dominant hand behind your back and asked to write with your other hand. Making positive changes in how we come across and interact with others takes time and practice. But imagine what would be possible if this type of approach opened up your boss’s listening in a new way? Would it be worth it to take this out for a test drive, somewhere safe?
If you happen to be one of those myopic managers who looks for what’s broken as opposed to what’s working, then keep in mind, this is only a template. This is one way to approach a topic in a new and empowering way. As always, treat it as a buffet and take what you like; leave what you don’t.
Shatter Your Ceiling of Potential
Gut check. When was the last time you can honestly say you delivered this message to your boss? And please stay away from believing, “Well, I’ve tried something like that already and it didn’t work.”
“Something like that?” C’mon. Let’s be honest here. You might as well say, “I tried to play a good round of golf with a baseball bat.”
You see, it’s all about having the right tools. When it comes to creating a new outcome in a conversation with your boss, your most powerful tool is your message.
Reality Is Created In Your Message
Consider this. Reality is created in language. That is, the experiences we have, the relationships we create, are all based on how effectively we communicate with other people in every situation. More specifically, the words you choose to express yourself, your intentions, opinion, feedback and the tone in which you deliver it will create or sabotage the outcome you want.
Therefore, if reality is created in language, and the language or message we deliver ultimately determines the outcome, then we need to choose the words we use with greater precision and become more of a strategic communicator.
All across the world, practically every manager I meet tells me they want to make some sort of positive impact; on the world, on others, in their life, their family and in their career. If you want to align your values, integrity and passion with what you do every day, then it’s time to change the conversations you’re having with people, especially with your boss!
This is the level of thinking needed to truly make a positive impact, deliver value in every conversation and become the world class leader you can be.
Managers are People Too, Really!
Before you start to complicate and over-engineer the coach up concept or run back through all of the reasons as to why it won’t work, let’s bring this conversation back down to its simplicity.
First, let’s be certain we’re clear about what we are focusing on changing; that which is 100% in your control. That is, your actions, reactions and beliefs.
So, if you’re focusing on trying to control anything else, such as how you perceive your boss is going to react when you start a certain conversation with them, then you have already sabotaged your efforts.
If you assume that your boss will react in a less than favorable way, then you will not take the steps to change your situation.
There is a very common undertone of resistance that organizations are faced with when managers are asked to coach their teams. Most companies are very adept at turning a blind eye to this epidemic.
You see, if the manager has not been effectively coached or had a positive coaching experience, then it’s hard to give what you haven’t gotten yourself. Are you in this situation as well?
Consider for a moment that your boss wants to be a great leader. That they truly want the best for you and to help you succeed. That they want to support, inspire and motivate you so that you not only have a successful career but are able to achieve your personal goals as well.
But what if they’ve never been trained on how to do this?
Managers need help too and contrary to popular opinion, they don’t have all the answers nor are always able to identify what each person on their team needs. That’s why coaching up is such an essential skill to ensure that you create the career you want most. That all starts with focusing on what you can do to support your manager and become more valuable to them – and the message you use to open up this conversation.
Your Sales Culture Is… You!
If you recall, there was an overarching objective and intention of this seven part series. To learn how to detach from the outcome, be more present, become more process driven, park your agenda, stop being so annoying, embrace the duality of leadership and the paradox of control, focus on what you can control, surrender absolute thinking and finally, coach up.
Every installment was meant to open up the possibility for every leader and manager to change a culture; one person at a time, one conversation at a time.
I trust that if you’ve read, embraced and tried out what we’ve covered throughout this series, you’ve experienced the impact you can make.
Now, stop for one moment and look at where you stand today. Is your sales culture killing your or enhancing and nourishing you?
Sure, it’s easy to blame things on the company or on your boss and justify why coaching up is going to be ‘difficult.’ Hey, no one is denying the very real pressures of your position.
The best of class managers know this but also know that they can truly create an entirely new possibility and breakthrough results; just by changing their approach in a conversation. Why?
Because, when you change the conversation, you change the outcome. What conversation can you change today?