What started out as a discovery call with a prospect became a lesson in company blind spots. While many companies believe they have a healthy, coaching culture, then why is there 72% employee disengagement in the workforce, which is climbing due to this continued shift to a remote workplace? If companies aren’t honoring their vision statement and values plastered on your website and in your office, it’s time to call BS.
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The Blind Spots Company Egos Create (The transcript)
I was about 35 minutes into a conversation with Jamie, a VP for a global technology company headquartered in New York City.
“I’m glad we’re moving forward to begin our partnership so you can develop the coaching culture you want, which all begins with making your managers transformational leaders and coaches. Let’s talk a little about the logistics so we can start the planning process.
Jamie, you initially reached out to have me deliver my sales leadership coach training course for your sales management team. Let’s align around exactly who will be attending this course. How many managers would be attending in total?”
“Thanks, Keith. Okay, if I run down the list, in the U.S. we’re broken up into 15 regions, with one senior Vice President responsible for each region. They answer directly to our Chief Sales Officer who reports to the CEO. And I want all of my front line sales managers attending this program.”
“So 15 regional VP’s, got it. Now, in each region, how many people is each VP and front line sales manager responsible for?”
“Let me do a quick headcount. Each VP has about 15 direct reports who are our front line sales managers. That’s a total of 225 front line managers in all regions combined. Then, each sales manager has a team of about 12 salespeople they’re responsible for managing. And if we include the VP’s that’s about 420 people in the sales org.”
“Thanks. If we were to move outside of the sales department for a moment, how many managers do you have in your other departments?”
“What do you mean?”
“When we were discussing your organizational structure, you mentioned the other departments that have a manager and senior leader who’s responsible for their department and goals. I’m referring to the total number of people managers you have here in the US. That includes managers in operations, marketing, finance, engineering, design, social media, accounting, procurement, inside sales, enablement, learning and development, and let me know if I’m missing any departments that may be unique to your business.”
“No, you’ve identified them all.” Jamie reflected. “But Keith, I reached out to you because I want to focus on the sales managers so they can directly impact sales by coaching their salespeople. We’re not interested in or were we planning on offering this course to anyone else in the company.
If you’re saying you want to include everyone in these departments as well, that certainly expands the size of this group, and our budget, so if we did this, I’m assuming we would break up the groups into several deliveries.
If I’m accurate plus or minus, we’re looking at about another 45 vice presidents and managers who are people managers, not sales managers. And as I initially shared with you, I only want to focus on the sales department.”
“I get that, Jamie. And we will. After all, if managers aren’t coaching, salespeople aren’t selling to their potential, and are losing sales and customer retention as a result. And we both know that sales is the engine that drives the success and growth of every business.
I’m also thinking broadly about your expectations, and your ultimate goal of creating what we’ve defined as a healthy, top-performing coaching culture. You shared with me that your current culture is similar to every other company culture; a result-driven, fear-based, metrics focused, scorecard obsessed culture driven by managers that are directive, Chief Problem Solvers who spend their days telling people what to do and doing other people’s job for them rather than coaching them, which stagnates growth and puts more work and problems on the manager’s plate that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Is this still accurate?”
“That sums it up, Keith! Now, compound this with the continued shift to a remote workforce, it seems we’re just trying to manage the daily chaos and the changes around our newly redesigned sales org. Now that our entire team is working remotely, managers need to figure out how to manage and support people to create a healthy, productive remote workplace in this environment.
But What, There’s More…
“Most important, we need to stop doing sales triage and start reinventing the way we sell, support, and service our customers so we can still drive new business while retaining existing customers. I know you said earlier doing more of what we did yesterday, isn’t getting us any closer to our goals in this new marketplace. I agree we need to reinvent how we sell so it’s aligned with how customers are now making purchasing decisions. It sounds like we also need our salespeople to learn how to coach their customers to succeed in our new world!
Right now, we’re pushing ahead to sell, while trying to figure this out as we go, especially how all departments will be collaborating and working together.
Oh, and I almost forgot about our high-potential program for up and coming sales leaders. We’ve identified those salespeople who have expressed interest in moving into a management role and have the potential and disposition to be a great leader. If we include the high potentials per region, that’s about another three people from each sales team.”
“Thanks, Jamie. Aside from all people managers, was there any discussion around whether those who you identified as high potentials take this course?”
(Pause) “I didn’t even think of that either. Probably because I thought this course is only for senior sales leaders and all front line sales managers, and our #1 priority is driving sales and revenue.”
“I can understand that. This program is a perfect fit for sales managers and all people managers. That’s why the only way to create an authentic coaching culture is when everyone is coaching each other and are speaking the same language of leadership – coaching. And that also includes your salespeople coaching your customers, their peers, and you!
With my coaching framework, while the departments, the manager/coach, and the people you’re coaching may change, the coaching framework and coaching methodology do not. It’s sort of how your company’s vision statement and core values are the foundation of your business that impacts everyone.
That’s the exciting part of my coaching model. It stays consistent in every situation, rather than over-engineering the process or thinking you need a different model for each type of manager, role, industry, or department.
It will be one company, one vision, and one universal coaching methodology and framework that all people leaders are using to complement company objectives and shared values. Most importantly, this develops a universal language around coaching that everyone is speaking and can connect with.”
The Coaching Conversation that Uncovered the Corporate Blindspot
I could sense Jamie was processing this information. “I get that, and it makes perfect sense. But here’s my concern. If we expand the group from just the front line managers to their VP’s, and also include the high potentials who are still in a sales role, and in addition, all the managers outside of the sales department, you mentioned not separating the departments but mixing them up in each delivery. So, we need to figure out how many deliveries are needed, and how to break up these audiences for each training delivery.
One concern about doing it this way is if we’re now including the sales department with the managers in other departments, it’s going to change the dynamic in the room.”
“You said you want to include the people who are part of our high potential program who are still salespeople. Well, the salespeople’s managers are going to be in the same room.”
“Their manager’s manager is also going to be there.”
“And, what else?”
“If we’re including people from other departments, they won’t be able to collaborate with or even coach each other, since they all have different roles and responsibilities.
Finally, if the front line sales managers know their manager is in the room with them, and the high potentials know their manager is also in the room, people will feel intimidated, vulnerable and won’t open up or share their ideas in fear of looking bad, being wrong or revealing any weaknesses in front of everyone, especially their manager.”
“What other concerns, if any, do you have?” I asked.
“Then there’s the issue of making this relevant to each person from every department. How does that even work? I mean, how are sales, operations, and marketing taking the same course together when they all have different goals and challenges?
These challenges would change the dynamic in the room, and we need to create a safe environment of trust, collaboration, transparency, and support.
If we combine this group the way you suggest, people may want to bring up certain challenges, goals, or issues they may have with some of the people or other departments who are in the same room! Now, because they are all together, they’ll probably hold back, which is going to inhibit learning objectives.”
The Hard Cost of Company Assumptions
“I appreciate how you feel. May I ask, what assumptions you may be making regarding the limitations you feel are being placed on the room dynamic and the diluted impact the course will make with such a varied population represented in the room?”
“I guess it will not be effective, because there won’t be the trust needed in the room for people to truly open up with their goals, fears, concerns, and challenges. I’m also assuming there’s no way someone would bring up a personal challenge with someone else in the room. And if they’re not willing to do this, then nothing can be resolved or achieved.”
“What are the facts you have to support this?”
(Pause) “I guess I don’t. After all, we’ve never done anything like this!”
“Okay, so if we’re making assumptions, then what if the opposite were true?”
“This approach will break down departmental walls, assumptions of others, personal and departmental barriers, and even team silos that prevent everyone from working well together to get their job done more effectively, efficiently and without the frustration, wasted time and added stress.
And this could dramatically help strengthen the relationships we need internally, as we rely on other departments to get our jobs done, as they do with us. Plus, if everyone adopts the coaching mindset and habit, everyone knows each other’s positive intent when approaching them with questions, feedback, observations, requests, or a request for help. That in itself would be priceless, as it eliminates all the time-consuming drama in the office!”
“Thanks, Jamie. I appreciate you sharing this with me. Now that we’ve talked this through, given your concerns, can you please remind me why you reached out to me in the first place?”
“Sure, as discussed, we determined that the top initiatives, priorities, and challenges we need to work through are as follows:
- Lost sales, including up-selling and cross-selling opportunities
- Loss of customers to our competition
- Making a successful transformation into a high-performance, remote team.
- Forecast and pipeline inaccuracy
- A decrease in customer retention
- Departmental silos which destroy trust, collaboration, communication, relationships, and productivity
- Underperformers who are consuming the managers’ time and negatively impacting sales goals
- Dealing with problems that shouldn’t be there, costing managers about 25 hours each week
- Reluctance from management that coaching and developing their team is their #1 priority
- Higher turnover, lower retention of top producers
- Our scorecard, result-driven culture breeds stress, low morale, a toxic environment, employee disengagement, strained relationships, and lost trust
- Inability to scale because the manager’s direct reports are all dependent on their manager to get their job done
- Failure to prepare salespeople for their next role as a sales manager and coach
“Thanks again for sharing that. Now, if you can create your ideal outcome and company culture, what would that look like?”
“A thriving, top-performing, enjoyable, accountable culture. Where all salespeople are hitting their sales goals. There’s less turnover. People come to work feeling great about their job and the work they do. People feel they’re making a difference. Everyone enjoys working and supporting each other. People come to work, knowing their goals, priorities, and values are being honored because they are also aligned with the company’s, so they can create more harmony, significance, and a healthy, balanced life while honoring business objectives.”
“That’s interesting. How does the vision of this ideal culture conflict or align with the concerns you voiced earlier around including the larger, diverse population in each program delivery and then expanding this companywide?”
“Now that I rethink this, you’re right. But we’re so wired to focus on sales, the bottom line, revenue, the cost of taking people out of their role or out of the field for two days of training, and then there’s the concern around the return on investment, and the budget available for these types of initiatives, which we then have to sell internally.”
Where I Call BS and Expose the Corporate Blindspot
“Jamie, I can appreciate the hesitancy and concerns you have about this. I have one question left to ask. Given the challenges you shared, company goals, and the objectives you want to achieve from this program, what’s going to happen if you don’t do anything and nothing changes? What’s the overall cost that will negatively impact you and the company?”
“Ouch. Yup. Nothing changes? Then we continue to struggle with what we want this course to resolve, lose sales, good people, a healthy culture, revenue, and market share. And I get to continue to stress, worry, and spend all of my time trying to figure out how to fix this, while taking time away from my family and priorities. And I also struggle with ensuring people are not only productive working remotely, but are also, designing their life in a way that balances all their priorities. Pretty much all of the things we’ve been struggling with and want to resolve, which is why I call you!
And what kind of company would we be if we didn’t honor our vision and core values, which we’re clearly not doing so today? I mean, the way we manage people does not reflect our vision and values, when all we do is push for results. No wonder why there’s so much uncertainty, fear, and distrust. We’re a bunch of hypocrites!”
“Hey, Jamie. Hold on. This isn’t a reason to be hard on you or anyone else. After all, your challenges are what all companies struggle with, which makes it difficult to see what the real solution to designing a thriving culture really is. And I say that to validate where you are now.
I appreciate your willingness to expand your point of view around this so that you can see the company and personal benefits of revamping this initiative to ensure it makes a long term impact.”
One More Corporate Blindspot to Expose
“Keith, I have one other concern. If you have everyone in the room learning the same coaching strategies, putting aside the people who will be in the same room with their peers from different departments, when the course ends, the managers are going to worry that their direct reports will know what they’re doing when coaching them.
For example, the manager’s direct reports and their peers will know when that manager is trying to coach them or enroll them around something they need to do or change. And the front-line sales managers will know when their VP’s are coaching them! And vice-versa!”
Jamie paused. I sensed the lightbulb go on. “Ahh! This is exactly what we want and need to create! The transparency, support, universal vision, values, coaching mindset, and the trust needed for coaching to permeate throughout the organization, so everyone can best support each other and develop the habit of coaching.
Getting everyone together is the only way you can create a thriving coaching culture, rather than creating it in just one department. No wonder why this has been such a struggle. Talk about a blind spot! It sounds like we need to re-think this initiative and explore how we can include what we’ve discussed at a deeper and wider level; and how to roll this out. Let’s schedule that call now.”
Time to Choose
Managers, if want to create your ideal culture, then start modeling the values, activities, and characteristics you want to see in your people.
Take a moment to self-reflect. Now that you know the truth and what it takes to achieve cultural nirvana, does your company, leadership, and you have the commitment it takes to do what’s necessary to create the company culture you really want?
I believe many companies do. It’s just a matter of knowing exactly what it entails to achieve your company vision.
Here’s the good news. As companies begin this journey of cultural transformation, there’s one person who can start impacting immediate, positive change. The manager. You already have the power to create the coaching culture and subculture you want among your team and other departments today.
After all, you are the culture.