Uncoachable People or Underdeveloped Coaches?

Become a better sales coach and sales manager today.

Perhaps we need to rethink how to determine a person’s coachability. Does it only concern the person who’s not coachable? Or is it more about the ability of the coach?

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith Rosen
In previous articles and blog posts, I’ve suggested the following truth regarding whether or not someone is, in fact, coachable:

“It’s one thing if a manager wants a person on their team to reach their fullest potential which is BEYOND them simply hitting quota. In this instance, this can be a situation where the manager wants more for the salesperson than the salesperson wants for themselves. The salesperson may be happy and satisfied where they are now and if that’s the case, if they don’t have the desire and willingness to change supported by conscious effort, there’s little you can do…

…Here’s one final point regarding your ability to coach someone on their desire and willingness. Sure, you can attempt to pull out what motivates them in an attempt to instill a deeper commitment and willingness to do their job. And often times you can successfully turn someone around by enrolling them in the benefits they will experience when they do make positive change. However, after attempting to do so and the evidence is still not there that would demonstrate a measurable change, this becomes a time consuming exercise in futility.”

I mentioned this in the last training program I completed overseas. And as a result of my experience, have repositioned this message. During this last training event, every sales manager in each training session was onboard and excited to go and start coaching their salespeople – truly coaching their people based on the new coaching framework they now have and the revised definition of coaching that was introduced to them.

A week after the training was completed, I received a report from my internal contact, telling me that out of 50 managers, 48 of them were enthusiastic and successful in enrolling their team in more ongoing coaching and further fostering this important part of their relationship between the manager and salesperson.

But, what about those two managers?

Why were their teams resistant to their message? Is it possible that all of the 15 salespeople that each of these managers managed on their teams, where, in fact, uncoachable? Was it ALL about the salesperson?

Wait, what about the skill of the manager? What about the manager’s ability to affect positive change? What about their ability and skill when it comes to coaching and enrolling their salespeople in wanting to be coached?

Now, I certainly stand behind my initial point around coachability above. (I actually list seven factors that determine a person’s coachability index in my book, Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions.) I’m not disputing the fact that if the person you’re attempting to coach (the coachee) does not have the desire and commitment to change, supported by evidence of action and effort, your coaching will be ineffective.

However, I am adding another layer of truth to this observation that needs to be in the forefront of our line of vision, especially for those coaches and managers who are coaching their sales team.

Think back to the story I just shared about the managers whose teams was unreceptive to being coached.

What role is the coach or manager playing in this resistance?

1. Were they not communicating the correct message to their team and as such, their attempt to enroll their people in coaching was ineffective?

2. Was the manager sensitive to the timing of the conversation? Was there some news, (i.e. internal company changes, news on client retention, a lost account, a change in their salespeople’s compensation, etc.) that distracted the team from the message the manager was attempting to send? Timing is critical when coaching and enrolling people in wanting to be coached in the first place.

3. Maybe the manager simply isn’t a good coach? Maybe they are lacking in the training, competencies and proficiency needed to be a good coach and powerful communicator.

4. Was the most important factor for any coaching to be effective, prior to enrolling them in coaching, even present? TRUST. If there is no trust, if prior negative experiences have tarnished the relationship, if a manager’s poor reputation precedes them, if there are some costly assumptions or beliefs, even around coaching, that are overshadowing the manager’s efforts (i.e. coaching is for those people who aren’t doing very well, coaching is for the person who needs ‘fixing’ rather than the top performers, I’ve had a bad experienced being coached before, etc.) then your coaching efforts will never yield its maximum potential and the impact that it could have.

5. And finally, what if the manager simply doesn’t want to coach, doesn’t want to invest the additional time into coaching their people, thinks they’re ‘already’ coaching or doesn’t truly believe in coaching, even though their company is sanctioning this change from the top in an effort to transform the culture into a coaching culture?

With all of these additional variables to consider, lets even the playing field for a moment and keep things equal when assessing a person’s coachability and assume these five points I mentioned are not current barriers to effective coaching. Then and only then can you assess with greater accuracy whether it’s more about the person’s desire and willingness to change and be coached or whether it’s more about you; the manager.

The important point here is this. Without taking these additional variables and factors into consideration, you are only assessing a person’s desire and ability to be coached through a myopic set of lenses, without providing you the full panoramic, objective view of what needs to be measured and explored.

So, how has this changed the way I deliver my program? Now, when delivering my management coach training program, I’ve omitted the slide in my PowerPoint that can potentially provide a reluctant or ‘non-believing’ manager the out so they don’t have to coach. People often hear the message they want to hear. As such, I never want to provide a manager a conditional, one sided case for not coaching their people and an excuse for them to give up on their coaching efforts. (“I tried to coach my people. I tried to enroll them in coaching. They’re simply not coachable and don’t demonstrate the desire to change. Oh, and it has nothing to do with me.”)

The new message?

Everyone is coachable. It’s up to you to uncover how to create that possibility for coaching to occur. Every manager possesses the power to do so. It’s up to you to refine that power by learning how to better coach and communicate with your team.

Photo Credit: Davide Restivo