There are various opinions about the importance of coaching. Some even argue that sales managers shouldn’t be coaches at all. So where should coaching fall as a priority for a sales manager and why?
Failed coaching initiatives happen frequently in many organizations for a variety of reasons. The main reason is that, quite frankly, coaching is more difficult than most managers realize. Granted, there are a many moving parts and variables which come into play that would determine how effective the coach is, how valuable the coaching is, and whether or not all sales managers or even a specific sales manager needs to, or for that matter, has the opportunity to transform into more of a coach.
In this post, I’ve listed fourteen questions that every company needs to address in order to ensure the long term success of any coaching initiative.
1. How is coaching introduced and rolled out within the organization? Is coaching being positioned correctly? (Is coaching positioned as a perk to better support each person at every level or is it viewed as more remedial for the underperformer and “broken wing?” (I.e. “You’re broken and you need some fixing!”)
2. What type of coach training will the managers receive? This is another topic altogether, that is, how to choose the right management coach training program that will produce a measurable return on your time and monetary investment.
3. What is the company’s definition of coaching? What is the universal definition of coaching that each manager will be embracing? Ultimately, coaching is a language, a new way of communicating and engaging at a deeper, more meaningful level. This is why managers always have an opportunity to coach in every interaction.
4. What is the level of buy in and commitment from the top? Are senior leaders fully onboard and supportive of this initiative? Will they be coaching as well? In some companies, I’ve seen senior leaders actually pull their people out of a management coach training program! (Hmm, now what message is being sent here?)
5. Building off the commitment of senior leadership, has coaching been made a priority as reflected in the manager’s new daily responsibilities? Has more room been made in the manager’s schedule, have certain activities or tasks been removed or their workload decreased to make room for coaching, has more support been given to management so they can offload some of these activities that have now been marked as less of a priority in relation to coaching?
6. What is the commitment each manager has to their team around how each person wants and needs to be supported based on their individuality?
7. Does the manager have the right team to be coaching?
8. How willing is the manager to develop this new skill of coaching in order to make their people more valuable? (This is management’s primary objective.)
9. How effective is the manager in enrolling their salespeople around being coached? Did they uncover and shatter negative assumptions, faulty thinking and costly perceptions around coaching?
10. What is the level of trust between the salesperson and manager? Was it established, confirmed, assumed or re-created?
11. Is the manager also a producer? Coaching is challenging enough for managers. Does this create an even more challenging dynamic if there’s a sense of competition between manager and salesperson? (Is the manager’s personal agenda aligned or conflicting with coaching?)
12. What is the level of consistency and follow through in the coaching? Does the manager only coach in ‘good’ or in ‘bad’ times?
13. Is there a dedicated coaching team? If the manager doesn’t deliver formal coaching (as in scheduled weekly or biweekly coaching sessions, for example), then someone needs to do so. In some organizations, it’s worked to have a separate sales skills coaching team that fills some of this void, whether it’s outsourced or done internally. Keep in mind, this doesn’t dismiss the need for managers to learn how to coach. What it does is help leverage the manager’s time and complements the coaching they are doing with their team. After all, the manager will still need to support the work that the external coach is doing with their team.
14. Who will be coaching the coach? Is this coaching initiative reactionary and event based or built to sustain itself over the long term? Training your managers in effective coaching skills and providing them with a framework they can use to coach is only one part of the equation. After the training is over, what is being done to reinforce the coaching and what was learned during the coach training program? What level of continued support is being provided for management to ensure that the managers themselves have a coach to lean on for support and accountability throughout the process? Who can the manager go to for situational coaching where they can share what they’ve experienced while coaching their salespeople as well as discuss their challenges and goals in a safe and confidential setting? Offering ongoing coaching for your managers will further embed their newly learned skills and the approach they need in order to lead and develop their people. Having a coach for the managers also sends the right message to your salespeople regarding the stand that management is taking around coaching by demonstrating the importance of coaching – at every level.
These are just a handful of questions, observations and potential pitfalls that every company needs to be mindful of and address to ensure the success of any long term coaching initiative, as well as the level of success that the manager will be able to realize when coaching.
Photo Credit: Moyan_Brenn