You a Spreadsheet Jockey or Observant People Manager?

Don't get stuck being a spreadsheet jockey. Learn the power of observation.

Data only tells managers WHAT their people are doing. It doesn’t provide the insight and evidence needed to determine the QUALITY of their efforts. Learn how to do this right and become a truly powerful manager.

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith Rosen

I recently posted the following comment on Twitter and was asked to clarify what I meant by it:

Data tells you WHAT your people do-not the QUALITY of their efforts. That’s the difference between the A & C players. Observation is key.

For those of you who use Twitter, it’s sometimes a challenge to fit an insightful, thought provoking message into Twitter’s 140 character limit. Now that I have more space here to pontificate, let me explain further.

During any management coach training I deliver globally, regardless of location or industry, eventually a manager would talk about their top performing A Players and their under-performing C players. I’d then ask these managers, “How do you determine the root cause as to WHY someone is underperforming?”

The most common responses: “I look at their numbers. I look at their activity. I look at their results. I look at the data.”

The coaching moment for these managers is when they realize that the data only tells you WHAT your people are doing; their activity, actions and results. It does not provide the manager with the insight and evidence they need in order to determine the QUALITY of each person’s individual efforts.

Data doesn’t assess skill set, acumen, core competencies, best practices, communication, consistent execution of your sales process and ultimately, how effective and skilled each direct report is when engaging in the activities they need to in order to generate the desired results that would enable them to achieve their goals. That’s the real difference between the A & C players. Yet, when managers only look at and evaluate the data, they struggle with uncovering the root cause of certain problems and challenges, especially when it comes to performance issues.

Solving The Wrong Problems

What makes matters worse, is that in many cases, when managers solely rely on the results or their direct report’s activity to assess the root cause of the problem or the gap in someone’s performance, they often wind up inaccurately assessing the root cause and as such, address the wrong gap and ultimately, provide a solution for the wrong problem.

Here’s a common scenario. If you are a salesperson or have ever been a salesperson, did you ever have a conversation where your manager shared the following advice to help improve your performance?

“Listen, we both know you have to improve your performance in order to hit your quota. So, just make more calls and schedule more meetings with key decision makers.”

WOW! Can you envision that salesperson leaving the meeting, reading that email, or hanging up the phone and after hearing this sage advice, feel inspired and empowered to make the changes they need to succeed? Conversely, if you’re a manager who, at some point, just might have delivered a similar message like this, do you really believe that your direct report is thinking, “NOW I know what I need to do to solve all my problems. I just need to make MORE calls!” Not likely.

And for those direct reports who might take the worldly wisdom of their manager into consideration and actually make more calls, we all know that if they don’t have the right approach, strategy and message, they will not achieve the results they need. I believe there is a definition of the word “Insanity” that we’re all familiar with? “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

I’d like to share with you my definition of futility, which is,”Knowing the definition of insanity, and STILL not doing anything about it.

After all, you can take an A player and a C player and have each of them go out on ten scheduled appointments with new prospects or make ten cold calls. If you’re analyzing the data, you would see that they’re both engaging in the same activity. So what’s missing? HOW they go about engaging in that particular activity. How effectively they do it, the strategy they follow and most important, how they communicate and the questions they ask. That’s what differentiates the sales champions from the rest of the pack.

Like coaching, selling is a language. And the most successful salespeople clearly communicate at a higher, more powerful level. They’re more strategic communicators and certainly ask better questions when speaking with prospects and customers, especially the challenging, yet critical questions that many salespeople shy away from asking.

Shift from Being a Data Manager to a People Manager

The only way a manager can truly assess each individual’s competency, accurate gap as to why someone isn’t performing and uncover that powerful coaching moment is by observing them. Herein lies the opportunity for the manager to quickly assess each person’s skill gap, or blind spot; that is; what that person can’t see on their own. Think about sports and where the coach stands during the game: on the sidelines. Why? Because players can’t self – diagnose when they’re in the middle of the game. They are playing to win and so are your sellers when engaging with a customer or prospect. They are focused on the core objective, not on self-assessing; which is why every one of your directs need another set of eyes on the interaction between them and that particular prospect or customer.

So the next time you think you know what the real coaching moment is or the developmental opportunity for one of your direct reports, ask yourself, “Did I actually observe the real gap or root cause and have the facts and evidence to support it or did I draw an assumptive conclusion based solely on the data and my past experiences?”

To shift from being a data manager to a people manager requires making coaching and observation your priority. When you do so, you’ll soon see that observation is the hidden key to accurately uncovering the coaching moment; that developmental opportunity which transforms talent and shifts behavior in order to quickly and effectively tap into each individual’s true potential.

Photo Credit: Lauren Manning via Creative Commons