To self-assess your coaching acumen, it’s essential for every manager to look in the mirror and be honest about where you stand in your evolutionary journey to becoming a world class coach. Use these 12 questions to help determine how effective your coaching really is.
Until companies truly make coaching as much of a priority as hitting their sales targets, most managers are left on their own to figure out the secret formula for effective coaching and how to lead a team to achieve unprecedented results. Ironically, in order to consistently hit your sales targets and have each salesperson on your team hit their individual goals, managers always need to be coaching!
If this is the case, then how does a manager know when they are truly coaching effectively? While many managers believe they are coaching their sales team, the hard truth is, they are not. They’re doing something else, such as training, directing, counseling, mentoring or advising. And just to be clear, there is no such thing as ‘directive coaching.’ Talk about an oxymoron!
To assess how good a coach you really are, one way is simple; just ask your sales team!
However, to self-assess your coaching acumen, it’s essential for every manager to look in a mirror, instead of looking out a window and be honest about where you stand in your evolutionary journey to becoming a world class coach.
Interestingly, after reviewing these questions, you will also find that many of these 12 questions apply directly to salespeople as well! So, if you’re a salesperson, these questions can help you self-assess your selling skills and whether or not you’re following best practices. Conversely, if you’re a manager, you can also use these questions to help uncover coaching opportunities within your sales team.
As a manager, if you’re following a proven coaching framework and methodology, then by default, the coaching conversations will happen automatically and you’ll be able to naturally tap into each person’s individuality so they can live their fullest potential today. However, if you and your direct reports are having a different coaching experience, or you find it difficult to coach, here are some tips from your coach, along with 12 questions you can ask yourself to uncover your growth opportunities so that you can continually better your best.
1. When coaching, are you facilitating the conversation with open ended questions or closed ended questions?
If you’re asking closed ended questions, you’re closing your people and directing them to the outcome you want, not coaching them. Don’t be sneaky! Open ended, loaded questions that contain your opinion or advice don’t count! (Example: “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to…..” or “Have you tried…”)
2. Are you patient? Do you give people the space to think through issues and arrive at a conclusion in the way THEY process information?
Respecting each person’s individuality also means respecting their thought process. If you find that you’re losing your patience during a conversation, or believe they’re not getting it ‘fast enough,’ then chances are, you are ‘shoulding’ all over your people! (Example: “They’ve been selling for years! They should already know how to handle this!”) Do yourself and your team a favor, don’t ‘should’ on them. After all, a ‘should’ is simply the excrement of your own agenda!
3. Are you focused on their agenda or yours?
Coaching isn’t about you! And no, it’s not effective to split the ‘one on one’ meetings you have with your people, where half of the meeting is their agenda and half of it is yours. The coaching session needs to be their sacred time and it needs to be positioned that way. Your people need to know that when you schedule a true coaching session, it’s 100% about them and their agenda and it needs to be positioned that way. Can’t you give your people just one hour for them? And if you find yourself struggling to do so, then maybe it’s because you don’t get this from your boss! If you have an agenda, as every manager does at one point or another, where your people have to do something or change something, then call a meeting but don’t call it a coaching session. All you’ll achieve is confusing your direct reports by sending conflicting messages as to what coaching is.
4. Are you coaching in your own image?
Does your experience actually get in the way of tapping into each person’s wisdom, talents and individuality? Do you find yourself saying things like, “Well, when I was in your position, here’s what I did when I was in a similar situation….” If so, you’re building robots or attempting to clone yourself. So, how’s that working for you?
5. Are you consistently coaching each person on your team?
If you feel compelled to jump in and solve a problem that’s gotten out of control or close a deal at the end of a quarter, you’ve already missed the coaching opportunity! If you were coaching consistently, you would be able to recognize the problem in its infancy, when your people can do something about it.
6. Are you asking questions that you don’t know the answer to?
If so, you’re coaching! And in many cases, while you may have the answers to their challenges, you want your directs to arrive at the solution on their own. After all, people resist what they hear but believe what they say. If they create it, they own it, rather than being told what to do.
7. Do you have a difficult time holding back your opinion in a conversation?
First, seek to understand the other person’s point of view. So, don’t take the bait when you ask them a question and they say, “I don’t know, boss! You tell me!” Remember, everyone has an opinion.
8. Do you act as the Chief Problem Solver, providing the solutions for your people every time they come to you with a challenge or for the answer?
What does every manager want? A team of independent, accountable salespeople. What do you create when you do the work for them? The very thing you want to avoid; greater dependency on you. Consequently, if your solution doesn’t work, then it’s your fault and they get to blame you! Now, you’re accountable for the solution, not them.
9. Do you struggle to find topics to discuss during a scheduled coaching session or get your people to open up?
If so, then you’re either pushing your own agenda, not observing them or there may be a trust issue. So, do a gut check; do your people trust you? How do you know? If you feel your people are just telling you what they think you want to hear, it’s time to rebuild trust and expectations.
10. How consistent are you with observation (joint sales calls, phone calls, field visits, etc.)? Are you observing your salespeople consistently in order to provide accurate feedback in a way that facilitates a positive and long term behavioral change?
If you’re not observing your people, then you don’t know what they’re really doing, making it difficult to uncover the coaching opportunities. Instead, you’re replacing the facts with your own costly assumptions. Remember, people can’t change what they don’t see. That’s why the sport coach stands on the sidelines, seeing what their players can’t see themselves. After all, even the top athletes in the world can’t self-diagnose when they’re in the middle of a game and neither can your salespeople. In either case, they’re playing to win. And if you’re struggling to find coaching opportunities with your top performers, observe them. You’ll find many opportunities to further develop even your most talented performers.
11. Is every person on your team open to your coaching and sharing the value they receive from coaching?
Did you clarify your intentions when coaching your team? Did you take the time to set expectations by asking them what would make coaching valuable for them? While your intentions may be pure and you are truly coming from the right place of wanting to support them, if they don’t know what you are doing, why you are doing it and what’s in it for them, like any human being, their default file is fear. The result? Resistance and pushback around being coached, especially from your top performers or seasoned veterans. Think about it. How have you positioned coaching with your team? Are you only coaching when there’s a problem or when dealing with performance issues?
12. Do you feel that your value as a manager is being the subject matter expert?
Sure, it’s certainly part of your value but that’s only going to take your team so far. Your real value and primary objective is making your people more valuable and building future leaders who can think on their own. The byproduct? You hit your sales targets.
Photo Credit: Keith Nerdin