Too often, as managers, if we do coach, our coaching is ineffective. One of the key reasons is that we are unfocused on what we are trying to achieve with each person.
What happens is that we see skills that need to be developed, new habits that need to be solidified, behaviors we need to change. In our coaching, we try to achieve all of these things with the sales person.
We may do this in a single one on one, deal review, call review, or whatever conversation we have.
Our intentions are good, we are trying to help our people learn, discover, improve, and grow, but we inundate them with too many things.
They become confused.
It’s kind of like a friend that tried to coach me on my golf swing, “Keep your head down, tuck your elbow in, take a full back swing, rotate your hips, don’t forget the follow through…..” There were so many things wrong with my golf swing, trying to be helpful, he was seeking me to improve everything at once. The result, nothing changed, in fact I may have gotten worse. I was so confused by his coaching—I was trying to do everything he suggested, but ended up doing nothing that was helpful in improving my swing.
I decided to pay a professional, he slowed things down, figuratively and literally. First, he focused on one thing, I needed to slow down to smooth out my swing. He coached me on slowing the motion down, which ended up smoothing the whole swing. With a little practice, it started becoming very natural and repeatable. Then he went on to the next thing, then the next…..
Rather than trying to correct everything at once, he focused on one thing at a time. He coached me, I practiced, he wouldn’t move on until I had mastered that one thing.
The other thing, I noticed was what he chose to coach and the order he chose. He could have started anywhere, with my head bobbing, dipping my knee, by back swing, my elbow sticking out in the wrong place, by follow through, the position of my feet. Instead he chose the one thing that was most important–and which would influence everything else he needed to coach me on. He focused first on my swing speed or tempo.
Ironically, by slowing things down, focusing on one thing at a time, I suspect my swing improved much more quickly than I would have by following my friend’s coaching. First, the ball started going the direction I wanted it to go, then it started going further on the drives, or the right distance on my approaches and chips. The professional got me to improve my stroke very quickly by simply focusing on one thing at a time, and focusing on the foundational things first (Think Covey, “First things first.”)
In coaching our people, often, there are lots of things they need to change or improve to improve their effectiveness. We confuse them by trying to do too much at once, “You need to do more prospecting, you need to improve your qualifying skills, your questioning isn’t as effective as it should be, you aren’t demonstrating value in each meeting, you need to……..”
We aren’t doing them, ourselves, our customers, or our organizations any favors by trying to address all these things at one time. Instead, we need to focus on one area at a time. We need to coach them on that one area until they have mastered it. Then we move to the next, then the next, then the next…..
We need to be careful about getting first things first. What’s the most important or foundational area to start with? In the example above, if the person needs to do more/better prospecting, better qualifying, better questioning, improve their ability to demonstrate value, where would we start? Perhaps questioning. If we improve their ability in questioning–asking the right questions at the right time with the right people, engaging them in higher quality conversations–then perhaps other things will improve along the way. Their prospecting will improve, their qualifying will improve, and so forth. Once they master questioning, then we can start tuning their prospecting, then the next, then the next.
Think about each person on your team. What is the single most important thing you should be coaching them on right now? Focus on that in every coaching session, make sure they master it before moving on.
It’s amazing how fast performance improves with this simple change in how we coach.