With over 20 years experience both managing and coaching teams at the frontline of multiple sales and service operations, I am of the firm belief that consistent and effective coaching is THE single most important activity of all the things you can do as a manager to transform behaviour, culture and performance.
I was lucky enough in the early stages of my career to have terrific managers. In fact the first three I ever had were all tremendous for one common reason…they were all great coaches. I do what I do today (i.e. coach others) for that reason more than any other.
Think back on your best boss, teacher or sports coach. What impact did they have on your life?
Unfortunately after being so lucky early in my career, most of my many different managers after that were poor to average at best. They also shared a singular common attribute as the reason for their in-effectiveness. They were all abject failures as coaches.
They would tell me what to do, they would tell me what numbers I needed, targets to achieve or attitude readjustments I may have required. But they weren’t spending any time with me so that together we could figure out how I could do my job better with their guidance, expertise and support. And can you guess what happened as a result? I left each and every one of them.
One of the most insightful things I have read in my career is ‘People don’t leave companies, people leave managers’. Think of your own work history and why you changed jobs, or even why you didn’t and instead chose to stick it out. It’s a rare change of job that isn’t about having a bad manager. And when you were challenged, motivated, happy and successful in a given role, it is unlikely that you didn’t have a strong leader and coach as your boss at the helm.
Show me a bad manager and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t coach.
Now if you want to be a great manager then the largest component of your role should be spent in coaching activity that motivates, teaches and supports your staff in how to do their jobs better to continuously improve their performance. That’s it. At the frontline of service organisations in particular, everything else is of significantly less importance in terms of its impact on delivering the desired sales and service experience to customers that drives business growth.
The best companies to work for (or the best departments within a company) are typically defined by their strong coaching cultures even if many other parts of their operations are quite different. Yet operations with strong coaching cultures are certainly in the minority. Just like great customer experiences… and that’s no coincidence.
As a manager, if you can’t make a choice to prioritise supporting and developing your staff through coaching, then how motivated do you think they’ll be to support your customers?
Many managers genuinely do believe that they spend a lot of their time coaching and yet wonder why the performance never seems to improve. Well more than likely what they call ‘coaching’ isn’t that at all but rather performance monitoring or just simply feedback. Feedback is NOT coaching. They are two very different but complimentary components of a continuous improvement process.
Below is a list of what I consider to be some of the most important, practical advice and actions to implement right now if you wish to start a transformation process centred around coaching:
- Stop looking at the stats
- Get out of all those meetings…you can say no!
- Get off email Get away from your desk
- Get down and dirty in the trenches with your staff
- Less talking, less analysis, more listening
- Do get personal… it’s never just business
- Treat everyone different…because they are
- More demonstration yourself of what is required…walk the talk!
- Spend more time with your best people & ignore them at your peril
- Don’t let the poorest performers steal all your time and attention
- Don’t bother coaching someone who doesn’t want to learn
- Do coach within the first two hours of every day
- Don’t buy into your own excuses as to why you couldn’t coach
- You don’t have to be an expert to get started
- You don’t have to have all the answers
- Do spend time with your team to figure it out together
When you make the effort to coach, everything changes. This is how you can earn your team’s respect. This is what shows your team that you actually care about them being good at what they do. It’s not about you – it’s about them. The benefit to you will comeback tenfold anyway without you being the focus.
But be warned. If you’re a manager who generally doesn’t like to help people, and empathy isn’t a strong point, then you probably won’t be that good as a coach. However, if the thought of engaging the hearts and minds of those you manage is right up your alley, then you have all the raw ingredients to not only be a good manager, but actually a great one. You can leave your own legacy through a focus on individuals and helping them get better at what they do. Now that’s something worth investing in.
In future blogs, I’ll delve deeper into defining what coaching actually is (and what it isn’t) and the type of competencies and approaches you can use to be an effective coach who transforms behaviour and people.
Director & Co-Founder