Training is a key part of any person’s development. We need training to develop new skills, to acquire knowledge, and to build our capability. Whether it’s on new products, new sales skills, new tools, training is a vital part of everyone’s development (sales professionals and managers alike).
But, training is not a substitute for coaching! often I encounter managers who “don’t have the time to coach.” Actually, I think it’s they don’t want to coach. Instead of coaching, they are glad to invest in training, thinking a few hours or days of training will correct all bad behaviors and skills deficiencies. Let’s take an easy example. All of us make sales calls, improving our ability to execute the sales calls, improving the results we get from each call, and reducing the number of calls to close are critical to improving sales performance. We can take people through training programs on how to plan and execute high impact sales calls. Many of these training programs will have great role plays, tools and materials the sales person can use to improve their impact in each call.
But training isn’t a solution for talking to Bill about that last sales call we went on together. Training can’t pose questions like: “Did you accomplish everything you planned to achieve?” “Could you have accomplished more?” What would you have done differently that might have improved the impact of the call?” ….and many other questions a manager might ask in coaching the call.
See coaching is about personal and professional development, but it deals with real situations, things that are actually happening, in real time. And they are different circumstances for each person. Training can never (and should never be expected to) achieve this.
Training and coaching, do have a very tight relationship. Too many organizations don’t get the results they should get from the training programs they implement. Little of this is the problem of the training supplier or vendor, but more of this is the way training has been implemented, and the role–or lack of it–that management has in reinforcing the training. Training can have a great impact in developing the capabilities of the team—but management has to be engaged, not only in determining what is being taught, but participating in the classes, and doing ongoing coaching reinforcement afterwards.
Having done a lot of training, it’s amazing the numbers of classes I’ve been involved with where management doesn’t attend or participate. Managers sitting in the back of the room, working on their Blackberry’s, not participating in any of the workshop (other than perhaps introducing the trainer) are not participating–they are attending. Managers need to be involved in the training workshop. Likewise, much is done through distance or eLearning. If managers expect their people to take the courses, they need to take the course as well—setting a powerful leadership example.
Most important, however, is what happens after training is completed. This is where managers need to coach and continually reinforce what’s been done in the workshop. Using our sales call skills example, managers need to coach and reinforce the planning process introduced in the class, they need to talk to sales people as they are planning calls, using what they’ve learned and reinforcing it in their coaching the sales call plan. Of course that’s difficult if the manager didn’t participate in the class or workshop.
No training program should be implemented without a plan and a commitment on the part of management to coach and reinforce the training afterwards. Otherwise, you are just wasting your people’s time and throwing money away. Recently, I got invovled in with an organization that had invested a lot of time and money in training on major accounts. They had used one of the “name” vendors to provide the training–they provide a great program. But the management team asked me, “Why aren’t we making the progress in the major accounts that we should?” (It was surprising to me they didn’t ask the vendor this or get the vendor involved in the solution–but that’s a different topic.).
I asked, “What are you, as managers doing to coach the people in developing and executing the major account strategies?” They kind of looked at me as if I had two heads, “Don’t you understand, we had training on this?”
I asked the question again, with more clarification. “What are you doing to coach your people in developing and executing the major account strategy? Your vendor provides great tools for developing major account plans, do you regularly review those plans and use the tools when you talk to your people?” They started looking at each other, no one wanted to answer, but none of them had incorporated anything that was done in the training into the way they reviewed the major account plans and progress in executing them. They didn’t even know what the tools were and how to use them. It’s no wonder they weren’t making any progress. Their people weren’t using what they had learned, managers weren’t continually reinforcing it.
Training and coaching are important. One does not replace the other, both are needed, both need to reinforce the other.