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Helping Managers Coach…

by David Brock on May 18th, 2022

I suspect we all agree that coaching is important to the development of our people, and our own personal development. Perhaps a small number of people don’t really understand why it’s so important, but agree because it’s fashionable.

But now we get into some of the dicey areas, moving beyond the theoretical statement about coaching, to making it happen. Most of the data shows:

  • Too many managers aren’t coaching their people.
  • For those that do coach, the amount of time they spend coaching is way too low (some research shows the majority of managers spend less than 90 minutes a week, in total–across all their people, coaching.
  • Too many managers don’t know how to coach, as a result, whatever coaching they do is ineffective or just plain bad.

But the data, also, shows in those organizations where high quality coaching is done, performance is much higher, employee engagement is much higher, turnover is significantly reduced.

Still, those organizations are rare and coaching isn’t getting done. Consequently, both individually and organizationally, too many are failing to achieve their potential.

To be fair, this isn’t, necessarily, a problem bad intent on the part of managers. It’s more that they don’t know it is, perhaps, the single most important thing they can be doing to maximize performance, that it’s key to the effectiveness of their teams. Additionally, they aren’t held accountable for coaching or don’t know how to coach.

I won’t get into all the stuff about effective coaching, and so forth, I’ve written a best selling book, Sales Manager Survival Guide, going into great detail about this. Suffice it to say, the manager’s job is to maximize the performance of each person on the team, and coaching is one of the most important means to doing this.

What I worry about is that too many organizations, rather than focusing on helping managers learn how to coach and holding them accountable for coaching, I’m seeing organizations developing whole series of work-arounds.

Many organizations are leveraging technology solutions to provide “coaching.” Technology can help and complement managers in coaching. It can provide them data managers can leverage in coaching, but technology can never displace the value a manager creates in high impact coaching.

Too many organizations leverage technology to help managers become more efficient in coaching, spending less time, yet their coaching effectiveness and impact is very low. We need to, first, be leveraging technology to help managers become more effective in coaching.

Finally, managers are most effective when they have a “whole person view” in their coaching. They must answer the question “what is the highest leverage/impact area in I should focus on in maximizing this individual’s performance?” Current technologies can’t do this, they focus on a certain area, for example, conversational intelligence, or pipeline management, or account management, but they don’t provide a whole person perspective, enabling managers to focus on the right areas.

Many organizations have another approach, they provide “coaches” for the people. Whether it’s an internal organization or contracting for externally provided services. Again, these can be effective complements to the front line manager’s coaching, but can never be effective alternatives to the front line manager coaching.

First, these other coaches don’t see what’s happening with the individual on a day to day, week to week basis. They don’t have the context of what is happening, both in the specific situations, how the rep is doing the work, where the areas of leverage for performance improvement lie. At best they see it from a distance, or in the data, but they are missing the deep insight into what’s really happening.

These external coaches can be leveraged by managers in focusing on specific skill areas. For example, if a sales person needs help in improving prospecting skills, a coach with deep expertise/experience in prospecting can help in those skills. In virtually every skill area, people with deep expertise in those areas can be effective complements to the sales manager–but not displacing the manager’s accountability for maximizing performance of each individual and developing a coaching/development plan to achieve this.

But too often, in helping our people and managers, we seek solutions that displace manager responsibility and accountability. And we fail our people and our managers.

We do these things with the best of intents–or excuses; “They just don’t have the time….. They aren’t as skilled as they should be…. They don’t know how to assess then coach….. We have deeper coaching knowledge and capability…..” However, well intended, these are work-arounds and don’t address the real issues of maximizing performance, directly.

We serve our people, their managers, and our companies better by addressing the core issues, developing the capabilities of our managers to coach, holding them accountable for that, and providing resources to support them in doing this.

Afterword: One would hope it’s unnecessary to pose this question, but it is: Who’s responsible for coaching and developing front line managers? It’s their management! Senior management is accountable for maximizing the performance of each of the managers reporting to them. Coaching, again, is a key element of this.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample
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