– Florin Glinta
I still remember the engaging discussions in the 5th module of the first edition of Sales Management Academy,recently completed.
Can the sales manager be a coach for the people in his own team? If so, can he be a coach for everyone? What are the benefits? If not, what prevents it and what is he losing? There are intensely debated questions, with excellent arguments on both sides and I can hardly wait for the next discussions during the 2nd edition, March – June 2020, in which I hope we will have intelligent and funny people, at least as engaging as those who have already become the first cohort of students.
At Sfera Business we have a nuanced and very pragmatic position about how a manager can be a coach for his team.
First of all, it is clear that the practice of using an external organizational coach, when properly implemented, leads to positive effects: increasing responsibility towards one’s own goals, strengthening one’s self-esteem and improving overall performance.
On the other hand, several specialists in organizational behavior claim that a coach manager role is an extremely controversial and problematic position.
We firmly believe that a good manager has several tools in the box, and manages to change them appropriately to effectively deal with a subordinate in any given context without having a universally valid prescription in this regard.
He can position himself as:
“The one who gives feedback” – when he signals to the subordinate that he has not met some predetermined behavior and performance standards;
Trainer – when transferring knowledge and skills to the people under him;
Consultant – when offering solutions;
Mentor – when the difference of experience and seniority allows him to give advice;
Coach – when assisting the subordinate by posing questions, to help them discover their own solutions in a logical manner.
Although the coach in me could make me a little biased, I am not partial to classic coaching sessions with a formalized structure in the manager-subordinate relationship, for reasons that I will present later; but they clearly support the need to provide the manager with coaching techniques for use in daily interactions with the members of the team. For this to happen however, organizations need to build a culture that supports the continuous application of coaching skills.
What are the advantages of mastering and using coaching techniques in the relationship with your team?
Increasing performance: The obvious positive outcome is that, through meaningful conversations with his subordinates, the manager creates the most powerful and capable experiences to lead to changes in substance and duration in equipment performance.
Clarity and responsibility on objectives: the manager-coach can help people understand what alignment exists between personal and organizational objectives; to generate different paths and options for achieving the goals.
Improving the relationship with subordinates: Walking in a coaches shoes lead you to listen a lot and make less judgments on the other person. Listening must be authentic (not just give the impression that you’re listening) and it creates trust between the two. Subordinates feel more “engaged”, more involved in the life of the team and in decisions whilst feeling that you care about them.
What challenges can you encounter as a manager coach for your team?
The power status you have: an external coach does everything to minimize the supposed power difference, and is placed on an equal footing with the manager. You will not succeed 100% with your subordinates. Especially if you are part of their “problem”, or see you as an obstacle to personal goals or even work related goals. All you can do is earn their trust by showing that you have common interests in developing that person. Attention: DO NOT violate the rule of confidentiality, unless keeping the information only for yourself brings greater harm to the team or organization, or even to your subordinate!
The temptation to offer solutions or directions: while it may be an effective approach with beginners or in crisis situations, it generally produces resistance or frustration. In addition, there is a trap where you can easily walk into and fall alone: subordinates will always come back to you for more solutions to new problems and this will exhaust you. It is more useful to learn to ask good questions, to challenge people intellectually, and this will help the other person to think, to raise awareness of his surroundings and to develop skills.
Remember the feedback: questions like “how do you see this, how would you do it?” are very good, but it is essential for them to be completed by an efficient feedback, which will put the subordinates in the desired direction, to make them understand how they have deviated from standards and expectations. You are in a privileged position to help your people set goals through coaching, and to be close to them to monitor and correct their performance through feedback!
Instead of conclusions
For an authentic development of your team, as a sales manager, you need to develop your coaching skills and the ability to put into practice changing the roles and tools you have depending on the context. It is excellent to train your ability to listen and ask questions with substance, to set goals and to provide feedback, to monitor performance and to motivate through personal example and to develop these capabilities for both 1-to-1 meetings, and for group interactions where the dynamics are different.
It is difficult to find all this in a single training program, and we are proud to say that at Sales Management Academy we combine them all in a very harmonious package, which has not only been received with interest and curiosity by our newest participants, but it is also seriously validated by the examples of experienced ones.