There’s certainly a tactical element of coaching that any coach can benefit from following, a process or template to use as a guide on how to coach, especially throughout your initial attempts at coaching people. However, it’s the other stuff that they can’t teach you in coaching school: experience, life lessons, personal drive, integrity. Regardless of your position or your profession, I’ve noticed certain commonalities among the greatest coaches I know and have coached.
1. You can’t take someone where you haven’t been yourself.
Sure you may be in sales, but has your coach ever held a sales position before, let alone been a top producer in her industry and company? If you’re a business owner, manager, or executive, has your coach experienced the same challenges and successes and learned the valuable time-saving lessons that will help you build a high-performance team or grow your business? Having an experienced coach in your corner who also happens to be a successful business owner and salesperson gives you the additional edge that’s sure to cut down the time-consuming and often costly learning curve it takes for you to learn and achieve what’s most important to you.
2. A top coach is a model of what is possible to achieve.
The most effective way to teach others, that is, employees, clients, and even family members, is to exemplify that which you want to teach. From the time you walk into the office, your appearance and disposition, as well as how you handle problems, talk to clients, complete tasks and projects, show your work ethic, and demonstrate your commitment to your people as their manager, sends a message to your staff that says, “This is how it is done.” The “Do as I say not as I do” approach to managing is no longer effective. Managers need to think beyond their spoken word and evaluate their behavior to fully identify the overall message they are really sending to their staff.
A hard truth to embrace but one that rewards every manager who does is this: Businesses take on the complexion of their owners and management, both their strengths and weaknesses. You can’t expect your team to go the extra mile, feel great about their work, be highly organized, and be fully accountable for their performance if their leader is not.
The greatest leaders know that in order to have an impact on others, they need to change themselves first. If you want to accelerate team performance in ways other than through training and coaching, upgrade the message you send in your communication, which also encompasses your actions as well as your behavior. You owe it to yourself as well as to your team. You are their manager and have a responsibility that transcends monthly numbers or year-end sales targets. You create the atmosphere and culture among your team. You develop the parameters that determine exactly how effective your sales team can be each day. Are you setting them up to thrive or simply survive? When you have the power to make a difference in just one person’s life, you are a leader.
3. Sometimes they really need the answer.
So give it to them rather than throwing another question at them, which does nothing more than frustrate the person you are coaching. The sad truth is that most coaches can’t give the answer. Why? Go back to the first quality. You can’t get the answers from a coach who hasn’t been where you want to be.
Interestingly, most people need more than just a coach to reach their goals. They also need someone who can give them the best solutions, sometimes the answers, and reduce their learning curve (via training, advising, and consulting). Only an experienced coach who possesses great business acumen and experience in the real world can do this.
4. Coach from your heart, not from your head.
When I first started coaching I had a master list of questions I used to ensure I was in fact asking the right questions. (I share these questions with you in the appendix of my book Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions.) After coaching dozens of people over the course of my first several months as a new coach, I realized that the greatest coaches coach from their hearts, not their heads. That is, rather than focus on the “Five Steps to Coach Anyone” or some cookie cutter model that can be bought off the shelf, the truly masterful coaches go many layers deeper in themselves to become the most effective coaches they can be. There is certainly a place for templates and a step-by-step model when coaching, as I’ve outlined throughout my book. However, once you have evolved into a coach, it defines who you are, not just what you do. It becomes part of you. Rather than simply “doing” coaching, you are now coaching from your heart as a natural expression of yourself.
The most effective way to uncover and connect with someone else’s heart, spirit, drive, and passion is to first tap into your own. The more you, as a coach, trust and use your gut feelings, your intuition, your instincts, the more of an impact you will have on the people you coach.
5. Develop your personal style of coaching.
When people ask me what my style of coaching is, I say, “Direct yet light, exploratory, action-oriented, comprehensive, easily adaptable, conversational, enjoyable, tactical, and results-oriented. I’m your safe sounding board, your advisor, accountability partner, cheerleader, personal trainer, and consultant.”
Building off the attribute discussed in No. 4, developing your own coaching style is something that doesn’t happen immediately but as an organic process as you coach more and more people. The most effective coaches have learned to trust their heart and, in turn, trust their personality. Their style of coaching complements who they are naturally. These are the coaches who reign supreme, for they know that the very thing that their salespeople or clients find attractive in them is who they are, not simply what they do. Give yourself permission to be the authentic you and let your gifts radiate throughout the coaching you deliver.
It is perfectly normal and natural to have resistance to making the transformational shift from sales manager to sales coach. Considering what is required of you, it is a tall order. Much more is expected from the sales coach than the sales manager. However, imagine what would be possible for you and for your sales team once you make this transformation. For those managers who are willing to do so, the rewards are abundant.
Keith Rosen is an executive sales coach, speaker, and best-selling author of many books, including Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions. He was named one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country by Inc. magazine and Fast Company. He can be contacted at 516-771-1444, email@example.com, or his Web site.