Home > Ideas > Don’t botch it, Coach!

Don’t botch it, Coach!

A friend and regular reader, Paul, read the article I had presented just this morning and said – “Jayadev, wouldn’t feedback be an important tool to overcome resistance”. He is right! My article spoke about the need for Sales Managers to consider a change in their attitude and behavior to make reportees more receptive to their ideas.

I kept thinking about what Paul had said and decided to address it right away, because that’s one of the tricks to overcome resistance. Face it and deal with it right away!

Quite often the talk among Sales Executives is directed at the person who rules their professional life – the Boss! And when things aren’t going fine some of the statements uttered would be on the following lines:

“If he is so good at selling, why doesn’t he go there and sell by himself?”

“He just has to sit in the cabin and give targets, we have to run around and do the hard bits.”

“This guy does not know the situation in the market today; he is trying to convince me to use his ancient methods”.

Sales Managers never have this addressed directly to them unless it’s a team-member who has decided to call it quits – the information reaches the Manager indirectly, usually from a peer who happens to be in good terms with one of his tam-members; or maybe from a team-member who decided to do his Boss a favour.

Managers shouldn’t leave such issues unattended because it not only drives down morale, but it can also impact Sales and increase customer dissatisfaction. So the rot has to be removed before it goes deep into the system.

The first thing the Manager must do, as suggested earlier, is to face it head-on. Ask the person what is the concern? Try to get to the specifics. If the team-member is not ready to talk you can provide him/her breathing space but get them to commit to a timeline to come clean on the matter. Tell them it is mission critical and hence can’t be delayed.

People avoid responding for a variety of reasons – anger, frustration, fear, embarrassment, worry, a feeling that it’s of no use, past experience tells them it’s a waste talking to the Manager, and team-member feels that it can be dealt with on his/her own.

The Manager has to get the person talking on the subject and he has to be considerate enough to give the person a fair hearing – if the person thinks that the methods suggested by the manager have been of no use the manager needs to be ready with facts to show that things are improving or be ready with an alternate approach after analyzing why the first suggestion did not work. Here the need is for the Coachee to understand that because an idea failed the Coach is not ineffective – things take time and may not always go as per plan. It’s for the Coach to take his team-member into confidence and help the person rework the plan in a non-confrontational way.

Usually Coachees distance themselves from Coaches who are not present in the arena – someone who is seated in an office, far removed from the action would obviously not understand market realities. So it’s is important for the Coaches (there is enough evidence of this in Sports) to be present where the team is performing; but it is equally important that he or she does not directly get involved, the role is to observe the team-member in action to provide coaching inputs later.

Evidence and facts are essential for any conversation between Coach and Coachee – guesses and hypotheticals can only make things worse.

It is critical that one focuses on just a few tasks at a time and they mutually arrive at timelines for implementation and assessment. If a huge number of changes are to be implemented at one go nothing would get done. It just can’t be rushed.

If the issue is emotional and attitudinal it is important for the Manager to remind the team-member of the key tasks that are to be completed – the idea is to get them focused on things that matter; express in clear terms the need for performance and limit reviews to just discussing data and facts. If some support is needed to overcome worries and stress the Manager can co-opt a support team into action to help the person tide over the issue or even get an intermediary to work on this; however things rarely deteriorate to the level of needing a mediator for resolutions.

Always use performance and results as the guiding principle and support and guidance the enablers. Of course, there is need for setting aside bias or notions and recognise achievements – celebrate victories, big and small and build confidence in the team – member.

Strictures and punishment should be the last resort – give the person opportunities to perform and during the assessment period the Manager needs to be present as a supportive and positive influence.

Managers need to use the benefits of feedback and coaching to bring the best out of the team … you need to see performers all around!

  1. Raaj
    May 24, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Good one Jayan…

    I have not been reading all your recent posts, so I am not sure if you have already written about what I am about to say.. but consider this my 2 cents…

    Yes, feedback is super important… but only if the Coach/Manager is mature enough to deal with it rationally. In most cases though, feedback leads to bruised egos, and a lot of bad blood… for the simple reason that people managers – cannot/will not/are not trained to – handle feedback unless it is to the tune of “what a great boss you are!” (suck up).

    Just because you are a good sales person will not make you a good people manager (coach)… the dynamics of both the roles are entirely different. Yes, to be a good sales manager you have to have a good understanding of the fundamentals of sales. That’s it, sound knowledge of the fundamentals is a prerequisite but more important is the knowledge, skills and ability to inspire each of your team members to deliver at their highest potential day in and day out. Especially when things are not going the way they should be. When sales are at 25% of target and its the 25th of the month!

    And there is no fixed formula as to what works towards achieving those goals… each individual sales person (or any ‘other’ person for that matter) have their own triggers, their own reason that would either help make the target or break the individual… its for the coach to understand the oddities of each individual and then take it upon themselves to work with the individual to help them achieve their goals.

    I think the most important factor is about being human… and treating the people you coach like fellow human beings… with respect, dignity, compassion and show them you care enough to help them grow… chances are that they will rise to levels beyond even their own wildest imaginations.

    To use an sports analogy… how many top sportsperson do you know of who made great coaches too… I thought about that for a while… could not come up with too many names… but most great coaches are just that… great coaches… they have a fundamental understanding of game… but a very deep understanding of how to bring out the best in the players they coach.

    Of course it helps when the players are good and willing to be coached.

    Case in point, Nick Bollettieri (I know not everyone have good words to speak about him but)… Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Mary Pierce, Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchova, Jelena Janković, Nicole Vaidišová, Sabine Lisicki, Tommy Haas, Max Mirnyi, Xavier Malisse, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova and Marcelo Ríos and briefly even Boris Becker. There is a considerably longer list on his website including Mary Jo Fernadez, Anke Huber, Brad Gilbert and so on…

    How many coaches would gladly give an arm and a leg to have just a few of those names on their resumes?

    And the most interesting question… how many major tournaments did Nick Bollettieri win? Zero!

    • JayadevM
      May 24, 2012 at 7:02 am

      Well said, Raaj!

      Of course its been proven time and again that good functional skills does not immediately translate to good managerial or leadership skills.

      Organisations forget this and promote achievers into people management positions purely based on functional performance – and that often leads to so much strife and erosion in the performance and morale of the achiever. People need to be coached and trained to become good managers and leaders. It’s very rare that a person takes to it intuitively!

      And the Nick Bollettieri example is a good / well-known one! Thank you for elaborating on that topic here … others can use it too.

      Yes, good players rarely / almost never become good coaches … the skillsets needed aren’t the same.

      Will speak about these in the days ahead!

      Thank you for the visit / support!

  2. vijay singh
    May 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Excellent article & excellent comment from Mr. Raaj…. I am agree that there is no fix formula …and I think we should work on fundamental ethics & guidelines. Market is changing, methods are changing, new technologies have come but fundamentals & basics are same as earlier.

    • JayadevM
      May 26, 2012 at 9:07 am


      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Management and Coaching are fairly evolved social sciences with proven methods. While I agree that one size does not fit all there are enough tools available at a smart Manager’s disposal to set things right. It only calls for commitment and practice.

      ignoring or avoiding the issue causes problems

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