A member of this community, Cody Boardman, had a great question in the comments. He asked about cultivating strengths and weaknesses in sales people. I’ve talked a bit about this before but I think it’s a good question and deserves a little more air time.
Nothing is done without people. This cliche has been around a long time. Despite the trite nature of people being our most important asset, it is true. Therefore learning to get the most out our people is the magic sauce.
I don’t think you will be surprised then, when I tell you I believe coaching people is a process. I don’t believe coaching people or managing people can be done reactively. When people are reactively managed they become confused, frustrated, and lost.
Coaching starts with people who are coachable. I won’t hire anyone who isn’t coachable. If I inherit someone who isn’t coachable, I move them on as quickly as possible. People who can’t be coached will eventually eat your team from the inside out. Having coachable people is without a doubt the most important part of coaching. I measure the coachability of everyone on my team. A low coachability score isn’t allowed to last very long.
After coachability comes the rest. I build a list of the skills, hard and soft, I see in each person on my team. I also include those skills required to do the job well. I share this list with each direct report every 6 weeks. The first meeting is the most critical. It’s their first insight into my assessment of them. We go through it in painstaking detail. I share examples why I think they are excellent with executive relationships or poor with team development. I am open and honest with what I’ve seen, the impact it has on their environment and what I think they need to work on. I also spend time emphasizing what they are good at and how they can get more out of that strength. I do this because it is important for people to understand how you see them. People want to know what their bosses think.
After a couple of one on ones the process becomes much easier and more fluid. My direct reports and I have had several conversations about their strengths and weaknesses, we’ve come to agreement on my assessment. They’ve made a commitment to getting the most out of their strengths and mitigating their weaknesses. We then continue to revisit them every 6 weeks. They become top of mind. Never is too much time allowed to grow between discussions. There are no surprises. There is no “left field.” And most importantly, it’s not reactive.
Too often coaching or managing strengths and weaknesses is incident based. Something happens, good or bad, usually bad, and a discussion ensues. Incident based management is not the way to address peoples strengths or weaknesses. An event is the worse way to manage or coach. Incidents are emotional, they have multiples sides, they are never black or white. In most cases incidents highlight existing weaknesses or call out an unidentified weakness for the first time. Addressing a weakness for the first time during an incident never works out well. It’s too emotional a time.
To develop the strengths or mitigate the weaknesses of your employees, get them on the table early and keep them on the table. When an incident happens, there will be no surprises. You and your sales person (employee) will have had numerous conversations about their strengths or weaknesses and I guarentee you, one of them will be at the heart of the incident.
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