Sometimes, I feel like I may be living on a different planet. I read all sorts of articles about coaching from some very thoughtful, smart, and successful people. Many of those articles have provocative titles or themes like, Who Benefits Most From Coaching? Where Should You Spend Your Time Coaching? Should you focus on A’s, B’s, C’s? The list goes on.
In many ways, the articles make huge amounts of sense. Intellectually, I get it, I agree with the concepts the authors are talking about. I can even get the math many people use–”raising the performance of an A player 10% produces this much, raising B players by the same amount produces this much,” and so on. (Sometime, I have to take off my shoes and socks to have enough fingers and toes to do the math).
But too often, I think we overthink and overcomplicate things. Much of the analysis makes sense if we are managing large numbers of people and are looking at how we allocate our time to those large numbers of people.
But the reality is, spans of control are decreasing in field sales. They are hovering around 10 people (some studies have this lower). In inside sales, they appear to be a little larger, but not huge.
So we’re not going through a complex optimization process. It’s roughly 10 friggin’ people! You’ve got to coach all of them! Let’s not overthink this saying we need to spend 15.75 minutes each week with our C players, 30.37 minutes with our B players, and 29.08 minutes with our A’s.
Figuring out how to time slice coaching across those people is something I struggle to comprehend. Since I’m a pretty simple person, I believe this: Basically every conversation has to have coaching elements in it, otherwise we are losing huge opportunities and we aren’t maximizing our impact. Particularly if we are truly acting as leaders, where our job is to get things done through our people. This mandates coaching in virtually every conversation.
Think about it. As managers, we spend our time doing the following business management things with our people: Deal reviews, call reviews, pipeline/forecast reviews. Interspersed, less frequently, some account and territory reviews. Sometimes, we look at how they spend their time, sometimes there’s some training.
Each one of these activities is a coaching opportunity! More importantly, each of these is a timely, impactful, coaching opportunity. What’s more powerful in helping our people improve their deal strategies than coaching them about the strategy right when they are in the review developing a strategy for a real situation?
The moment, we as managers, decide to integrate coaching into the fabric of what we do every day, all this stuff about who we coach, when we coach, how much time we coach becomes irrelevant.
Let’s look at this issue a little differently. My friends at the CEB have researched this extensively. They believe the optimum amount of time coaching sales people is 5 hours a month. So with 10 people on the team, that mean we should be spending 50 hours a month–roughly 25% of our time coaching! But here’s the problem, if you don’t integrate coaching into what you do every day, with every one, you simply won’t find the time to spend 75 minutes a week with each individual on your team! As long as you keep coaching separate from what you do with your people every day, the realities of the job will force coaching off your agenda!
So let’s keep it simple:
- Who do we coach? Everyone, no if, and’s, but’s!
- When do we coach? All the time, every conversation, every review has coaching opportunities. Thinking of the “coaching meeting” is a useless waste of time–plus it won’t happen. Coaching must be integrated into the fabric of the business.
- Do we spend the same time with each person? Do we spend more time with some? We spend the time we need to, but again if we integrate coaching into our normal business management conversations, we don’t really have to be thinking about the time we spend coaching–it just happens.
- Do we coach each person the same way? Absolutely not, each individual, each situation requires different types of coaching. As managers we have to adapt our coaching style to fit the situation, the individual, and the time. At some points, our coaching needs to be very directive and focused, as in, “You need to get this done…” At other times it can be very non-directive, helping the person discover ways to improve their performance.
- How much time do we spend coaching? Well, I guess that’s related to how much time you spend with your people. If you are spending time with your people, then you will be coaching them.
- Who benefits most from coaching? Everyone should, including managers. We constantly learn and improve. There is one important factor, though–the person receiving the coaching must be coachable! Whether they are an A, B, or C player, they will get value if they are coachable and we are doing our jobs.
- What if the person isn’t coachable? Fire that person! It means they’ve stopped learning, developing, growing. It means they, in their own minds, have reached their maximum potential. They’ll never get better, most likely they’ll get worse. If they are an A player today, tomorrow, the uncoachable person becomes a B player and then they become a C player.