No, this isn’t a frustrated parent complaining about their children’s behavior. This is a complaint I hear from too many sales managers.

Often, this comes up in discussions about coaching. Managers claim to be coaching, where in reality they are dictating/telling.

I ask, “Do you understand why they aren’t doing those things?” Again, the frustrated response is, “Look, I know what works, they just need to do what I tell them to do! Otherwise, I’ll find someone who will.”

I probe them, “Are you modeling the behavior you want?” Usually that’s met with a look of confusion or incredulity. “What do you mean, I’m the manager, that’s not my job, they need to do what I tell them to do!”

Any parent knows these approaches don’t work with children, so why would they think it works with their sales people? After all, we hire people for their ability to figure things out, to manage a complex sales process, to plan, execute, to think on their feet.

Yet we persist in thinking we can treat them like children, though we know this approach to coaching doesn’t even work with children. It’s insanity!

The most effective approach to coaching is helping people “rethink” what they are doing and how they approach situations. We do this by asking questions, getting people to consider alternatives, helping our people figure things out by themselves. Help them discover new and different ways of approaching issues.

If our people aren’t implementing the things we know to work, there has to be a reason why. Maybe they don’t understand, maybe they are unskilled. Maybe they can’t see how to apply the approaches in the things they face. Maybe, they are doing these things, but for some reason they aren’t working. Until we probe and understand why they aren’t doing these things, we have no idea how to help them shift their behaviors.

One of the greatest ways to drive behavioral change is to model the behaviors we expect. Managers need to set the example. If we expect our people to do pre-call planning, when we participate in a call with them, we should ask for a planning session. If our customer engagement strategy is based on collaborative/problem solving discussions, then we model that by having collaborative/problem solving discussions with our people. If we expect people to use a buyer focused sales process, then we must leverage that process when we discuss deals with our people. If we expect our people to use CRM, then we have to use CRM.

We, also, have to realize, our conversations with our people are a two way street. What are we learning from them? After all, they are seeing far more than we may be seeing. Maybe the things we “tell them to do,” are no longer the right things to do. Insisting they continue to do what doesn’t work is craziness. Learning from/with them, we can determine new approaches, we can refine what we do to be more impactful.

Great leadership is about mutual respect and collaborative learning. Telling our people what to do elicits the worst in performance and engagement.