When sales managers are asked why they don’t coach, they usually say it is because they don’t have the time. Looking at the workload of today’s managers, the “no time” obstacle rings true. Coaching does take time, especially for the player/coach, who must focus on his or her own business as well as coach. In the short run, coaching takes more time than not coaching. And “real coaching” — what we refer to as development coaching — can take more time than “one minute” coaching (saying, “Good catch, but here’s what’s wrong and here’s what to do”). Such “triage” coaching does make sense in emergencies — but not as a way of life. But despite the time pressures, our experience with thousands of managers shows that time is not the primary reason they don’t coach.
In our work with clients, we frequently ask sales managers to think about a salesperson on their team who is overdue for feedback for a sales problem. Immediately, each sales manager can identify someone. We then ask how long the problem has been going on. Participants grin and squirm. Why? Often, the problem has been going on for weeks or months. As we discuss this, many of the would-be coaches acknowledge they are avoiding the problem for reasons they can all articulate — they don’t feel comfortable, they are really not expected to coach, they want to avoid confrontation, they don’t want to damage the relationship, and they don’t know what to do.
Ultimately, there are three overriding reasons why most managers don’t coach:
- They themselves are not coached (no role models). The culture does not support coaching.
- They don’t know how to coach (no skill)
- They have little or no incentive or accountability to coach — no inspiration or motivation (no will)
Of these three reasons, the first is the most serious; the second, lack of training, is the easiest to fix. Sales managers are rarely trained to carry out the management part of their role. Managers are basically “knighted,” not trained. Almost invariably, they get their jobs because they are the top performers. There is nothing wrong with this. But these doers like to do. Certainly, in the short run, doing takes less time and has fewer risks. Moreover, traditionally, the qualities that contribute to managers’ own successes can be the antithesis of what it takes to be a developer of others. The problem is that when these “star” salespeople are promoted, they usually continue to do what they did best — perform more as solo players than team builders. Mindset and skill set training can help this.