If you ever participated in sports when you were younger, you are probably intimately and sometimes painfully aware of the role of training in your athletic success. The early mornings, the rigorous diet, and the personal discipline required to maintain your competitive edge were necessary, tiresome, and—to say the least—character building.
However, you also know that once you hit the field, court, track, or pool, that training would only take you so far. Lifting weights won’t tell you how to run a passing route, and eating healthily won’t motivate you to give it your all in the last 100 meters of the race. Your success laid in large part on an external source, another person with a vested interest in sculpting you to be the best athlete you can be. You needed a coach.
Since then, you have probably traded in your cleats for a cushy office chair, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t benefit from coaching. A study from the Harvard Business Review found that companies that engage in coaching see improvements in rep performance by nearly 20%. So, how can you do everything in your power to be the best coach you can be?
Training vs. coaching
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” — Vince Lombardi
Training is the act of making a person aware of a particular skill or type of behavior. Training can be thought of as more of a knowledge transfer, simply teaching someone a new concept and letting them make sense of it. On the other hand, coaching is a form of development in which a person supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing guidance.
As a manager, whether you’re training your team or coaching it, you have a stake in the outcome and success of its endeavors. In the corporate world, it is all too often that managers or clients want a “one and done,” comprehensive guide to the information. The problem with this sort of open-ended knowledge transfer is that the edification doesn’t stick—you might see improvements in the short term, but after a few months the team will gradually fall back into its old ways.
From this perspective, you can effectively view training as a waste of time and resources. Some skills may only need training, but others also require coaching to truly refine. As a manager, you need to establish a growing approach, to encourage your team to always be learning, to always be trying to find new best practices to improve operations for the organization.
Now, this is not to say that coaching is inherently better than training. To again reference the sports parallel—there is little use in trying to coach an athlete that hasn’t been conditioned in basic exercises. Coaching cannot exist without training.
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Striking a balance within the team
“I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual, and which invariably finds a way to solve a problem previously thought unsolvable.” — John Russell
Your team is an amalgam of different skills, experiences, and personalities, and it is your job to figure out the interplay between those variables to arrive at the best results. Most managers tend to focus on the “tails” of their team—the best of the best and the worst of the worst. But it’s imperative to realize the worth of the entire team to see who fits where.
In many cases, it takes an outside view of an individual’s efforts to find and expose an area for improvement. Swinging a golf club or throwing a football are very complex and include many moving parts such as hip position, follow-through, and the placement of the athlete’s feet to name a few. It takes that outside view of a coach to focus on all the moving parts and uncover opportunities to improve. And when working with a group of athletes, the coach can build a complementary team that makes everyone better by realizing each individual’s strength and weakness.
Coaching techniques and tips
“Coaching is very complex: it’s like a puzzle, and many things need to come together to make it work.” — Stan Wawrinka
Most coaching plans are combinations of the three types of coaching: self, directed, and social. And it is your job as the coach to figure out an effective combination of the three to help your team achieve success.
Self-coaching uses your ability to evaluate where you are from a development perspective, take action, build your own improvement plan, and execute it.
Directed coaching is a more traditional approach, and it depends on interactions with a sales coach to help you accomplish what you do yourself in self-coaching. While many complain about structure and discipline, we need and desire these very things. When the right process or framework is applied, it creates consistency and a benchmark by which successes and failures can be measured. The quote “trust the process” comes to mind—while all might know the process and their part in it, there is a need for a coach to orchestrate all the moving parts so players can apply their focus on what is most critical to their individual role.
Finally, social coaching enables reps to improve by tapping the collective experience, talent, and brainpower of sales peers. This is essentially peers helping peers. Many learners can take feedback from someone on their team better than from the coach or trainer directly. They can let their guard down and open their minds to the information being shared. Minds like parachutes work best when opened.
Knowledge is power, but unless you act upon knowledge it is useless. The same goes for your efforts to train and coach your team. As a manager, the burden falls on you to guide your team in the right direction, to take it somewhere that it couldn’t otherwise go on its own.