Time Is On Your Side…if focused properly

Busy managers can still be great coaches!

According to the Harvard Business Review, great managers “discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it.”  This is precisely what differentiates mediocre managers from amazing manager-coaches.  But it’s often hard to judge how to best divide your workday between managing a budget, daily operations, and a team.  The answer to this age-old time management question: Do all of the above!

Forbes suggests that there are 7 qualities that good managers possess:

  1. They Love the Company Culture
  2. Their Positivity is Contagious
  3. They Sustain Focus
  4. They Listen to their Head and Heart
  5. They’re Honest
  6. They Take Accountability
  7. They Make Decisions

Notice that not a single one of these qualities is about managing finances or operations.  Each and every one of these qualities can be categorized into one super-quality: team building and relationship management.  Okay, technically that’s two super-qualities but the point remains the same: these two super-qualities are absolutely necessary for managers, and by association their teams, to excel in any business.  Yet, too often managers are obsessed about their financial goals, budgets, technical operations, and a million other things they have on their plate.  The key is that successful managers must find quality time management skills to coach their team members.

The necessity of effective coaching has been widely established as the route to achieving that managerial excellence so often talked about.  In fact, Purdue University issued a public memo to their supervisors outlining that “coaching is an ongoing, two-way process that involves using constructive, consistent feedback to reinforce positive behavior or to counsel employees, resulting in improved performance.”  And, improved performance always means better business!

Never forget that your team is the lifeblood of your organization; often the people you manage are the only people customers will ever face.  In an ideal world there would never be the need for management intervention with a customer because your team would be fully equipped with all the skills, confidence, and authority they’d need to satisfy every customer need.  Of course, the world isn’t perfect but great manager-coaches strive to achieve perfection and impart that value on their teams!

“But I’m so busy; how can I take the time to consistently provide feedback?” -Manager X

If you’re near the Asheville, NC area then you’re in luck!  Steve conducts several Workplace Coaching Skills for the Busy Manager workshops to answer this very question!  These highly engaging workshops teach managers how to be better coaches and leaders for their teams and their organizations. Effective and inspiring managers are key drivers of employee engagement. Participants gain clarity on how their capacity to grow and develop their people is central to attracting, engaging, and retaining top industry talent. People rarely quit a great boss, but they often quit mediocre managers. This workshop helps the dedicated manager be a great leader and coach. Steve looks forward to hearing from you to schedule this important training for your management team!

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Keep it simple, keep if focused, and definitely keep it inspiring! – Steve

Managers Should Pay Their Career-Aiding Feedback Forward

Many leaders credit receiving a critical, and often tough, piece of feedback during their developing career as contributing to their current success.

For example, “You know, Kim, I can tell I’m not really getting through to you. I’m going to have to be clearer here. When you say um every third word it makes you sound stupid.” Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, shares this stinging feedback that she received from her then boss at Google, Sheryl Sandberg.

Scott suggests replacing the word feedback with guidance because who doesn’t resonate with that?

Reverse engineering great feedback, like Sandberg’s, reveals these core elements:

  • Honest
  • Direct and candid
  • Caring
  • Example-driven (usually with facts from past performance and observations)

Like Scott, are you beholden to a mentor or boss who cared enough to shine a bright light on a blind spot or a potentially career defeating behavior? I recently received a radically candid piece of feedback from a VP of sales: “Your self-deprecating humor undermines your credibility and makes you look weak.” Ouch, but thank you.

In those moments, feedback— err, guidance— feels less like a gift and more like a vaccine shot. If the individual internalizes the medicine they build immunity to behaviors that may no longer serve them. Thanks to the guidance this VP shared with me, I have severely cut back on my inward-focused humor and am grateful for the advice.

However, many of these same gifted bosses who have benefited from such feedback report that their biggest management shortcoming is providing the same guidance to their direct reports. It’s perplexing, but reasonable to conclude that receiving career enhancing feedback doesn’t translate to naturally being effective at this key management skill yourself.

We know most managers don’t like giving feedback and most employees complain they receive too little. This counter-productive dynamic becomes self-reinforcing. Managers quickly offer a host of reasons for not providing more consistent and direct feedback. A common justification, burned in most of our memories runs along this theme— I gave candid feedback one time and the employee called HR charging me with creating a hostile work environment. Who wants to touch that hot stove again, right?

My coaching to managers is to stiffen up and pay it forward! Embody the ethos of the person who made a difference for you. While guiding those who report to you may take you out of your comfort zone, and almost feel confrontational and unpleasant, this feedback and discipline could steer that person onto a better path within their career. Consider the cost of not sharing your observations and how overlooking these potentially damaging and negative behaviors will affect your professional relationship, and their ability to self-reflect and move forward.

Potent coaching questions, like radical candor, can also cause useful cognitive dissonance. 

An accomplished and well-respected leader shared with me an early development epiphany. He was asked, “What are you known for?” He confidently blurted, My strategic technical abilities,” quickly summarizing his analytical prowess. The follow up question, What else are you known for?” however, hit him like a ton of bricks because, as he says, “I couldn’t think of one leader I respected known only for analytical skills.” Two simple, direct questions ignited his commitment to be known for many, not one, leadership capability and charted his path for being a widely respected and gifted leader today.

The objective is to candidly address issues or behaviors, not tear people down.

Avoiding tough issues is a management sin. But confronting situations by asking sincere, open questions can foster the psychological safety critical to an honest, respectful dialogue. Begin building your leadership legacy by developing a reputation for growing tomorrow’s leaders. Pay forward the servant leadership that enriched your career and life.

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

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Newsletter February 2017

Effective Sales Manager-Coaches

Don’t Add Sales Training, They Embed it!


Steve’s Newsletter Promise: Valuable content will be…

  • Driven by real manager challenges and opportunities
  • Pragmatic – offering “how to” solutions
  • Instructional – teaching specific sales leader skills, mindsets, and principles

Most sales managers know they should provide more sales skills training, but don’t. While coaching and training is no motivational silver bullet, strategically deployed it can improve performance up to 19%.

Top expressed sales manager barriers to coaching and training include:

– I’m buried with manager duties and can’t find the time
– My sales reps resist my coaching and training efforts
– I’m not confident in my ability to teach and train sales skills
– There is no budget for training

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
Peter Drucker

Embedding, not adding on, sales training and coaching into daily workflow overcomes all of the above barriers. The 80/20 principle of results guides the strategic manager’s thinking. She believes that consistent training is a lead indicator – a predictive activity that will lead to increased sales results.

 $ The Money Question $
How much could your sales revenue increase if your sales reps had 20 additional hours of annual, focused, sales skills training and coaching? If your answer is close to “a lot,” then embed the following plan immediately!


Winning Sales Leader Mindset: I am responsible for coaching each of my sales reps, however, I am not responsible for training all of my sales reps.

I can’t stress enough that effective sales leaders delegate sales skills training to their team!  Learning and collaborating together is a best practice for ensuring your team develops the capacity to be adaptable and nimble in a fast moving, changing marketplace.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

Embed this Sales Training Plan into your weekly team meetings:

Your FBO (Flash of the Blinding Obvious): You must replace 25 minutes of *trivial meeting content and replace with vital training focus. *Sobering Tip: Ask your team what is trivial, they’ll educate you.

Your Delegation Action Plan: 1) Explain to the team the new training plan, 2) Answer “What’s in it for me?”, 3) Gain buy-in (this doesn’t mean 100% agreement!), 4) Delegate the weekly sales skill training plan – who is teaching what (co-partners work best because they need to develop a very strong role play script that targets real customer scenarios).
Teach/Lecture – Top 2-3 best practices of one targeted sales skill (5 min)

Strong Real/Role Play – Use sales reps real customer scenarios (15 min)

Q&A, Feedback, and Plan next week’s sales skill focus (5 min)

PRACTICE = PROFITS! 25 min x 50 work weeks = 20 hours of annual sales skills training!

Embedding sales training into normal workflows is a sure bet to increasing the team’s motivation and engagement. And why not? Elite sales performers understand that perfect practice makes perfect!

Enjoy this month’s Newsletter? Follow Steve on social media for even more great advice! And always feel free to drop Steve a line for any of your questions.

FREE ASSET: Access a free copy of The 4% Championship Sales Coaching and Training Plan.

Coming soon: Free Sales Coaching Webinar titled  Practice = Profits.

2017 Top 10 Coaching Tips for Managers

Reverse engineer a great manager-coach and we might quickly brainstorm hundreds of ideal traits, skills, and capabilities. The following Top 10 Coaching Tips for Managers list, while certainly not exhaustive, contains the DNA of those bosses who don’t just manage people, but instead help make their team members great while achieving significant business results.

  1. View coaching as a strategic priority, not an action to be crossed off a list. Dedicated managers/coaches understand that adapting to tomorrow’s business uncertainties requires building team members’ capacities today.
  1. Treat calendar real estate as the holy ground for business priorities. They prioritize their time and let their team know it. A good practice to follow is scheduling all your coaching 1:1s twelve months out. This loud act signals to the team that coaching and development is a key driver of performance.
  1. Use coaching models as a framework, not a cage. They have a proven coaching process but remain flexible to meet each unique team member’s motivational drivers and goals.
  1. See coaching as a collaborative partnership built on trust. Great coaches think and say “we.” Their actions communicate to team members that they have their best interests at heart. The old adage, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” sounds trite but remains true.
  1. Remember that complacency is the enemy. Effective managers/coaches swarm complacency and eradicate it like the disease it is. Expecting and demanding high performance incubates a culture that attracts and retains top talent.
  1. Model and demand a growth mindset. They reject any team member beliefs that talent alone— or even experience— creates enduring success. High-performing managers are driven and guided by Jack Welch’s management mantra:

“Change before you have to.”

  1. Stretch, not stress, their people. Effective managers/coaches leverage the performance power of good stress, known as The performance curve (Yerkes-Dodson Law) informs how you appropriately challenge each individual.
  1. Sharpen core coaching skill sets. Top managers/coaches ask better questions. They deepen their listening. They behave like a business “thinking partner and trusted advisor.” They provide candid and caring feedback. They co-craft SMART next action steps that emphasize growth and accountability.
  1. Never consider hope a strategy— inspect what you inspect. This is not micro-management! A culture of accountability is built on two fundamental, self-reinforcing processes: 1) Individuals continually making and keeping agreements, and, 2) Management holding themselves, and all team members, accountable to established agreements. At the end of the day trust is built on agreements.
  1. Make work fun but not everyone gets a trophy. Mangers/Coaches know that they must make regular time for relaxed team gatherings and to celebrate effort and results. They ensure that recognition and reward initiatives focus on individual and team performance.

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!



Want to share these ideas with your team to help improve your company’s bottom line? Contact Steve to learn more about his coaching services.

The Effective Manager-Coach Follows the 80/20 Rule

Four Vital Coaching Skills

Accomplished managers know small, consistent actions often produce oversized results. For example, implementing disciplined hiring practices increases the odds of landing solid talent, which in turn yields bonanza results for organizations.

Pareto’s principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that 80 percent of desired results is driven by a vital few (20 percent) actions.

Mastering the following four vital coaching skills provides a 1-2 business punch: 1) they help bolster employee engagement, and 2) provide ROI (return on investment) for the organization’s coaching resources.

“The disciplined coach rejects hope as a performance strategy.”

beats out reactive, or my door is always open coaching. Standing 1:1s using developmentally focused processes and documentation is the trademark of the master coach.  ROI:

  • Employee perceives manager cares about them, a key condition of employee engagement, according to Gallup.
  • A single priority development area has been identified, thus increasing employee’s chances of being successful.
  • Prevents manager from going on auto-pilot, or winging it, thus increasing clarity and focus.

“It isn’t effective or productive to force your employees to do anything. Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workplace.”
—Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group

For many managers this says easy, does hard. Good managers solve problems; unfortunately wearing the Mr. or Mrs. fix it hat during a coaching conversation is a stubborn liability. ROI:

  • Employee learns to analyze and solve problems by learning how to think through challenges, opportunities, and obstacles.
  • Employee is encouraged and empowered to own their problems, thus fostering self-reliance and independence.
  • Employee is more likely to feel motivated, committed, and accountable to measurable actions since they largely crafted the solution.

20% is direct guidance, feedback, and direction. ROI:

  • Builds trusting, respectful, professional relationships.
  • Creates space for rich dialogue and collaboration.
  • Models that learning, growth, and development are dynamic, ongoing, and strategic priorities.
  • Communicates expectation and belief that employee is resourceful and capable of solving problems when manager is not around.

“Managers get what they inspect, not what they expect.”

Results oriented coaching requires rigor from coach and employee. Contracting clear, concrete next steps that moves the action down the field is the DNA of performance coaching conversations. ROI:

  • Builds a culture of co-ownership and accountability.
  • Drives incremental, measured business results.
  • Inspires and encourages employees to perform at their best.
  • Allows management to measure coaching efficacy.

Managers who consistently apply these four vital few coaching skills can expect, over time, surprisingly impressive results, and why not? Talented employees who are supported by helpful and performance focused managers naturally play a bigger game.

At the heart of it, the 80/20 rule helps you work smarter, not harder.

Check the resources page regularly for updated tools and information that will help your business flourish.

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring! –

Coaching A Tenured Team—The Newer Manager’s Dilemma

Many dedicated managers of tenured teams prefer the exhilaration of coaching a new, enthusiastic and excited new team member. The rookie sponge that hangs onto each brilliant word of wisdom you dispense. If only life were fair. Instead, many managers find themselves coaching highly experienced teams.

Inheriting a deeply seasoned team can understandably be intimidating. What newer manager hasn’t received the professional brush off – “So excited you’re here, I’ll call you if I need anything. And, oh, if I can teach you anything don’t hesitate to reach out.”

While presenting unique challenges, coaching a tenured team offers the new manager a rare leadership development opportunity, if she or he cultivates the emotional fortitude to strategically engage.

The following principles provide trusted guardrails for developing powerful, professional coaching partnerships with your tenured team.

5 Leadership/Coaching Principles And Tips
For Engaging A Tenured Team.

The sacred axiom in the hospitality industry, never lose a customer, applies here. Loyal customers are sacred assets to be guarded. Same for tenured reps. The long-term productivity outputs from a seasoned pro are immense. Deep organizational and marketplace wisdom are not replaceable auto parts.

  • Coaching Tip: Don’t be a quitter! Make a genuine commitment to your organization, yourself, and your team to not easily give up on building trusting, professional relationships. Don’t write off a seasoned employee just because your initial coaching efforts were artfully rebuffed. They want to win. Be patient, consistent, and committed to the relationship. Trust often takes longer to earn with the seasoned performer.

A tenured team’s experience with the revolving-manager-door, including enduring some pretty bad bosses, naturally endows them with a cautious, if not cynical, world view. Lacing up for your first team meeting, the tenured team doesn’t quietly collude and decide to “sabotage our new manager.” However, they may give you pockets of passive or even open resistance, and you should be prepared for that.

  • Coaching Tip: Model exemplary leadership behavior. Don’t take resistance, or aloofness personally. It’s not about you. In fact, be grateful if the team is willing to be honest with you about their feelings. Model tolerance for diversity of opinion. Be curious. Seek first to understand. Model healthy collaboration by respectfully listening, even challenging, others’ points of view. Be steadfast with your vision while creating an open climate for reasonable disagreement.

This military term establishes clarity for what success looks like for an operation. It’s the antidote for vagueness and uncertainty, or wishy-washy, anemic leadership. Like all mature employees, tenured staff welcome strong managers who know their own minds, possess strategic clarity, and yet are modest enough to leverage the seasoned team’s hard earned business intelligence.

  • Coaching Tip: Strive to be a Level 5 Leader (Good to Great, Jim Collins). Embody a fierce resolve for achieving results, while maintaining a steady reservoir of humility.

Many tenured employees, and definitely the disengaged, desire to work in the shadows, often alone. Almost regardless of industry today, sustainable competitive advantage will be awarded to highly collaborative cultures. Renowned design firm IDEO guides the savvy manager’s thinking with credible processes, such as:

“Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the lone genius.”

  • Coaching Tip: Your Commander’s Intent should explicitly spell out how the work will be done. Put the lone wolves on notice that not collaborating is not an option. Have a candid conversation about the difference between micromanaging and effective, hands-on management. Many seasoned team members have never had a great manager, so be patient and understanding, yet resolute and firm.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Doggedly partner with your tenured team members to identify business and leadership opportunities that leverage their deep expertise. Putting their careers, motivational drivers, and leadership aspirations at the center of coaching conversations is a trusted pathway for building trust.

  • Coaching Tip: Be a talent multiplier. Be resourceful. Find, or create, high-value organizational projects that align with your tenured team members’ skillsets and passions. Create formal and informal platforms for innovative customer-centric solutions. Rotate monthly teach-ins where each team member is responsible for teaching a deep competency of theirs that contributes to the team’s IQ.

Tenured teams may, at first, resist your sincere coaching advances. Your genuine commitment to fostering trusted partnerships, and demonstrating respect for their accomplishments and knowledge, will go a long way to earning their respect.

Seasoned pros respect a leader who has boldness of conviction, clarity of thinking, and most importantly delivers observable results. Establish your Commander’s Intent and back it up by being trustworthy, credible, and caring. Lastly, remember—

“You do not lead people, people choose to follow you.”

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!

Enlightened Trial and Error for Busy Managers

(and Their Teams)


I’ve often talked about sense-making as “the ability to make sense of what’s going on in a changing and complex environment.” Today I want to focus on a core pillar of sense-making: trial and error.


“Our world is changing radically. The age of intuition, gut instinct, opinion, and natural creativity is on the wane. These are romantic notions and we love to believe in them, but when the data comes in they are being increasingly proven not just to be wrong, but horribly wrong.”

-Gerry McGovern


Trial and error in today’s workplace takes on a new level of importance because both management processes and their effect on the end-consumer are more measurable than ever. In order to navigate marketplaces that change at lightning-speed, testing results can sometimes be the only way to know what works.

That’s right. All the training, all the consulting, and the best MBAs in the country won’t guarantee you can predict outcomes of your management decisions and product innovations.

The quote above by Gerry McGovern comes from a now infamous blog post about how top website-building experts couldn’t predict the better choice between two simple landing page signup forms for the SIMS computer game. Why couldn’t they come up with the right answer? Because even seasoned experts have to collect data before making an informed decision.

The fact is that it doesn’t matter what you think the best option is when facing innovative decisions— it only matters what actually works. Data is truth. Luckily, we live in a world where every single workplace action and effect can be measured and analyzed.


“Incremental success is better than grandiose failure.”

-Winston Churchill


COACHING TIP: How can you apply this to your team? When looking to innovate, you need to pilot new projects on the market— quickly. Implement an imperfect but well-formed idea, and then rapidly gauge results. Did the customers respond how you thought they would? If not, how did they respond? What worked? What failed? Make changes based on the data, and test it again.


“Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the long genius.”

-Peter Skillman, President, IDEO


Next Steps: Everything here is all good and well, but applying innovation practices can be tricky. Oftentimes teams are pressured to be entrepreneurial while still hitting performance metrics -the incentive to try new things dissipates. Here’s a fix: try to implement a new idea in a highly segmented situation. Take one small task for one client and try the change there, even communicate with the client about the decision. They might welcome the fresh approach, and you can implement a new practice in a low-stress environment.

Example— A sales manager and her team were committed to differentiating themselves from their competitors by bringing high value to each sales call, and measuring the impact on the customer. For six weeks each sales rep initiated every sales call with a current, and targeted, piece of marketplace or business data, followed by an insightful question that generated a much deeper conversation about the customer’s business. After six weeks the team initiated a simple customer satisfaction survey that bumped up their overall satisfaction scores from 84 percent to 96 percent! Crafting a discreet, well designed, trial of a new product or service is a low investment way of innovating business practices.


“We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”

-Eric Reis


Taking this approach of enlightened trial and error, of targeted experimentation, will help your team validate or invalidate the assumptions made when trying new things. The X factor then is speed. How quickly can you measure results and react accordingly?

I hope that this post inspires you to take a scientific experimental approach to innovative decisions. Remember— keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!


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