4 Distance Coaching Tips for Managers

Many managers express concern about their ability to be an effective coach from a distance, or “between field rides” so to speak.  Learn how to effectively utilize distance coaching techniques today.

When you cannot directly observe your team member’s behaviors, interactions with customers, and their collaboration among their peers, how does the effective coach bridge this gap?

“Among the important skills all good leaders share, the ability to establish an environment of healthy, productive teamwork, nurture collaboration, and encourage the team to challenge the status quo is essential.”

Bruce Jones (HBR)

4 Distance Coaching Tips

Tip # 1Foster and expect a culture of collaboration.

Your team’s growth and development should not be solely dependent on your coaching efforts. Proactive collaboration, teaching, and training among the team are the primary vehicles for on-going learning and sustained performance. Hierarchy, cliques, and lone wolf mentalities are the enemies of high performing coaching cultures.

Tip # 2 — Schedule 2–3 coaching “check ins” (about 10–15 minutes each) in between face-to-face visits.

Priorities live on calendars, or at least they should. Micromanaging is a sin and so is under-communicating. Many great managers resist this practice saying, “I have an open door policy and speak with my folks all the time.” Do not abolish this noble practice. However, scheduling brief check-ins ensures that high-value and timely communications flow through your team.

When you schedule, and execute, these check-ins you broadcast three powerful messages to your team:

• Coaching and developing is a core value of your organization.
• Retaining and growing people are central to your organization’s talent management strategy.
• Growth leads to results, not the other way around.

Tip #3 — Create clear, focused, 10 or 15-minute agendas.

Value creates future desire. The effective distance coach does not wing these sessions. She provides active guidance, direction, and brings valuable marketplace and business data. Her communications are on-point, incisive; enabling her team members to co-create strategic and tactical plans.

Warning! These are coaching sessions, not business plan reviews or performance management conversations!

Tip #4 — Create a culture of accountability and performance (inspect what you expect).

During your last interaction, the team member committed to 2–3 SMART actions, right? Scheduled check-ins are primarily meant to be accountability milestones. How is your team tracking against their development goals? What support, encouragement, or insight can you provide them?

Begin shaping a more rigorous and disciplined virtual-coaching plan by implementing these four practices. Remember to practice good change leadership skills by explaining to your team members the “what’s in it for me (WIIFM)?” reasoning and openly address any concerns or resistance.

Finally, remember the primary goal of coaching is to help your people self-coach when you’re not around. The above best practices are meant to help your people be successful and win!

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

As always, contact me with any of your burning manager-coaching questions!

The Hero-Manager Complex and 4 Tips on How to Avoid it

The townspeople are in trouble, the enemy is at the gates. There is only one who can stop the threat, it’s superman(ager).

The drive for accomplishment, to be the champion for your team, and win the day for your organization are traits of excellence. However, when these traits are coupled with frenetic leadership, crisis addiction, and overstretching, you end up working against yourself.

The impact on the organization can feel like you are pushing the accelerator with one foot while simultaneously braking with the other.

“In addition to having a commitment to a mission or a desire to establish a meaningful legacy, heroic stature is just one of several hallmarks of transformational leaders. But this particular quality is most often distorted and poorly managed.” –Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Fortune

If you chase every shiny object, your people will burn-out. When you create a constant state of crisis, your team will lack development. If you manage based on individual personalities, your best people won’t get the recognition they need… and underperformers get by on a smile.

If anything above looks like you, you might be suffering from hero-manager complexgreat for your own ego but bad for developing your people’s capacity.

4 Tips for Avoiding the Hero-Manager Complex

Tip # 1 – Ease up on yourself. Really. The rewards for being the go-to gal or guy, whether internal (self-esteem, confidence, pride) or external (compensation, promotion, recognition), are powerful forces. Giving some control away by empowering others can be scary, but well worth it. Have patience with yourself as you learn to delegate and collaborate. The rewards of growing your people outweigh the risks of feeling a little bit out of control!

Tip # 2Don’t be afraid to fail. You can’t plan on failure, nor should you. Dare to assign novel, challenging projects that invite failure. The athlete or musician who never fails is most likely not pushing his or her limits. Be tolerant of “tolerable mistakes.” Follow Gore-Tex founder Bill Gore’s principle of action – “Never make mistakes below the waterline.”

Tip # 3 Coach up, coach into a position of strength, or coach out. High performers hate being on a team with laggards. Laggards, however, love playing with high performers; all the benefits, none of the sweat. Great managers aren’t fooled. Or look at it another way, effective talent managers, like dedicated gardeners, are always weeding out low performers and toxic attitudes to create more room for their top talent flowers to bloom. By tolerating low performance, you risk sending signals to high performers that perhaps they should jump the fence to more fertile ground.

Tip # 4 – Delegate. Delegation is so important that it merits repetition. Strategic delegators match individual strengths to project demands, thereby enhancing the whole team. Weak delegators can actually handicap an organization’s future performance. Effective delegation is an insurance policy against tomorrow’s marketplace uncertainties.

The key to overcoming the hero-manager complex is to trust and invest in your people, and to lift them up to face the challenges of your business.

Keep it Simple. Keep it Focused. Definitely Keep it Inspiring. –Steve

As always, check out the resources page for tons of great content that can help you improve your manager-coach skills today.

Coaching Skills Teaching

7 Highly Effective Performance Coaching Skills

Talent is at the core of every business’ success.  Talented team members not only know how to do their jobs well but they also know how to collaborate and cater to customer needs.  These team members will increase customer loyalty thereby improving your bottom-line and alleviating workplace tensions.

It’s always an ideal time for managers to recommit themselves to top talent recruitment, development, and retention.  Central to any talent management strategy is a dynamic coaching culture led by managers who possess a range of coaching competencies.  If your business isn’t already employing coaching strategies then you’re working from behind the competition!

Strive to become a talent magnet by mastering these 7 Coaching Skills

  1. Be consistent. Standing, sacred 1:1’s are just that. Due to natural workplace conflicts, coaching sessions may get nudged around the calendar, but they happen with religious conviction.
  2. Expect and model dynamic collaboration. Think and say “we.”
  3. Build trusting, transparent, and supportive partnerships.
  4. Be goal focused. Each conversation has a clear outcome that’s mutually beneficial and measurable.
  5. Insist on action. Accountability is built upon agreements that move the business forward.
  6. Don’t feed their monkeys. The employee must own the path forward; change comes from within.
  7. Follow the 80 / 20 rule. 80% of coach communication is open-ended questions (implicates you for being a deep listener), and 20% is teaching (not telling or selling) the employee something of value to them, not you.

Hopefully this quick coaching primer energizes you to create the vibrant and focused workplace that today’s top talent seeks.

Keep it Simple. Keep it Focused. Definitely Keep it Inspiring.   –Steve

Want more key insight to managing talent and becoming a talent magnet? Head over to the resources page to download the eBook Managing Talent is Talented Management, the PDF document Coaching High Performers, and the Performance Accountability Cycle model.

Why Recognition is Critical to Success

My boomer-buddy and business owner recently said, “People just need to shut up and do their job. I give people enough rope to succeed or hang themselves.” Having grown up in the Darwinian world of restaurant kitchens, I get it. But does that approach get results?

My reply to his assertion: You can either manage people according to the way you think things ought to be, or the way they are. Leadership is the ability to accurately name reality and act upon it. Effective recognition implies talented managers must be skilled communicators. Specifically, they must have the ability to provide daily, constructive feedback (yes, daily!)

“…80% of Millennials said they want regular feedback from their managers, and 75% yearn for mentors” -D. Schawbel (Forbes)

There is no such thing as negative or positive feedback; it’s all just information. All feedback should be constructive and developmental in nature. This requires managers to develop high levels of emotional intelligence and invest in skilled communication.

Two Likely Reasons your Feedback is Misconstrued

1) The receiver doesn’t trust your intention

2) They receive so little feedback that they are not conditioned to process the information constructively

Either way, you, the manager, are on the hook for improving the partnership!

How much company resources does a “thank you” cost? None. Conversely, reflect on this sobering finding:

“…actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year.” -Gallup

Business economists conclude that managers who master the skills necessary to attract and retain top talent help position their organizations for sustained market victory. And that is why recognition is critical to success.

Keep it Simple. Keep it Focused. Definitely Keep it Inspiring.      –Steve

Team Around Table

3 Reasons You Must Pay More Attention to Company Culture

 

Company culture has been a very prominent focal point of popular business analysis for half a decade. From the laid back beach-side offices of Snapchat to the rigorous high-performance culture of Amazon, thousands of articles have been written about how to make company culture work for you. But the need to cultivate culture goes beyond making your organization a place where people feel good. Creating a strong, purposeful culture is the talented manager’s trusted strategy for fostering fierce employee loyalty.

 

“The best companies, in terms of long-term financial performance, are the ones that are able to combine profits, passion, and purpose.”

–Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness

 

Three Reasons that Company Culture Needs More of Your Attention

#1 Hedging Against Headhunting. Headhunters luring top people away are currently catching organizations and their managers off guard. The best defense is a good offense. Cultures that are tightly knit with purpose, strong social bonds, recognition, and achievement help repel external threats to your talent pool.

#2 Engaging Millennial Team Members. News for us Baby Boomer managers!—Millennials do not care about our title or the company’s organizational chart. However, Millennials are attracted to leaders who are inclusive, provide appropriate autonomy and rewarding job assignments, and give regular coaching and feedback. Creating an environment where these points are nurtured will ensure that Millennials stay on the team and develop into top performers.

#3 Company Culture Happens With or Without You. Culture is created with or without intentional leadership. All cultural elements—orientation, on-boarding, community-building events, recognition and rewards programs, and business planning sessions should promote a coherent message about the values and expectations of your enterprise.  Managers who are cavalier about culture building might as well just give the keys to the business away.

Cultures that value training and leadership development are talent magnets. Whether your culture is quirky, or conservative, a clear development pathway should be integral to your organization’s employee value proposition.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring. -Steve

 

Want more high-impact coaching tips on company culture and managing talent? Check out my other blog posts.

Learning Bulb Ideas

Learning and Performance: The Importance of Parallel Goal Setting

You want high performance, so you demand it. But without proper education and support, your employees lose morale. We all know what low morale does to a workplace. Failure to keep employees engaged, inspired, and rewarded creates more of what you don’t want: loss of hope, frustration, and—sometimes—unethical behavior. But a manager who couples performance expectations with learning and process goals is a manager with a winning team.

 

If you focus on results, you’ll never change.
If you focus on change, you’ll get results.” 
–Jack Dixon

 

Winning Managers Simultaneously Craft Two Types of Goals

#1—Performance Goals. These are often “the numbers,” and I warn you, be careful with them. Arbitrarily raising the bar may result in the negative actions above.

“The numbers” are tightly coupled with “forced ranking,” the management process made famous by Jack Welch at General Electric. Enlightened leaders and managers have long associated these archaic methods with Fredrick Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory. Rigorous coaching and development inspires and motivates people, not the pursuit of economic efficiencies at all costs.

 

“What’s measured improves” -Peter F. Drucker

 

#2—Learning/Process Goals. These are the identified competency areas necessary for the person to achieve the performance targets. It’s unethical for management to set performance goals but not provide the knowledge and training necessary for people to achieve success. However, front line teammates experience this shoddy implementation regularly.

Most of us would consider it ludicrous for a tennis coach to demand his player increase her first-serve speed (performance), but not train the athlete on the bio-mechanics (process) that generates more power. Sadly, the sloppy mandating of increased performance expectations happen every day in organizations. Talented managers act like talented coaches when setting performance targets.

Make sure you are nurturing and developing your people, and they’ll stick around longer, be stronger, and help you pave the way to more wins for your business.

 

Keep it Simple, Keep it Focused, and Keep it Inspiring. –Steve

 

art credit: Carlos Sarmento & Gregor Cresnar

Sales Analytics

5 Coaching Skills for Sales Managers

Show your sales reps what GREAT looks like!

 

Do your sales reps’ skills need sharpening? Begin by mastering and modeling these five coaching skills specifically for sales managers.

The effective sales manager-coach understands great coaching and great sales involve parallel skill sets. Sales managers who model consistent and quality coaching remain the best predictors for sustained sales rep development.

Admittedly, complex sales calls often involve layers of subtle, powerful, dynamics, and often involve long cycle times. However, these five brick and mortar coaching skills are essential for your reps to master.

 

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” -Dwight Eisenhower

 

Skill #1 — Pros plan, rookies wing itPre-sales call/coaching planning is arguably a weak area for many sales managers and reps. Success has always gone to those who methodically plan. Customized planning sends powerful messages to reps and customers, such as, You are important to me, I’m committed to your development and success, and I want to understand your drivers and afflictions.

Skill #2 — Transparency and collaboration builds trust. Clarify your agenda, goals, process, and receive agreement to proceed. Let people know what you’re up to. Customers despise being sold and your sales reps despise being told. Sales success, like coaching, is built on the foundation of collaborative, professional partnerships.

Skill #3 — Get on the reps/customer agenda. Behavior follows belief. Great coaches, like great sales reps, deeply believe their purpose is to help others achieve success. People possess highly developed authenticity detectors. Customers viscerally feel the needy rep desperate to make quota. Equally, reps feel it in the gut when their sales manager marginalizes their ideas.

 

“If you focus on results you will never change. If you focus on change you will get results.” —Jack Dixon

 

Skill #4 — Follow the 75/25 rule with discipline. Effective sales coaches and sales reps ensure that the other person does approximately 75% of the talking. Achieving this performance goal demands that coaches and reps develop the ability to ask well constructed and customized questions. Powerful questions create learning insights, or “A-ha moments!” Sales coaching, like a sales call, seeks to create the optimal conditions that compel one to make changes in their life. Implicit in the 75/25 rule is that reps and sales coaches be at ease with the power of silence. As sales guru Brian Tracy reminds us, “The selling takes place with the words, but the buying takes place in the silence.”

Skill #5 — Don’t leave money on the table. High performing coaches and sales reps keep the action moving down the field. Asking for SMART commitments is how competent sales coaches build a culture of accountability and high performance. Effective sales reps understand that customers need a little tough love to make the difficult decisions often associated with the necessary change they’ve identified. Agreements to clear actions ensure everyone has skin in the game. Sales coaches who model this competency can help those reps who get weak-kneed around asking for more business.

 

Sales managers frustrated by their sales rep’s lackluster performance might consider adopting Level 5 Leadership – “looking in the mirror to apportion responsibility for poor results” (Jim Collins, Good to Great). Helping your sales reps regain their edge begins with their sales manager showing them what great coaching/sales looks like!

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep in inspiring! -Steve

 

As always, check out the resources page for tons of great content that can help you improve your manager-coaching skills today.

Oyster and Pearl

Agitate, don’t Stir: 3 Management Practices For Creating Pearls and Motivation

 

Visit Our Homepage for Current Manager Skills Workshops

 

Having a team member apparently content to retire on the job is not an uncommon situation for many managers. The employee may simply not be aware that moss is growing on their back or a country named Greece has fallen on bad times. Their mental maps may need upgrading by management who knows how to motivate.

Drifting into comfortable patterns of behavior is natural for individuals, teams, and organizations; however, competitive innovation and complacency cannot co-exist. Innovation requires creative tension and conflict. Complacency, by nature, develops immunity to outside tensions.

Managers who successfully create purposeful urgency have an acute understanding of basic physics.

 

“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.” 

                                                            -Mae West

 

The Law of Inertia, or, How to Motivate

Newton’s first law of motion basically states that there’s a natural tendency of objects (your people) to just keep on doing what they’ve been doing, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. YOU, the manager, are the unbalancing force!

Effective managers, of course, never use force or coercion to persuade others; they leverage their hard-earned trusting relationships to influencing others into new ways of operating.

Still, it’s very common for a manager to inherit a low-performing team where there’s not time to build trust, prior to setting necessary new, bold directions. My experience is that engaging new team members in candid, transparent, and respectful dialogue actually builds trust fastest. Why?

Most under-performing teams didn’t arrive in this handicapped state by market forces. Their performance crept downward, led by unfit management. Teams crave clear and courageous leadership. Your ability to create purposeful urgency and clear direction offers hope. Trust always follows on the heels of leader credibility.

 

3 Management Practices for Creating Pearls 

1. Agitate, Don’t Stir. Agitating your people is intentionally disrupting their current view of reality. In the best sense, agitating your people is engaging them in honest dialogue about the business consequences of not changing. Agitation is not causing careless duress by contriving burning platforms for change. Agitation is declaring a future that doesn’t currently exist; it’s the vision thing. You are the irritation that initiates the pearl-forming process.

There’s a time to ask and there’s a time to tell. This practice leverages the latter skill. Vision requires leadership clarity. Ideally, the vision setting process has been highly collaborative, involving front-line staff. But at the end of the day a decision made is a course set.

Awareness is an antecedent of change. The effective manager makes a compelling business case for why embracing the status quo is dangerous. She creates cognitive dissonance; appreciating that discomfort is the solution, not the problem. Actively playing the role of a grain of sand which forms the pearl requires management resiliency and courage.

2. Embed Emotions and Engage. People learn best with stories and visuals. Data rarely changes behaviors. If “wearing hard hats” is the new mandatory future, then show your people a video of like workers wearing hard hats at a respected industry leader known for their safety records and high employee morale.

Have your people listen to the stories of employees who journeyed the change path successfully. Engage your people in a rigorous dialogue about the implications. Be transparent. Respond authentically to their concerns.

Most (sane) people do not expect their opinion to carry the day, however, people do expect to be heard openly and with empathy. That is, if you want their buy-in. Leaders know there is tectonic difference between compliance and commitment.

3. Apply Constant, Gentle, Pressure. This is the leadership and management philosophy of famed restaurateur Danny Meyer (Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business).

Effective managers and leaders apply steady pressure on the standards-of-excellence gas pedal, not on people’s necks. Meyer equates these three leadership dimensions to the legs of a stool – an absence or weakness in any one guarantees operational mediocrity.

 

 “Go Slow, to Go Smooth, to Go Fast”

 

Remember, people do not fear change. They fear change that is too big and too fast. Applying these practices, thoughtfully, ensures that your people do not rest on their laurels. After all, the customer doesn’t care how good you were yesterday.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring.  -Steve

 

Rat with Cheese

Treat Your People Like Really Smart Rats and 3 Other Manager Tips

Do you wonder why a few of your handpicked team members can’t seem to escape the gravitational pull of sub-par performance? Do you unconsciously use human attribution theory to explain and judge your people’s lackluster performance or failings?

Perhaps the problem is not with your people but with your own belief systems, and possibly, your training and coaching skills. Your skill sets regarding human potential and motivation may need an upgrade.

High performing manager-coaches are keenly aware that their expectations of their people often become self-fulfilling. When others fall short of achievable performance results the emotionally intelligent manager first looks in the mirror to reflect on potential flaws in their thinking and competencies.

 

These Rats Are Really Smart!

A lab experiment was conducted to measure experimenter expectancy on rats’ maze running abilities. Two groups of unsuspecting students (the rat handlers) were informed that one group of rats were bred to be “maze bright” and the other group “maze dull,” when in fact the entire group were standard lab rats divided randomly.

The rats labeled “bright,” well, made the podium. The expectation of the rat handlers influenced the rats’ performance. Nuts, right? Apparently the “bright” rats were handled differently and thought to themselves “I’m smart, people like me, and I’m going to crush this maze course today.”

 

Management Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Effective manager-coaches embrace the Pygmalion Effect (HBR article) – believing that most employees’ performance will rise or fall to their leader’s level of expectations. Believe it. In medicine, this phenomenon of human expectancy and results is accepted as the placebo effect.

However, do not confuse genuine belief in people’s innate abilities with Pollyanna thinking. The effective manager deals in reality on the ground, not naivety, or unfiltered positive bias.

Believing that people are capable of producing great results puts the manager squarely on the hook for three heavy-lifting goals:

  1. Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent. Effective manager-coaches do stay up at night appropriately worrying that they have the right team on the bus, knowing that their organizations are only as strong as their weakest employee. As undeniably brilliant as Steve Jobs was, his real mastery was in selecting really smart and capable people (it’s reported that Steve personally conducted over 5,000 interviews). Impetuous in his early years, Steve evolved into a great manager.
  2. Embodying High Performance Expectations for Producing Excellent Products and Services. Great managers are tough on principles and standards but gentle on their people. People have an innate desire to be successful, however, many have never been called upon to be great. Wholeheartedly believing in the potential of others is the greatest service a manager can perform.
  3. Becoming a Master Teacher and Coach. The loss of an individual’s hidden talent was named the 8th Deadly Waste in Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing system. Being skilled at selecting top talent only brings the manager and his or her team part way up the performance mountain. “Sweeney’s Miracle,” drives home the mandatory requirement that managers believe in the ability to train and motivate others to high achievement. Simple belief in people’s potential, minus capable training and teaching, falls into the categories of hopes and dreams.

 

Manage Around High Standards, Never Personality or Tenure

Davie was a rising star in my restaurant. He possessed natural talent, had a positive attitude, and was a rare 15-year-old workhorse. He was rapidly promoted; along with commensurate pay increases to the very demanding sauté cook position by the time he was 17 years old.

Unfortunately, Davie’s maturity didn’t keep pace with his talent. He became cocky, undisciplined in following strict menu standards, and less open to feedback. Under my radar, he quietly built a power base with the younger kitchen crew who, not surprisingly, adapted his cavalier attitude.

After giving Davie several sincere course-correcting opportunities he chose the lone ranger path – not an option in our team-oriented kitchen culture. A Top Gun will always test your principles, values, and management fortitude. Davie was an exceptional kid and, like most of us, was full of insecurities. My unshakable belief in his abilities to take on more responsibilities never wavered, even when he made mistakes, and he made plenty. His achievements might not have fully manifested had I simply expected greatness out of him. However, my resolute belief combined with his steady progress in our Kitchen Professional training program, Davie’s capabilities blossomed.

 

Belief + High Expectations + Training = Sustained Performance

 

Start speaking and caring for your people as if they were really smart rats, while establishing and enforcing clear performance expectations. Commit to becoming an effective and inspiring manager-coach. Your people will start winning the maze course called work and you’ll establish yourself as a credible leader worth following.

 

As always, check out the resources page for more great information about how you can improve your manager-coaching skills today!

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring.  -Steve