It amuses me that “coaching” has become a universal buzzword in the skills development lexicon over the last three or four years. It amuses me because coaching has been an integral part of our business process for twenty-six years. We realized back then that training without coaching produces minimal improvement at best, whereas training plus coaching produces a four-fold increase in new productivity according to a study conducted by the American Society for Training and Development.
Providing coaching feedback is not as easy as it might appear, though. The key to successful coaching is to provide feedback that preserves a person’s self esteem while motivating them to change and improve. You need to provide constructive feedback that praises and reinforces the person’s strengths, as well as identifies and rectifies their weaknesses.
Effective coaching involves creating a comfortable environment where learning can occur. Open communication is a key element in creating the foundation for a collaborative coaching climate. Feedback works best when:
- It is well-timed. In general, immediate feedback is most useful while things are still fresh in both your minds.
- It is specific and focused on observed behaviour, rather than on the person or personality. Refer to what a person does, rather than to what we think or imagine that person to be.
- It involves sharing of information. It is a two-way dialogue with both parties clear on how the feedback will be used.
- It considers the needs of the receiver. Feedback can be destructive when it serves only the sender’s needs and fails to consider the needs of the person on the receiving end.
- It involves the amount of information the receiver can use rather than the amount the sender would like to give. Don’t “dump the bucket” by trying to coach too many skills at once. Focus on two or three skills at most during any coaching session. Anything more than that will cause information overload.
- It is directed toward behaviour which the receiver can do something about. People can’t change their personality, but they can improve the way they apply their skills, once they have learned how.
- It concerns what or how something is said or done, not why. The “why” takes us from the observable to the subjective that involves assumptions regarding motives or intent.
- It is balanced between praise and criticism. People need to know what they are doing well, but you can’t just be a “cheerleader”. You also have to address what they need to improve.
Combining these elements of effective feedback with a sales productivity tool like ASPEC will dramatically increase the productivity of your sales team.