Throughout my career I have taken on many different roles. I have been a reporter, managing editor, community educator, marketing coordinator, and a marketing director. Sometimes I have had success, sometimes I have had failures, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized why there was a difference.
As the marketing director, it was my job to make sure each coordinator was out in the community promoting our business. I visited them monthly and went over goals and asked how I could help. I called weekly to go over reports and discuss new strategies. But the missing piece of my puzzle was that I was directing and not coaching. I was allowing my marketing coordinators to rely solely on my ideas, and I realized I had hindered their ability to come up with their own ideas. Sure, I would ask for them to give me ideas, but most of the time I was left frustrated when they would say, “Well your ideas sound great.”
Then I stumbled across an article by Steven Rosen called “The 5 Biggest Sales Management Coaching Blunders”, and I had an epiphany. I had to learn how to become a great coach, and what I learned in Rosen’s article was that meant not making the five most common coaching blunders. Today I’m going to share those blunders with you. I believe they help, not just in marketing, but in any aspect of leading your staff.
Coaching Blunder #1 – “Telling vs. Asking Coaching”
When you were hired into a management role, you were probably selected because of your ability to solve problems. My boss tells me all the time, “The size of your paycheck is directly related to the size of the problems you are able to solve.” For me, the biggest mistake I tend to make is I tell people how to do something, instead of pointing them in the right direction and letting them figure it out for themselves.
Rosen points out that by telling people how to do things, instead of coaching, you are often not only perceived as a micro manager, but you are also teaching them to be dependent on you to solve their problems. If you are constantly getting emails, phone calls, or visits in your office from your employees, you’re probably guilty of telling and not coaching.
Coaching Blunder #2 – “I’ll get to it Coaching”
As a manager, you probably go non-stop with meetings, answering and returning messages, and doing all of the paperwork required for your job. We feel accomplished at the end of the day when we can check each of those things off the list. But sometimes we forget to actually monitor our staff.
One of the blunders I fell into was not frequently visiting one of our territories often enough to go out into the field with our marketing coordinator. Through our phone calls and monthly meetings, where we did role play, it appeared he was doing a super job. But I did not take the time to actually go out in the field with him often enough to make sure the messages he was delivering were the messages we wanted delivered. Now I make coaching field visits with my marketing coordinators a top priority.
Coaching Blunder #3 “Laundry List Coaching”
After going out with my marketing coordinators, I often find they have strengths and weaknesses. While I’m quick to praise them for their strengths, I have not always handled weaknesses in the best possible way. No one is perfect, but giving someone a long list of things to improve on at one time is setting them up for failure. Now I watch them in the field and then I point out one or two areas where I think they need the most improvement. More than that, I offer suggestions of books to read and then during our weekly calls, I follow-up with discussions. Once I feel they have mastered the problem area, I move on to the next area. Rosen points out that “great coaching is about focus, focus, and focus.”
Coaching Blunder #4 “One Size Fits All Coaching”
If Blunder #1 is my biggest pitfall, Blunder #4 runs a close second. I am a great trainer. I helped build our marketing program, and I know what it took to get it there. After the first two weeks of training, I used to assume each marketing coordinator would go out and do what I taught them. Then I realized each person brings a unique personality to their positions. Sometimes I would butt heads. Other times I would grow frustrated. I would explain something to one marketing coordinator the same as to another, but it just wouldn’t work out with the second one.
Then I realized, not everyone learns the same. Additionally, not everyone responds to critiques and suggestions the same way. Now I try to turn off my “auto-pilot” style of training, and I work on adapting the skills I have to fit the strengths of my marketing coordinators. Rosen notes, “Coaching is a one-to-one sport. It is about growing individuals to develop to their full potential.”
Coaching Blunder #5 – “Way to go Coaching”
When I first stepped into the management role, I made a big mistake. I wanted to tell my marketing coordinators they were doing a great job, but it was hard for me to tell them when they had done something wrong. When I finally did, they would acknowledge it, and I would hope it was fixed. Then a month later, we would be talking about the same thing again.
Rosen calls this “Way to Go Coaching” because you are simply giving them a way to go, but you are not making them commit to actually change. You have to figure out a way to get buy-in from the person you are working with, or nothing will change. To do this, based on your discussion, have your marketing coordinator actually write out three or more steps he or she will take to improve. The key – have them come up with the ideas, not you.