Required Reading: Replace Managing with The Coaching Effect

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Management is one of the greatest enemies of growth today. That’s the premise of The Coaching Effect: What Great Leaders Do to Increase Sales, Enhance Performance, and Sustain Growth, which asserts that managing less and coaching more is key to performance and growth, particularly in sales. Authors Bill Eckstrom and Sarah Wirth—founder and vice president of client services, respectively, at EcSell Institute—studied more than 100,000 coaching interactions in the workplace to determine the effects of coaching. Associate Editor Sam Del Rowe spoke with them to find out more.

CRM magazine: What are the benefits of coaching? How does it lead to growth?

Bill Eckstrom: The benefit of coaching is greater productivity per person. In sales, managers who behave more like coaches lead teams that average $4.3 million in additional revenue.

There are three coaching themes that comprise team performance: relationship, order, and complexity. When coaches promote these themes, growth is the outcome, but growth only occurs in a state of discomfort. Discomfort results when change occurs and outcomes become unknown (complexity), which is why complexity must be present for growth. High-growth teams all had coaches who created healthy discomfort.

Can you elaborate on the tension between managing and coaching? How are they different?

Eckstrom: The term “manager” is archaic, used to describe someone who drives consistent inputs that lead to predictable outcomes, which we refer to as order. Coaches, on the other hand, are not just adept at developing healthy order; they also create trust-based relationships and make sure some discomfort is present.

The book identifies a number of actions that high-growth coaches use to motivate their teams. Can you elaborate?

Sarah Wirth: When we began researching coaching a decade ago, we discovered that four coaching activities—one-to-one meetings, team meetings, performance feedback, and career development—were the most common, but high-growth coaches were doing them differently. Not only did they have a better agenda for these activities, they had a different frequency for conducting them. High-growth coaches were more consistent in their execution. They performed these activities 30 percent more often than other coaches. And their coaching was rated as more effective, receiving 18 percent higher quality scores.

Are there other actions that high-growth coaches can use for team motivation?

Wirth: In addition to the four specific coaching activities, high-growth coaches can use the three performance drivers that were shared already—relationship, order, and complexity. It’s essential to first focus on building a relationship, because it’s impossible to coach people if they don’t trust you and feel that you really know them. Then, you want to bring order to your coaching relationships to create psychological safety, so team members know exactly what to expect. This means making performance standards crystal clear and committing to consistency in coaching. Lastly, you want to inject complexity, pushing team members to take on new challenges that get them outside their comfort zones. Discomfort is essential to growth.

At a high level, how can organizations manage less and coach more?

Wirth: Managing is about making sure work gets done and processes are followed. Coaching is about helping people maximize their potential. If you want to coach more, you need to ask more questions and give fewer answers. The best coaches really get to know team members and what makes them tick. They foster a culture of learning and growth where each person is an active participant in his own success, rather than just executing someone else’s priorities. This creates motivation to perform at a higher level.

Is there anything you want to add?

Eckstrom: Every business is leaving revenue on the table, which is disturbing. What’s more disturbing is that most businesses don’t know it, or at best, they know it but don’t know how to fix it. Most executives aren’t aware how much leaders/managers impact performance and growth.

Approximately 40 percent of managers should not be in leadership roles. They are simply not willing to do the activities or behave in ways that drive individual and team growth. Quantifying coaching acumen enables organizations to move people to proper roles or, even more important, helps them learn how to coach a coach.

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