Throughout history, leadership approaches have reflected the advancement of different industries as well as societal changes. As new economies develop, management approaches evolve to drive new types of workers. Research continues to shape our understanding of what motivates people to perform at a higher level. Scientific discoveries about how people think and feel teaches us how to tap into their need to achieve. Simply stated, as the world changes, so does the way in which we manage, lead and coach people. This is the first of a three part series written by Bill Eckstrom, President of EcSELL Institute and Sarah Wirth, VP Member Services of EcSELL Institute.
Effective leadership requires evolving management styles
In the industrial age, we saw the rise of a manufacturing approach to leadership. The focus was on creating consistent production processes to ensure predictable outcomes in the delivery of quality products. Precise planning and execution became paramount, and so tight controls on workers were put into place. Little focus was placed on human relations and the needs of the workforce in order to increase productivity. In general, this era was marked by a top-down, authoritative style of leadership.
In the 1970s, manufacturing started to become less of a dominant force in our country’s economy and service-based businesses began to become a more dominant player on the landscape. As we entered the era of increased service-based businesses, we saw a shift away from the authoritative style of the past and the rise of servant leadership as a way to engage new kinds of workers. With the emphasis on meeting customer needs, leaders also began to understand the importance of taking care of the workers that were serving their customers. So they began to take active interest in the needs, goals and motivations of their employees.
In the last two decades, we have entered a knowledge economy where capturing and deploying information drives much of the country’s most significant business growth. The “flattening” of our world means the inputs that affect our businesses are numerous, disparate and ever-changing. In essence, we have entered an era of complexity that is marked by a constant barrage of data and unpredictable consequences. And as we’ve seen historically, a new type of economy often creates a paradigm shift in leadership approaches. That is why today’s leaders must move beyond just managing processes and engaging employees to now stimulating the intellect of their workforce to find the right path forward in a complex environment. The successful leaders of the future must possess a “C factor” that allows them to coach their team to high performance by embracing, rather than fearing, complexity.
Enter Sales Coaching
As we evolve toward a new way of engaging our teams, it is also time to change our vernacular and concept of what it means to lead others. In the industrial age, the manager had the primary purpose of ensuring workers were following procedures that led to predictable outcomes. In the truest sense of the word, the manager was managing the processes and outputs. With the rise of servant leadership and related employee-centric management theories in the 70s, the term leader became more commonplace. Leaders weren’t just responsible for managing processes, they also needed to achieve results through inspiring, motivating and guiding employees. In short, they led people in addition to managing output. Now, with the rise of the knowledge economy, leaders must evolve again. In order to deal with the complexity of today’s environment, they also must be able to mine the ideas and intellect of their employees by pushing them to learn and grow like they never have before. This is why we are moving forward to a new concept and a new kind of leader: the sales coach.
The word coach triggers association with athletic teams, for which the job description is simple: to win. Indeed, the role of coaching in athletics encompasses the same key elements of effectively leading an organization. The coach must manage processes and outputs, lead and inspire their team, and push their team into a complex, growth-oriented mode to achieve maximum performance. In addition to being more robust than previous descriptors of the manager role, the title and role of a coach more clearly defines what is required in sales to consistently succeed. Coaching is not merely a component of the job; coaching is the job.
Though we hear the term coach with increasing frequency, it is often referred to only as an action and not as a position. As a verb the word coach, though valuable, has previously been too limited in scope. A sales coach is a position—a strategic position. And a sales coach has a three-fold purpose: to manage processes and output, to create a collaborative leadership environment, and to navigate between order and complexity to ensure maximum growth.