The words stare at me every day at our kitchen sink. They are engraved on a paper weight sitting right next to the faucet, so that everyone who comes to the sink to wash dishes, hands or pans reads the words of inspiration. It’s a little beaten down by time and water marks, but it sits there every single day reminding us all.
When I first set it there 12 years ago, I put it there for our two young boys. It was friendly reminder to reach for better than the day before as each new day began--in hindsight, it’s been a talisman for my husband and I throughout our careers. The fact of the matter is that it’s easy to phone it in every day. Show up. Do the bare minimum. Create a quiet goal to be polite and move forward in your work at a pace that at the same time fails to distract or attract attention. The lines at that point blur a little…is it failure or failure to try? One of the most simple mistakes we make daily in the workplace is not investing in the relationships around us. Our success is the sum of the investment we make in those around us every day.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”-Thomas Edison
Excellence can be fostered in any situation, regardless of circumstance. The jump from mediocrity to excellence is sometimes such a small leap; we hardly see it in front of ourselves. In order to create excellence for ourselves, and others, within our workplace it is invaluable to become a better coach. Management is a function of coaching, not coaching a function of management. And yet, so many of us leave coaching on the table as an initiative that training and development may initiate at a future date. The foundation of coaching is simple and yet the most effective driver of discretionary effort that we can implement for our organizations. One of the most important coaching opportunities we have with our team is their annual career development plan.
The best talent is always focused on advancing their careers. In order for sales reps to prosper and experience performance growth, they need to be encouraged to reach their full potential at minimum a yearly basis. Career development plans fit this need perfectly. You can’t stay on path if you don’t know where you’re going, right?
The benefits of performing career development plans with your sales reps include:
- Organizational alignment: Give you as coach the opportunity to develop goals that balance the needs of the organization with the employee’s career aspirations.
- Unlock potential: This activity empowers sales reps to create and manage their own goals for personal and professional development.
- Maximize value: Give the coach an opportunity to link development goals to learning activities in order to accelerate learning and therefore creating a pool of ‘ready-now’ successors. This also allows the coach to retain top talent by matching employees with open positions in the organization.
The following are some best practices as it relates to career development plans:
- Done annually
- Focused on development
- Focused on individual needs
- Questions shared in advance
When preparing for career development plans it is highly-important to give your sales reps the questions to complete and let them know you need responses a couple of days before the meeting (be sure to set aside 1-2 hours so that you have plenty of time for discussion.) The purpose of sending them an outline of questions prior to their meeting with you is so that you are able to get your team members thinking and owning their own professional and personal development. As sales coaches, we want to be sure to foster the ability to promote continual learning by asking such questions as:
- What are your passions and motivations?
- What are your greatest talents and skills that should be utilized in your role?
- What personal goals do you wish to share? What obstacles could prevent you from achieving your goal?
- Define ‘success’ within your current role?
- What will your personal production goal for the next year?
- What other professional skills would you like to enhance/learn?
- Are there certain people/departments with whom you would like to work more closely?
- How can I as your coach assist you in accomplishing your goals?
It's always the perfect time of year to set goals--to set the course for new performance growth. It's also the perfect time to raise the bar on our expectations on what not only what our team is capable of, but us as coaches as well. If we each woke up each and every day with the mindset that we each have the capacity to inspire the accomplishment of our team's goals without letting fear of failure set in, the result and the process are inevitably so much more enjoyable and growth filled. As coaches, we have the unique opportunity to help create the path to promote and enhance an individual's performance growth--it's an opportunity and a privilege that we don't want to miss.