(Adapted from "The Coaching Effect".)
If you're a leader you know that "coaching" has always been considered a soft skill, and what differentiates a soft skill from a hard skill is measurability. The way one dresses, their executive presence, social graces, voice intonation, body language, and so on are soft skills because they are not measured nor correlated to performance.
Coaching, however, no longer fits that definition since it can now be measured and correlated to decreases or increases in performance. For example, when EcSell Institute measures how often a coach does joint work with sales people, how often they have a career discussion, how often they provide feedback, how often they are holding one-to-one meetings, and how effective they are at all those activities, we can then correlate them to performance and draw fact-based conclusions on coaching effectiveness. More on this here.
The Coaching Performance Equation
With this data, decisions can be made about which performance-enhancing coaching activities and behaviors need to be improved and which bring little or no value and therefore need to be eliminated. And from this research, we have defined a manager, or coach as we like to say, as one who develops relationships, order, and complexity to maximize individual and team performance. Recall the Coaching Performance Equation:
R + O + C = P
Relationship + Order + Complexity = Performance
Without accurate insights about what a manager is doing or not doing to influence growth, leaders at all levels have a distorted understanding of what performance buttons to push or levers to pull. To achieve growth, managers inevitably place pressure on employees to do more.
And in sales, it is the salesperson who is asked to make more calls, have more appointments, create more proposals, build the pipeline, and close more deals. But as my former boss would say, “There are no such things as salesperson issues, there are only sales coaching issues.” (Tweet this)
In our book The Coaching Effect, my colleague and I explained how the outcome of coaching is to create discretionary effort, which is, to reiterate, the additional output produced by a team because of the coach. Because of what they do and how well they do it, certain coaches obtain vast amounts of discretionary effort from those on their teams, while others obtain very little.
Navy SEALs produce extreme amounts of discretionary effort because of their commanders and leaders. The SEALs have a saying in which they passionately believe: “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” Most executive leaders aren’t so naïve to think that all their frontline coaches are great.
As a matter of fact, most tell us that they know they have some poor leaders—but do they know how poor? In the SEALs example, the high-performing leader obtained greater discretionary effort, resulting in consistently better performance. But the low-performing commander withheld or limited the performance of his crew: he created negative discretionary effort.
Negative Discretionary Effort
A sales team with a coach who produces negative discretionary effort would likely sell more if it were to operate without that manager. In our research, we found that 30 percent of coaches provide no or negative discretionary effort, which was surprising. Check out this whitepaper about the cost of demotivating managers.
Not long ago, we visited with a vice president of sales who had a series of four regions across the country, each with about eight salespeople who reported to a coach of that region. All the teams were struggling to hit numbers except for one—the team whose coach had been released six months prior and who had been operating without one.
The cost of a bad coach, depending on the company, results in millions of dollars in lost revenue. The sad part is that likely one out of three coaches in every organization is weak—and nobody is identifying who they are. But what is worse is that the poor coaches have no resources or understanding of how to improve. All the while, low engagement, turnover, lost sales, and lost productivity pollute the organization.
Measuring Manager Effectiveness Solution
For organizations to grow and sustain that growth, development programming with measurable outcomes needs to shift to the leadership team, with a strong emphasis on frontline coaches. Businesses have forever tracked financial information with amazing accuracy. They have learned to track client buying patterns, market trends, inventory turn, price trends, and so much more, all with the understanding that with accurate information outcomes can be affected. Yet it is ludicrous to think that nobody has any measurable data on the role that has the biggest impact on the performance of individuals and teams—the frontline coaches.
If you want to measure the effectiveness of your frontline coaches, begin with The Coaching Effect Survey. More information found here:
In the meantime, subscribe to our monthly Coaching Effect Newsletter: