It’s easy to just give an answer when someone comes to you, “Do it this way.”
Here’s the quick down-and-dirty so we can quickly move on to the next thing. Check.
But coaching salespeople (or really anyone, for that matter) requires more than spitting answers and giving directives. How are you teaching people how to think? How to make decisions?
How are you empowering them to find and craft the answers themselves?
Leaders don’t create thriving teams by pulling puppet-strings. Do this. Say this. Be this. Each person brings something, pieces you can learn from, a set of experiences to add to the collective. I value the minds and ideas of the people who are my team and eventually become my family.
Guiding people on how to make decisions, to train (and trust) their gut, and to find their own answers is counterintuitive to what we’re taught in management. If we supply all the answers, we’re needed. We’re proving ourselves. Hashtag job security.
In my past, I’d created teams of dependent salespeople who referred to me as “Momma Jean”. While I could infer this as a compliment of my nurturing instincts, it also said to me I’d developed codependent bonds. Tell me what to say, how to think. And when some would journey out on their own, they would automatically turn to me any time a new decision needed to be made or a slight challenge arose.
You want your people to feel cared for and supported. You want them to know you’re a resource and a place they can turn. But leadership requires an intersection of tough love. This means there are times your people will flounder a bit while you push them center-stage into discomfort. There are times you have to actually let them get tongue-tied, flustered, and even fall flat. They search and reach and get stretched. And while it feels uncomfortable, it’s often best that you don’t rescue them.
This is where the best learning happens.
Let them know it’s normal to trip and to stumble. It’s ok to take longer to seek the answer. Trial and error is an amazing teacher that allows for triumph and internalization.
Most companies don’t have a how-to guide or training course that says:
-Here’s how to think when it comes to making decisions.
-Here’s how to talk to people like people.
-Here’s how to empathetically answer a customer’s questions/concerns/demands in a way that guides conversation and makes sure they feel heard.
Here, however, is your opportunity to do just that. To instill values in your team. To connect with them through your awkward, ridiculous stories and provide a new lens of the world and of people. To coach them in scenarios that apply to both work and life (and love). You get to teach them your cumulative experience to help them journey without re-enacting all the same mistakes you did. And even if they do, you get to laugh alongside them in communion.
If, instead, you just tell your people how to do it, guess what happens? They’ll be grateful. They’ll be happy to get the “correct answer”. They’ll say, Thank you so much! And this all serves as affirmation you’re doing the right thing. Except, guess what happens next time they don’t know what to do? When you haven’t taken the care to show them how to go about getting their answers?
“Tell me what to doooo.”
When you teach people how to find their answers, you are empowering them to be independent. And that’s scary, because what happens if they no longer need you for everything?
It means you can invest more energy strategically. You can think more about how to support your people. You’re freed up to invent new innovative ways of growing your business. You can focus on culture and environment and building bonds.
You become a real leader.
What a satisfying reward to be surrounded by people who are better because you cared enough to develop them into more than a trained robot. You give them the freedom to think and feel and try within the context of your business. You support the times they misstep or screw up entirely. You teach them how to get up, brush off the dirt, and do it better the next time.
All of this requires more time. More patience. More LOVE.
So next time, instead of just answering a question, try this.
What do YOU think you should do?
Challenge your people’s knee-jerk reaction to ask for the answer, and to instead offer their ideas and suggestions first. Show them you value their inputs. Allow this to be an interactive time where you craft a response that’s a melding of both of you. Their unique signature and identity will begin to emerge into their work, and they will love it because it feels like them.
What do you THINK you should do?
Force them to take pause, test their instincts and decision-making prowess in the safety that’s your leadership haven. You can nudge and course-correct, and you’ll find they’ll delight you far more often than they disappoint.
And then what happens? You get to recognize them. You gift them with praise, and honor them with respect of their job well done. They thrive, they bask in the feeling and want to do it again. You build trust and a relationship of elevated mentorship. They grow.
Imagine if we were all led like this? It starts with you.