In our work with clients, sales managers frequently report that coaching is a key responsibility of their role and something that they enjoy doing. They derive important job satisfaction from their coaching interactions, specifically those interactions in which they feel able to shape, develop and encourage performance.
Coloured by this glow of good feeling, it seems widely assumed that coaching impacts performance positively. And I believe that in the vast amount of cases it has a beneficial effect. But how do we really know how, when and why coaching drives performance? Without this information who can coach the coaches?
We see some basic measures being applied in some of our client organizations and we have invested heavily in creating technology that supports the delivery and development of coaching, and ultimately the measurement of coaching. But let’s first define the nature of the coaching we could measure.
In previous articles we defined different types of coaching. We described coaching activities along a continuum, from brief and spontaneous (without note taking), to more formal, structured activities wherein some notes or feedback (and / or actions plans) are developed. We propose that formal type coaching activities are measured, while believing that any method of tracking informal coaching would undermine its intention and diminish its value.
So, when looking to assess the value of formal coaching, here are five basic measures:
1. Frequency: This is the most common measure that we see used by our clients. Tracking how much coaching gets done, and when it happens, is a basic and essential measure. Are sales managers coaching enough? Are they coaching at the right time?
2. Target: Who is getting the coaching? Top performers, middle or bottom? Link frequency and target with performance data and you start to get a picture of the impact of the coaching delivered.
3. Focus: Digging deeper into the coaching activity can reveal the focus – skills, activities and knowledge –that are the subject of the coaching.
4. Type: Formal coaching activities take many forms: in the field during joint sales calls, pre-call planning sessions, and business reviews are all examples of “types” of coaching. Identifying the type of coaching used by sales managers can provide insight into patterns, preferences and learning needs.
5. Quality: The relevance, specificity and tone found in written notes and action plans offers a tremendous source of insight into how managers are developing performance and driving commitment.
We have found many tracking systems that support senior management in the development of their coaching cultures and few of them easy to implement. Excel based systems and schedule based ones are the most common, and yield some valuable information, specifically about frequency and targets. Combined with good performance data, these systems are incredibly useful at assessing and coaching coaches.
Sales organizations are keen to measure the performance and activity of salespeople, and with that information they are more effective coaches, encouraging and guiding behaviour. So why not place similar emphasis on understanding the activity of sales managers?
The opportunity for leverage at the frontline is significant. Develop better coaching and drive better performance fast. Implement simple systems that capture feedback and action plans, and you open the door to greater insight and enhanced performance.