I was working with a client the other day, and I just wanted to share with you the conversation that took place.
We were chatting about developing, retaining and coaching and all that sort of thing. One of the executives started talking about his team and his thoughts went along the lines of – the high performers don’t require any time spent developing them as “they are fine”. He felt the time needed to be spent with the lower performers.
I shared with the group one of the best lessons I ever got as a manager when it comes to adapting this opinion, which I shared back then, by the way! It happened to me many years ago when I was running and managing a large sales force.
Like all salesforces you’ve got a small group at the top who are really hitting it out of the park and are brilliant performers, then you’ve got a bigger group below that that are pretty good and pretty average. And then, you’ve got a group at the bottom that are struggling.
As I said my philosophy at the time was that the high performers didn’t need or want any coaching and that the focus should be on groups below that to move them up to the higher performance group. Seemed logical to me at that time!!
And that was something I did believe in until one day, our top salesperson in the company came into my office.
He said to me, “John, you don’t value me.”
What? I said with genuine surprise! He was, after all, my top performer!
He said again, “John, you don’t value me.”
I was flabbergasted and talked about the rewards he received, the incentives he enjoyed, and all the trips he gets to enjoy! “So what do you mean I don’t value you?” I asked.
And he said, quite bluntly, that I never spend any time with him. He saw me spending time with a lot of other people who were producing far less business for me than he had. So the only conclusion he could come to was that I didn’t value him.
It was as if I was hit by a bus. Now, to his eternal credit, he did come and say it to me. Because otherwise, he could just as easily have left the organization, which he was thinking about. And I wouldn’t have found out until it was far too late. But he had come to me.
Of course, I had to put my hand up and say that he was absolutely right. I was not giving the time to him. And that was one of the greatest lessons that I learned in my role – in my career as a manager and a leader of people.
I never again made the assumption: “Well, they’re fine. They’re okay. They don’t need me. I focus on the people who actually need more work.”
You really need to nurture the talents that you’ve got and nurture the top talent in that organization. Because the other thing I learned is that when you do nurture the top talent, it raises the bar for the entire team.
And it becomes much more attractive for people to move into higher category because they see how you’re investing in that top group and not taking them for granted.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of spending my time with the people who are struggling and take for granted the people who are performing spectacularly. You kind of rationalize that they probably don’t want you around and they’re happy to be left alone.
But, I can guarantee that if you do that, you will fall prey to the same bad habit that I had fallen into at the time. To be honest, I really believe that I never ever made that same mistake again.
So it’s important to remember that your people are watching to see how you are investing your time. You can say all the grand things, make all the great gestures and make all the great statements, but if how you spend your time is not reflected in what you proclaim, then you are not going to be trusted.
The other interesting piece of that same conversation with the group, was when we talked about coaching. And while everyone said they saw the value, few actually did it! When I pressed as to why, the response was – “I’m not really certain how to run a coaching session.” And this comes up time and time again when people are really honest about it.
Because nobody is ever going to say, “No. I don’t believe in coaching. It’s a waste of time.” People will also say, “Oh yeah, I agree with coaching.” But then, when you ask them, how much time do you invest in coaching, the conversation kind of stalls.
There are a lot of excuses – “kind of busy at the moment”, “dealing with a lot of projects and things and just don’t have the space to do it” etc.
But I find that when peel that onion back a little bit more, you discover that what’s stopping people is that they don’t have a process for running coaching sessions. They kind of mix coaching and managing interchangeably in their head. They haven’t really got a process to run a coaching session.
And it’s one of the things that we’ve incorporated into the new program that we’ve developed, The First Hundred Days for New Managers. We really want to embed this early in people’s career so that they know how to run those sessions. They know how to run a managing session AND they know how to run a coaching session. And they know the difference between the two!
I can guarantee that if you really adopt the mindset of – “I am going to invest time in coaching all my people” then you will get a huge return on the time that you invest.
And, truthfully, it’s never the most urgent thing for you to do. But I can tell you, it is a critical part of managing and as managers, our challenge is to develop high performing teams. That means that we must understand what you need to do to build a high performing team.
Now, there are a number of components to that, but I can guarantee you that you will not have a high performing team if you do not invest the time in coaching your people. And that your team see that coaching is a key element in how you lead a team. Because if that’s how they see you doing it, then that’s exactly how they will do too. But the opposite is also true. If they see that if that’s not what you spend your time doing, then they won’t spend their time doing it either. The old saying of – “you reap what you sow”!
Your people will mirror your behaviour.
Coaching is one of the key elements of our new program The First Hundred Days for New Managers, because we want to build that habit early in every new manager’s career. This program is all about getting your new managers to become effective in half the time!
The whole course is created to provide the new manager with all the tools that they need to be a really effective manager.
So go to the link here. Have a look at the program and we would love to see your managers in there.