Here’s the short answer to the important question: How Long Do Managers Coach Attitudes or Skills To Make Someone Better?
You may decide, after identifying that it’s a character issue, to let them go with dignity and move on. You made a mistake in one of the 3 most important selection dimensions when you hired them – their character or their conscientiousness.
This blog will not be a comprehensive look at the last 100 years of conscientiousness research. We’ll save that for another time.
I believe that most sales leaders and managers, say 90%, should move on when finding an employee with a major character issue. In other words, after addressing character issues once, maybe twice, if they still continue, move on and let them go. Actually, for some character issues, you will fire the person immediately.
Let me ask you 7 questions – 7 rhetorical questions about a salesperson you might hire, then let’s talk about creating reasonable coaching or leadership behaviors for yourself.
- What if they lie to you, their teammates or their customers?
- What if they steal something from you, the company or a customer?
- What if they do not do what they say they will do when they say they will do it, and they do not tell you that the time frame for completion has changed?
- What if they do not work hard and instead waste selling time – time they could be prospecting, selling or serving customers?
- What if they are not motivated to set and achieve sales and income goals. And you know that, because they do not keep track of their progress and do not know their month-to-date numbers?
- What if they talk about you or the company in a negative way to their teammates – maybe they blame their own lack of progress on you or the company – maybe they just want to undermine your authority?
- What if they use or bring illegal substances into the workplace?
Clearly Define the Standards for Your Team
I read a book years ago, and the author talked about thinking of coaching situations as “on the playing field and off the playing field.” Some issues, those on the playing field, you will decide to coach a certain number of times, but others, those off the field, will not be coached at all, and they will require immediate removal from the sales team and the company.
Now, let’s go back to the 7 questions I asked you, and I want you to decide which ones are definitely off the playing field. Which ones will require immediate removal from your sales team and your company?
- What if they lie to you, their teammates or their customers? Do they stay on the team?
- What if they steal something from you, the company or a customer? Do they stay on the team?
- What if they do not do what they say they will do when they say they will do it, and they do not tell you that the time frame for completion has changed. Do they stay on the team?
- What if they do not work hard and instead waste selling time – time they could be prospecting, selling or serving customers? They do not work while at work? They do not maximize their time toward sales and income producing activities? Do they stay on the team?
- What if they are not motivated to set and achieve sales and income goals? And you know that, because they do not keep track of their progress and do not know their month-to-date numbers when asked? Do they stay on the team?
- What if they talk about you or the company in a negative way to their teammates – maybe they blame their own lack of progress on you or the company – maybe they undermine your authority? Do they stay on the team?
- What if they use or bring illegal substances into the workplace? Do they stay on the team?
Know What is Unacceptable for Your Reps
You may have never thought about what will get someone fired at once – something that’s way off the playing field. But I want you to at least think about it. What behaviors are off the field for you, across the line, and ones you will not tolerate even once? Write them down.
Now, which behaviors, attitudes, skills, or result levels will you coach? How many times? Low results related to skill? For how long? With what approach? Low results related to low activity levels may be due to paralysis by analysis – the need for too much detail instead of just making the calls? What about low results related to low activity levels due to spending too much time in unrelated sales activities?
In other words, what on the field playing behaviors are you willing to coach when you see them. Maybe you’ll only do it once, or twice, or perhaps there are behaviors or attitudes that you will coach over and over. Maybe the timeframe will make a difference – same thing happened a year ago – or it happens over and over every week. Or, maybe the coaching requires you to be a micromanager, and you will not do that.
Skills vs Character and Morality Problems
As you read this, I want you to think of both veterans and new reps being onboarded when you go through this exercise. The one important question to ask yourself is, “What is an average and reasonable time frame to expect for someone to onboard, begin producing, and paying for themselves or at least to reach a minimum sales level worthy of keeping a seat on the team?” You need to know this time frame.
For any behavior you see, or you see the effects of, decide if it is more related to attitude or skill. Is it a mentor worthy problem, and are you willing to spend the time and the patience required to see if they will respond to your coaching?
Is it a moral or psychological problem that you cannot fix, and you do not have the tools, knowledge, time, or inclination to fix? Or, is what they have done so egregious and off the playing field that you must, for the sake of yourself, the company, and the reps, remove them from the team?
Is the problem related to skill, attitude, character or morality? The playing field you will coach on, and the problems you discover in your analysis, will make a difference in what you decide to coach and the length of time you will be willing to give.
As you work through your own knowledge and growth as a leader, the thought exercises in this blog will help prepare you for the people challenges you will face. You will always be growing and getting better with making hard decisions with people by using better approaches for their development.
But remember this. Recruit character and conscientiousness first. While all of us are broken in some moral context, and we all make mistakes, people do have varying amounts of morality, honesty, hard work ethic, sense of responsibility, and the motivation to work for specific achievement and the good of others. If you hire character and conscientiousness first and pass on the rest, your life as a sales coach, leader, and manager will improve at once, because you will hire people who will want to do good for the right reasons. They will want to grow.