Coach… Don’t Demand

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower


Today’s post is going to have a more serious tone. I really want to write about an internal service dilemma that almost anyone will face many times in their career. It’s one that I am currently facing in my position so the topic is fresh in my mind! To get into it… I can’t think of a job that I have ever had where at some point or another something was expected of me that I either:

  • Did not agree with;
  • Did not understand; or
  • Did not yet know how to do.

When presented with any of these situations, I had different managers with different approaches to help me achieve the goals set out for me yet each one took some sort of coaching approach. I always value managers who coach or guide me instead of laying out expectations and demanding results. For the tasks I did not agree with, coaching helped me see the long term benefit of something that short-term made me uncomfortable. For the tasks that I didn’t understand, coaching laid out explanations and examples of why it (whatever “it” was at the time) would work and benefit the bottom line. And for the tasks that I simply did not know how to do, coaching gave me a pathway to learning instead of setting me up for failure.

Recently I have dealt with “demands” for the first time and holy smokes! Not a fan! High pressure and expectations can bring out the polar bests or worsts in leaders. It’s imperative for anyone in a leadership role to understand and evaluate the approach they take when looking for results from their employees. This is the crux of positive internal service, trust building, and empowerment.

Demanding vs. Coaching

Let’s review the following two scenarios. In each one, you are the sales employee for an appliance store and have to come in early for a meeting before your place of business opens. Your manager said there is some important updates to your location’s goals for this quarter and he wants to go over the expectations individually with everyone on the team. When it’s your turn, you sit with your manager, who leads with the following:

I know today is a long work day so thank you for coming in early for this meeting. Lunch will be on me today! I want to review your goals for this quarter and take the time to get any questions you might have before we open up today. We’ll start with a review of last quarter’s results. It looks like you had a goal to sell 100 units and you were able to achieve 87. I can see you put some effort in since you sold 63 the quarter before that. About half of your customers from last quarter completed the receipt survey and your score on that is 92% out of a goal of 96% or better and I’m happy with that. I hope you are too. Next quarter is going to be a challenge but we’ll work together to make it happen. The company wants to open a new location so they’re pushing us for more sales. We’re going to set up some fun internal competition to get everyone motivated and there will be a prize for our top performer. I’d like the team to come up with this competition with you taking the lead to make it happen. We’ll meet weekly to discuss the goals and see what else we can do to help you make your numbers.

That is a long scenario to read through but hopefully you see the underlying message is that the manager wants their employee to be successful, they want them to feel empowered and supported. The manager lets their employee know that they didn’t reach their goal without making them feel badly about it. They are giving them ownership of the new, more difficult goal and letting them know that they won’t be left in the dust to figure it out. This is leadership and coaching.

Let’s rework this conversation. Same scenario, different approach.

Today’s going to be a long day for everyone so let’s make this quick and painless, shall we? Last quarter you only made 87% of your goal so let’s bring that number up this quarter. You scored 92% out of 96% for service which dropped our overall score, hopefully we can recover that this quarter. We have a lot of work ahead of us with difficult goals. Company wants more locations and more from us. Just make sure you focus on the job ahead of you and we’ll chat again next quarter, hopefully with better results.

Pretty different, right? There is no warmth or posivity to motivate the employee. Instead there is criticism and even blame for bringing down the reputation for everyone in service. The goal is delivered with little enthusiasm or hope for success. There is no offer of support. Your job is laid out before you and you’re told to go succeed but what here makes you want to do it?

Recognize Success

A good leader should want happy employees. Happy employees are generally more productive, less likely to miss a day of work, and will genuinely care about the company vision and future. Going back to the quote at the beginning… Happy employees will want to do what you’re asking of them. All of this should translate to happier customers too. It’s easy to get excited for your performing employees. The ones who always meet their goals and come to work ready for success. Some need more assistance, so how do you get everyone on the same page?

Recognize their successes and use that to build confidence and drive to find success in more areas.

When you sit back and demand from your employees, some will recognize they are there to do a job and will try to meet the goals with little else required–easy! Other employees want to be motivated or even need to be in order to produce results. But shouldn’t we all want to be motivated at work? Don’t we deserve to work in a culture that supports and encourages employees?

There are countless articles on motivating your staff and recognizing success. A quick google search will yield dozens and dozens of worthy ideas. What I am writing about now is much more high level… Don’t sit in an office and dictate the results you need to see (OR ELSE!!!). Coach your staff, support and encourage them. It is this good internal service that will make the people working for you feel appreciated and motivated to deliver more!

I would love to hear about your experiences with coaching (even those “demanding” times) in the comments. I promise there will be more humor in the next one! 😉

Service Success Story

I went shopping today for some new work pants. Spring is here and cropped pants are calling my name. I passed by the jewelry counter and noticed sunglasses, which I really need! My last pair was left behind in a car I traded in (dealership never called me about that… not great service!) and so I need new ones. The associate who came over to help me seemed really busy. She had a notebook in hand and put it down right on the counter almost as if to say “ok let’s do this because I’ve got deadlines”. She wasn’t very engaged in the sale and just grabbed whatever sunglasses I wanted to try from the case.

I am a really picky person. It took me awhile to find something. Throughout this process I knew I was taking up her time. Yes, she is there to help me, but I am well aware of what it’s like to have side work that needs to be done! The associate’s entire demeanor changed when I engaged her in my decision-making. I did my best to make her feel valued and that her opinion mattered to me (and it did! Always get second opinions, especially from an unbiased source…). I left smiling and she was smiling as she rung me up so I think the turnaround was a service success for us both. Be kind to one another and good things can happen.


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