Have you noticed that almost everything you interact with throughout the day comes with recommended care instructions? Some are simpler than others, but for the most part, there is a certain way that everything must be treated in order for it to thrive.
I may not always do it, but I know that I am supposed to:
- Wash wool sweaters on cold and then lie them flat to dry
- Change my AC air filters every 3-6 months
- Wash my workout clothes without fabric softener in warm water and then dry on low
- Run 48 ounces of undiluted white vinegar through my Keurig every 3-6 months
- Feed my puppy ¼ cup three times a day, and make sure there are no meat by-products in her food
- Keep my orchids in bright, but indirect, sun although they require some time in the shade
But, I’m the first one to admit that I have ruined more than one delicate garment by accidentally throwing it in on hot and drying it until it shriveled like a raisin. As a matter of fact, an unfortunate number of my possessions have passed through my hands as if disposable because I didn’t read the care instructions—or even more likely—I was just moving too fast to be able to give them the totally customized care they needed.
Of course I’m not writing this article to teach you how to wash your delicates. Let’s agree, a silk top is a silk top. It can be replaced. But what if we’re talking about a person? It’s not so easy, or inexpensive, or even humane to replace a person because you failed to know how to care for him. That’s a whole different league of handling with care!
To make it even trickier, people don’t usually come with care instructions (although most new parents wish they did). We usually have to create and follow that care plan ourselves. And, just like with that silk top, it needs to be done just right for good results.
As a Talent Analyst for The Center for Sales Strategy, a big part of what I do is help our clients to build these care instructions and follow them properly. We give them lots of information and the right tools to make this both clear-cut and easy, but this is something that you can do as well.
Following these six steps, you can create your own individualized plan for each person you manage:
1. Know what they’re made of.
Just like you have to know whether you are dealing with silk or polyester, you also need to know the core fabric of the person you are managing. Use a validated talent instrument that measures the intensities of strengths and weaknesses so you can clearly understand what you are working with. This talent-based assessment should give you the information you need to build a coaching plan that will allow you to maximize their strengths while working around areas of weakness so they don’t get in their way.
2. Ask them what they need from you.
This is where you have a bit of an advantage over your local cleaners. Unlike that vintage wool suit they are dealing with down the street, your seller can actually tell you exactly what she needs from you right now. So, ask her. Our clients use an instrument we call the Individualized Management Questionnaire which guides them through a list of questions like, “Do you like being given a clear plan to follow, or do you prefer to do your own planning?” Create a list of questions that will help you to uncover how your salespeople want to be recognized, corrected, motivated, and taught to improve.
3. Build detailed care instructions for each individual.
Considering both what they NEED from you (see item #1) and what they WANT from you (see item #2), construct a detailed plan that you can follow to make sure you keep each salesperson in tip-top shape. This plan might include regular brainstorming sessions, a specific challenge related to learning something new, increased responsibility with an account, practicing presentations in advance of a call, reviewing their Valid Business Reasons regularly, or making sure they always have a next step in place. You should consider the specific coaching they need in the field and during your weekly meetings, as well as what they will need for general growth and development.
4. Shrink that bulky owner’s manual down to a quick-care tag.
There’s no way that you can do everything in that detailed plan for every person you manage every single day. Take a minute to narrow that list down to a handful of coaching strategies that you know you can commit to. And consider sharing that list with the seller himself so you can both be on the same page. Refer to this care label often – sticking it in your top drawer will not get you the results you are hoping for!
5. Make it easy for yourself.
Any way you look at it, between your AC filters and your coffee pot, you have a lot to keep up with in your daily life. Don’t leave something as important as the growth of your direct reports up to your memory. Create a simple reminder system that you can count on and use it regularly. This could mean plugging recurring appointments into your Outlook calendar at the right intervals with a reminder like, “Check in with Dave today, ask him about his priorities for the week, and work with him to identify non-priority items that might need to come off his list.” Or, you could use a simple coaching reminder system like www.coachingreminders.com that will send you texts or emails with the messages you input.
6. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
Once you have your coaching plan set for each individual you manage, follow your instructions carefully. Tweak the plans when necessary along the way and make sure you update them at least once a year. While the fabric that each person is made of won’t change over time (the intense will always be intense, the curious will always be curious, and the caring will always be caring), their coaching needs, maturity, and experience will change greatly. Gathering this information regularly and then using it to effectively Handle Them with Care.
For more ideas on coaching salespeople, download "Delivering Powerful Feedback."