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Coaching Up and Down the Generations and How it Applies to Sales

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Wed Dec 08 2010

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Coaching Up and Down the Generations and How it Applies to Sales-a75ad48d7e85c2e31cf7037acef0751ca296fb7ad6ce7f9f7e707fb53dcee709

ASTD recently released Coaching Up and Down the Generations, a book tackling the question of how to coach when four generations are working together. We've talked briefly about the differences between the generations in the past, so we sat down with the author, Lisa Haneberg, to discuss typical problems that sales professionals can run into when trying to coach and the best ways to solve them. Common Pitfalls of Coaching

One of the biggest problems that sales managers can have with coaching is simply not knowing what a coach is supposed to be. For starters, a coach is not meant to be a cheerleader. You should be motivating your sales team, but if you want them to be successful, you have to give feedback too. Successful coaching isn't storytelling either. In other words, that look on your salesperson's face is boredom, not captivation.

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So what's the best way to look at coaching then?

Lisa says that you'll be a more effective coach "when you approach every coaching conversation from the viewpoint of a facilitator versus a sage." This means that a coach isn't meant to impart wisdom, but to bring out the best of what's already inside someone.

One great way to be a coach is to do something most sales managers are already familiar with: asking questions. If you ask questions, you're enabling the salesperson to figure out their own answer. Instead of passively listening to your advice, they're actively trying to solve their own issues. Empowering is the key to coaching. And, just like when you ask your customers questions, there's no such thing as asking too many.

Developing Your Own Coachability

One problem sales managers may face before they can be effective coaches is that they may need to work on their own ability to be coached (their "coachability"). Here's what Lisa had to say about developing your own coachability:

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"To be great learners, sales professionals need to be open, curious, and willing to explore many possibilities. The key to great coachability, then, is to see the time you invest in learning from others as an investment, not a cost... Highly coachable sales people improve their performance and results by sharing best practices and innovating."

In other words: if you're not willing to listen and learn from others, why should others be willing to listen and learn from you? The key to being a good coach is also the key to being a good learner.

Facing the Inevitable: Coaching Someone Older Than You

You're going to have to face it: sooner or later, you'll end up with the often uncomfortable task of coaching someone who is old enough to be your parent. One of the first things you need to realize is that no matter what, the salesperson is likely to be embarrassed about the prospect of someone younger and likely less experienced trying to coach them. And unfortunately, there's not every much you can do to change that.

What you can do though is recognize the opportunity that this awkwardness can create; that is, that you have no choice but to be a facilitator instead of a sage. By coaching through open-ended questions instead of advice, you'll significantly reduce the amount of friction that this situation may bring. Lisa notes that while coaching with "humility, appreciation, and patience" is always important, they become much more integral to success when the coach is younger than the learner.

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Coaching Up and Down the Generations looks at the key processes of transferring knowledge, developing teams, and collaborating, and examines how different age groups can better learn from each other and even experience major breakthroughs that will improve their progress - despite disparate backgrounds. Buy your copy at the ASTD Store today !

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