News & Insight
September 2003

Your Career Path to Success Making the Most Of Coachable Moments

Bill Morin<br />Chairman & CEO<br />WJM Associates

Coachable moments are those golden opportunities for managers to teach staff on the spot. Your coaching moves from theory to practice quickly when you observe people on the job and provide them with immediate feedback. And it doesn't have to take a lot of time.

I once worked with a company that was as committed to coaching as any organization I had ever seen, and its bottom line reflected it. The company was a large national retail chain with hundreds of stores all over the country. Coaching was ingrained in its culture.

Every day, in every store, every manager was required to do at least one two-minute coaching drill with every salesperson in the store. Coaching was as important as ordering inventory, stocking the shelves, and maintaining the store.

The two-minute coaching drill usually went something like this:

  • The manager observed the salesperson in a customer sales situation.
  • After the customer left, the manager took the person aside and asked how she thought she did.
  • The manager then gave feedback to the person as to how she could have done better.
  • The manager and salesperson role-played the real-life sales situation that had just occurred using the manager's suggestions and the employee's self-reflection.

The two-minute coaching drills were used for a variety of purposes, including improving performance in all kinds of areas, encouraging cross selling, correcting mistakes, and maximizing sales. Specifically, managers:

  • Used slow times for coaching practice. If, for example, salespeople weren't recommending enough product, managers would take them in the back room and review sales basics.
  • Taught salespeople how to transition from selling one product to selling another.
  • Showed how to make confident recommendations without sounding pushy.
  • Helped salespeople think through items to suggest.
  • Instructed salespeople on how to handle customer objections.
  • Showed salespeople how to ask open-ended questions.
  • Trained salespeople on how to listen and focus on customer needs.

Managers used every coaching opportunity as a chance to teach a principle, practice it, and then get commitment for continued performance. Some managers would actually role-play with salespeople as they unpacked shipments. Others quizzed salespeople on products during down times. Managers were constantly in coaching mode.

Role-playing was such a way of life that often managers would rehearse with staff and, soon after, the situation they had just practiced became a reality on the sales floor. Coaching was so entrenched in the company's culture that managers coached the managers below them and salespeople even coached managers! As managers constantly coached salespeople, the salespeople were so programmed to deal with customers in specific ways that when managers didn't follow the instruction they had been giving, the salespeople let them know.

To reinforce the power of coaching even further, managers were asked to submit their best coaching stories to an in-house publication. Anytime anyone in the organization had room for improvement-- not just salespeople -- coaching was the tool managers used most to help the person achieve peak performance.

Once you start looking for coachable moments, you'll find that they happen all the time. Before they do, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the time and place appropriate?
  • Is the person in a frame of mind to hear what I am saying?
  • Am I prepared to coach the person and offer my undivided attention?

If the answer is yes, seize the moment and make the most of it as a coach.

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