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Do you have a coaching culture? Should you?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 7/20/16 10:00 AM

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur. I grew up in a family of small business owners and knew that I wanted to follow in their footsteps. It took some growing up to figure out what it was that I loved, was good at, and who that could help. I knew that I wanted to help business grow, because that is what created jobs for people, built communities, and made the world a better place by solving problems.

When I went back to college as an adult, I decided that marketing was the way I would be able to do that. I wrote the business plan and a year after graduation, launched my agency. I decided on marketing because I hated the idea of sales. You know, that pushy, aggressive, manipulative perspective that the majority of people have.

Then I learned that sales was something else entirely. Salespeople are the ones who can make the world a better place because they are the connection between a problem and a solution. Real salespeople are problem solvers, not product pushers.

The problem is that there aren’t a lot of real salespeople out there. And the clients that I was trying to help with marketing weren’t growing their businesses because at the end of the day- they weren’t real salespeople either. And so that became the new problem I needed to solve to further my mission.

So why am I telling you all this, again? Because even though I am closer to accomplishing my mission, there is still a snag. It’s great when we can work with entrepreneurs to become real salespeople because they are the leaders of their company. When we help them, they not only are able to create the right sales culture that is laser focused on the buyer, but they also create a culture of coaching throughout their organization.


Why is a coaching culture important to business growth?

Unfortunately, I have discovered that sometimes when we work with inside salespeople, they don't have that type of leadership who have that same focus on the buyer and also don’t have a culture of coaching. Not so coincidentally, those same leaders struggle with business growth. And when you have a salesperson who is growing into a rockstar but put between a rock and a hard place because of the culture of the company, that causes more friction until they ultimately leave.

According to research by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, author of the book The Hedgehog Effect” (2011), companies and businesses that have a coaching culture benefit by:

  • reduced staff turnover
  • increased productivity
  • greater happiness and satisfaction at work

In a 2011 study by Bersin & Associates companies with a coaching culture are 130% more likely to get better business results. They also report that they are 33% more effective at engaging employees.

And most recently, in her book “The Sales Development Playbook”, Trish Bertuzzi shares that those who receive 1- 3 hours of coaching per month are 22% more likely to recommend a company and those coached more than 3+ hours are 45% more likely to recommend. For those who are coached, their percentage of quota attainment is between 90-107%.

Can you imagine the impact that a coaching culture has on your sales team and overall business growth?

What is culture?

I have heard some describe it like the wind- you can’t see it, but you can see the impact it has. And like the wind, culture can either destroy your company like a tornado, or empower it like a windmill.

The definition I like the most comes from Herb Kelleher, Chairman of Southwest Airlines, “Culture is what people do when no one is looking.” Like the character of a person, culture is the invisible drive of an organization. It’s the way things are done because of a shared set of values. 

Does culture just happen and evolve, or is it intentional?

Just like the character of a person is shaped by the values they were raised with and the decisions that they make, so is the culture of an organization. It is very much intentional and it starts at the top (which is why we like to work with entrepreneurs early on).

You can replace everyone in your organization in an attempt to change the culture (as I have seen some try to do), but eventually everyone will fall into the same habits and behaviors because that is the environment that leadership creates. Employees will either conform, or quit.

Are your business growth problems the result your lack of a coaching culture?

  • Do your people have to come to you with every problem and obstacle?
  • When something good happens, do people take the credit themselves?
  • When something bad happens, do people offer excuses why it happened?
  • When you ask a lot of questions, do people get defensive? Fearful?
  • Do you only ask questions that you already know the answer to?
  • Do you get annoyed when someone asks a lot of questions?
  • Do you have a difficult time keeping your best employees?
  • Do you have a difficult time getting rid of your worst employees?
  • Does your team distrust your managers?
  • Is the primary responsibility of managers to run reports and keep people accountable to results in them?
  • Do you expect that people should be able to self-assess what is working and what is not and why?
  • Do you pay people to do what you need done?
  • Is coaching only for the most senior of executives?
  • Is it more important to be right than to be curious?
  • Do most people keep their cards close to their chest? Is information and access a privilege?

Are you dissatisfied with any of your answers? Are you unsure whether a yes or no indicates that you have a coaching culture? Where do you start?

Topics: sales coaching, company culture