Weaponizing your Customer Experience Strategy for the Frontlines Part III:
Coaches are the Critical Link
BY LAUREN ERERA
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential…it is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” – Timothy Gallwey
By now you’ve spent significant time planning through how your frontlines will embrace, try on and adopt these new behaviors so they – and your company – are ultimately successful over the long haul.
And almost everyone agrees that coaching is a key weapon in the arsenal. There’s no doubt that it’s a critical element. Weber has found that nine times out of 10, coaches are THE critical link between success and failure on your frontlines. Their time coaching the folks closest to customers in the what, why and how of applying behavior change so it sticks and sustains.
From team lead to supervisor to manager to field RVP, each coaching level plays an important role in the sales, service and operations ecosystem. Coaching to drive behavior change sounds simple enough, yet there are several “rookie mistakes” we’ve observed as companies begin to integrate coaching principles into their organizations.
Rookie Belief #1: “We’ll just hire some folks into a dedicated coaching role.”
Some companies go this route so their current leads and managers don’t need to “quit their day jobs” to fit coaching in, and to have a dedicated presence onsite/in the field. Have you looked what’s on your leaders’ plates? How much of their day job responsibilities are value-added and driving results, vs. administrative tasks and firefighting? It’s ok to hire coaches to supplement your leaders, but they should NOT replace their coaching role entirely. All leaders up and down the chain of command must commit to helping the frontlines learn and change as the most critical part of their day jobs.
Rookie Belief #2: “Great sales/service/operations agents make great coaches.”
Often, we put our most successful frontline folks into coaching and leadership positions, and why not? They “get” the job and know how to personally succeed within it. The issue becomes when we promote folks beyond their level of comfort, ability or interest, or worse – throw them into the fire without adequate training and on-the- job support. Be sure your recently promoted leaders are willing, able AND equipped to do the job so they know how to guide a team, not just an individual, toward success.
Rookie Belief #3: “If I tell (or show) them how to do it, they’ll change.”
Even the most patient leaders must resist the urge to circumvent the coaching process and just tell someone how to fix an issue. We mistakenly believe that if we just show them how they should do it – or better yet, how WE used to do it – they’ll get it. But that’s not how adults learn. They need self- diagnose what’s occurring and come up with some solutions that work for them and their style, not yours. Leaders must resist the urge to tell, tell, tell in favor of asking great questions that promote self- discovery and learning.
Avoided the rookie mistakes? Good – now move onto these 5 must-haves that customer-centric organizations embrace in helping their leaders coach to successful behavior change:
- Give power to the people. Leaders must feel empowered to own and drive behavior change. They need to know you’re serious about it, and that this isn’t some flavor of the month initiative. Ensure they understand the why, what and how – and give them enough time – at least 50% of their time – and runway to do it.
- Model successful behavior change. You know that saying, “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World”? Nowhere is this truer than when attempting to coach the frontlines – and coach the leaders coaching them – in an authentic and transparent way. Give leaders enough time to immerse and try on the behaviors they’ll coach to. Be sure they and you are good candidates for changing your own coaching behaviors so frontlines see that we’re all in this together.
- Provide a structured coaching process. Leaders need a playbook, too, to help them follow the process and learn new coaching behaviors. Giving them a concrete process to model will help provide system and structure to the role while giving them tips on where, how and with whom they should focus time and energy to drive the best results.
- Give them a coaching toolkit with sample “plays.” Bring the process to life with real- world scenarios that leaders may encounter when coaching different types of performers with varying skills and tenure. Pluck some best and worst hits straight from the frontlines and build real-world plays that help leaders diagnose common trends, promote agents’ self-discovery, collaborate on a successful prescription to remedy and follow up once agents try it out.
- Reinforce on the job. Classwork is fine to introduce foundational coaching skills, but the real magic happens during real-life frontline scenarios in front of real prospects and customers. Ensure leaders are spending time on the phones and in the field to find patterns and trends that might provide teachable moments. Their job is to help agents uncover their own best potential, and there’s no better way to drive behavior change than to witness it right there, at the moment of truth.
Change is a journey, not a destination, for coaches as well as your frontline teams. If you ascribe to the ADKAR change management model, you likely already know that Awareness, Desire and Knowledge don’t happen overnight. As leaders, we need to build knowledge, communicate and reinforce strong coaching practices so they drive real, sustained behavior change.
So don’t just check “coaching” off your CX list. Make it the essential seam to weave throughout the fabric of your organization as you continue your transformation journey.