This has been a remarkable season of truly great sporting accomplishments. Michael Phelps’ rise to being the most-medalled Olympic athlete of all times, Gabby Douglas’ gold in all-around gymnastics, and South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius history-making appearance as the first double amputee Olympic sprinter. And then there are the athletes who seem to keep defying the odds, coming back to win medals after critics have all but pronounced them has-beens: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt regains ground he lost in qualifying races, and of course, Japan’s Hiroshi Hoketsu becoming the oldest Olympian in 92 years, at the remarkable age of 71… and the list goes on.
As we hear the stories of how these athletes overcome barriers to their Olympic goals, we also learn of the integral role played by each athlete’s coach:
- the coach who reminded the gymnast not to focus on the scoreboard, but instead on her routine;
- the coach who led one athlete from mediocre performance in one sport to record-breaking performance in another;
- the swimmer and his coach with the 16-year partnership in breaking world and Olympic records.
Coaches – in athletics and in business – are vital for guiding, challenging, and helping their charges to grow. And this need for coaching becomes very evident when an organization seeks to fundamentally change its culture and direction.
When Ohio-based State Auto Group set out to change its underwriting-centered culture to a more assertive sales culture, coaching became a major focus for the company. For AchieveGlobal, working with a client like State Auto was tremendously rewarding, as they confronted the challenges associated with change, and found new strength through the process of coaching.
In a recent webinar, AchieveGlobal VP of Sales Chris Cowan discussed this process of change with State Auto VP of Sales, John Petrucci. In that interview, Petrucci highlighted how State Auto focused on coaching to implement meaningful organizational change. This included:
- Identifying four key areas of focus that would need development, in order to change the sales culture (sales skills, sales coaching, negotiation skills and financial management);
- Recognizing that not all effective sales people are effective sales leaders;
- Providing training for sales team members to help them learn how to become effective coaches and sales leaders;
- Providing opportunities for all Regional Managers to participate in AchieveGlobal’s Professional Sales Coaching™ program;
- Using a three-tiered structure to implement training, including the establishment of Coaches’ Coaches, who would provide more efficient lines of communication with sales team members, and help reinforce training;
- Ensuring that training is an on-going process.
Perhaps the greatest realization about coaching is that it should be a consistent and on-going process. For State Auto, it is now embedded in the company’s culture and has become a key component of communication, providing links to the frontline salespeople in the field so that the company better understands where training and support are needed.
Michael Phelps’ mother sums up the root of all successful coaching when she pondered the relationship between Michael and his coach Bob Bowman: “Bob knows Michael like the back of his hand. Michael knows Bob’s going to get him where he needs to be…”
Coaching is, when best executed, an ongoing dialog which helps a company understand what strengths can be leveraged, what liabilities need to be addressed, and what methods can help the company build toward new goals.
Whether working with a world-class sprinter or a salesperson in a retail store, a diver on the verge of greatness or an accounts payable manager, the foundation of good coaching is trust, understanding, and a common desire to be better than you presently are.
Sharon Daniels is CEO of AchieveGlobal in Tampa, Florida