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Leadership Coaching – “Easier Said Than Done”

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Recently at a Pharmaceutical meeting in Europe, one of the presenters shared the results of a recent study that demonstrated that Managers who were trained in Eight Step Coaching Skills were out selling DM’s who were not trained in the program. This quantitative data seems to support that the cornerstone of success lies in effective leadership coaching and diagnosing the needs of the Representatives. However, it is not simply a matter of being trained. Managers must overcome day to day hurdles to be an effective coach. It takes a knowledge of the skills plus the courage to open up sensitive and important topics with others. It takes time, a precious commodity in a DM’s week. It takes self-control over our emotions when someone doesn’t measure up on an important mission that we, as Managers care about. When we coach, we run a risk of opening up conflict, differences, and misunderstandings that can create discomfort. In short, “coaching is easier said than done.” But the results will be worth it if we are consistent and rigorous at using coaching skills.

Some DM's often ask us: “Is it Coaching Skills or Coaching Steps?” Clearly the heart of the Eight Step Coaching Model is composed of skills. The primary focus on skills and behaviors differentiates the Eight Step Coaching Model from other coaching training. For example, we call Step One, “Be Supportive,” and it depends on skillfully listening, giving recognition, and building collaboration. Likewise, Step Two, “Define the Topic and Needs,” requires the Manager to have good feedback skills, good questioning and inquiry skills, and the ability to define and clarify expectations.

The word “steps” simply means that there is a building process in progress when you coach. The word “steps” implies that there is a conceptual sequence. It doesn’t mean that every time you speak with a Representative you have to force yourself through every step. Sometimes you have to coach quickly. An example may be coaching in between physician calls and you want to help the Representative with their skills. In this example, you can coach “fast;” you can cut right to the topic and plan. In other situations, you want to cover more steps or more skills in order to orchestrate a successful coaching experience. If you want to speak with a Representative about a larger topic, such as teamwork, goal attainment, or participation in meetings, you will definitely need to reserve more time and pull in more skills or steps. The key is flexibility. You need to know the steps or skills thoroughly and then draw on the steps that are appropriate for each situation. As you practice the Eight Step Coaching Model and apply it often, you become more natural. The more you experience the Model, you hardly realize that you are even following the process.

We hope you are not confused by the term “steps.” Think of it as a process that contains certain elements or skills and don’t look at coaching as a rigid, formal process. In one study, we discovered that Managers were three times more likely to use the Eight Step Coaching Model in spontaneous and informal applications than in planned, formal, more lengthy discussions. When you are in a formal situation, we suggest you plan ahead, review the Model, and prepare yourself in advance. When a coaching moment emerges informally or unexpectedly, we suggest you pick and choose the skills or steps that you want to bring out at that moment. Remember coaching is a process, so follow up and fill in any gaps that are created when you are coaching informally or “on the spot.”

Coaching is a vital part of a DM’s job. We get results through the efforts of our Representatives. The most non-supportive thing we can do to a Representative is to “not coach.” Effective leadership coaching will lead to a healthy relationship with your Representative. A recent study indicated that a key reason why people leave companies is because of a poor relationship with their Supervisor. We need to retain our quality people in order to be competitive over the long-term.

About the Author

Steven J. Stowell, Ph.D., is the Co-Founder of the Center For Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc.

If you would like to learn more about leadership coaching or other CMOE management training programs, please contact a Regional Manager at (801)569-3444.


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