How Can You Bust Through a Resistance to Coaching?
How often do your well-intentioned sales coaching efforts result in direct pushback or a bit of passive resistance?
You have a promising employee and see a clear skill gap that needs addressing. But when you bring it up to them, they stop you with:
- “I’ve always done it that way and it’s worked before.”
- “I’m making quota, leave me alone."
- “That’s not what you told me last month.”
- "That’s not my fault.”
- “These leads are terrible”
- Or the worst, “Sure, no problem” (when they have no intention of changing).
It’s easy to get frustrated with these responses. After all, you want your employee to succeed. You assume they want to succeed as well. Why won’t they let you help them?
Well, here’s the hard truth - If someone is resisting your coaching efforts, the root cause of the issue might not be them. Maybe it’s you.
How are you showing up as a coach?
Take a pause and reflect on your gut reaction to that last paragraph. Did you immediately think, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m a great coach. I’ve always done it that way and it’s worked before.”
Wait. Where have you recently heard that line?
Despite your best efforts and intentions, you may need to change how you’re portraying yourself as a coach. Are you presenting your efforts as a mentor, guide, and leader that is collaborating with them to improve performance? Or are you coming across as a “helicopter parent” that is interfering too much and trying to make them perform like a replica of yourself?
Some reps may infer that if they accept coaching, they are admitting they are substandard in some way, or that coaching is related to a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Some may just resist being told what and how to do something.
Forms of Resistance to Coaching
Depending on your approach, they may feel threatened, accused, or judged. If this is their mindset, they’ll often do one of the following:
- Deny they have problems or room for improvement.
- Deflect the blame onto someone else.
- Defend their position.
It’s human nature.
So, What Can You Do?
Reverse the roles for a moment and put yourself in the position of being told by your boss that you need to be a better coach. How do you react? You feel like you’re a great coach, right?
What is the emotion you feel when being preached to or lectured? How would that emotion change if you were being listened to? Do you want your boss to start by telling you what you are doing wrong, or by asking you what you think went right, and where you think you could use improvement?
By asking for input first, you have a chance to reinforce everything your employee is already doing well. This allows the coaching session to start on a positive note. Focusing on the attributes in which they are already excelling will give them the motivation to bring the rest of their game up to the same level. It completely changes the tone of the conversation. Instead of hearing, “You’re bad at this,” they hear, “You’re awesome at attribute X. How can we work together to get attribute Y up to the same level?”
Then, the door is open. You can ask questions and encourage them to explore what they can do differently or better. If they’re going to change their behavior, they need to take ownership of the problem and understand it from their own, “what’s in it for me” perspective.
By refocusing the conversation around their behaviors and outcomes, not your judgments about their performance, they can take ownership for their own future success.
So, ask yourself. Do you want to be an inspiring coach or a judgmental preacher? How would you want to be coached?
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.