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Managers can be Mentor Coaches – can’t they?

The best Sales Managers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with had a skill that is tough to master and takes a lot of effort (and is completely worth mastering!). That skill is knowing what hat you should be wearing during any given conversation with a salesperson on your team.
One of the most underutilized hats is that of career coach and mentor. There are a few reasons Sales Managers don’t wear this hat very often.
1.  It doesn’t fit: when trying on hats sometimes there is one that doesn’t fit – your head either can’t be crammed under the brim or you swim inside of it. Regardless of why, it isn’t quite right.
When a Sales Manager is wearing their Career Coach & Mentor hat, what doesn’t fit many times is putting aside their personal goals and motives. If the salesperson being coached believes the manager has their own best interest at heart, NOT the salesperson’s, the engagement will not be successful.
When coaching someone about their career set aside, for the duration of the conversation, what YOU believe is right and focus on THEIR vision of success.
2. It isn’t comfortable: if you’re not someone who wears a hat regularly, they just feel funny and aren’t comfortable.
The same is true of your role as a Career Coach & Mentor if it is one you don’t practice very often – just like those uncomfortable sales conversations – it is going to be WEIRD when you pull it out. The key to comfort is practicing the conversation the way you want it to go.
Plus, the more frequently you have these types of conversations the more effortless they will feel.
3. It doesn’t go with their outfit: adding to an ensemble you KNOW you look good in can be a scary thing.
Many Sales Managers have created a persona for the role they are playing. If they didn’t include Career Coach & Mentor as part of that persona to begin with – adding it in later can be uncomfortable.
Why? Well once you’ve gotten people into the habit of viewing you in a certain way, it can be difficult to change their perception of you in your role. It is like going to any reunion – the people there expect you to be the person you were ‘way back when’ not the person you’ve now become.
The only way to get around this is sometimes you have to change your entire ensemble so the new skill matches the persona you have in the organization.
4. They are afraid it looks silly: with any new accessory if it is a hat, scarf, jacket, or piece of jewelry there is a little discomfort in how other people will think you look. ESPECIALLY the first time you wear it.
Sales Managers want to be respected and feeling/looking silly by trying out a new technique brings out a little fear of the unknown. This is no different than the new sales techniques you want your salespeople to try – allow yourself to be a little vulnerable and it will surprise you how forgiving your team will be.
From a mentoring perspective, showing your team you are willing to try things that are hard for you is a great example that you are trying things that might not be comfortable for you… like you’re asking them to in their job.
5. They can’t find it: if the only time you put on a top hat is for New Year’s Eve – you might not be able to find where you put it next year.
If you only pull out your Career Coach & Mentor hat for performance reviews you might not remember where you put it down last year. Then you end up only looking back at someone’s performance instead of working with them to plan how they can be more successful moving forward.
The key to being a good Career Coach and Mentor in your Sales Manager role is to have regularly scheduled meetings with individuals on your team where the ONLY agenda item is THEIR career goals and aspirations. That way they will see your sincerity and you’ll keep the skills you need in practice. Then when you need to wear that hat; you can find it, it fits – comfortably, and goes with your outfit.
Coach away!

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