Fable Friday: How to avoid fights with your friends and be a better coach

The great Italian painter and sculptor Modigliani admired the work of his fellow artist Utrillo, and this admiration was reciprocated. On the occasion of their first meeting they began by paying each other extravagant compliments.

“You are the world’s greatest painter,” said one.

“No, you are the world’s greatest painter,” said the other.

“I forbid you to contradict me.”

“I forbid you to forbid me!”

The argument became heated.  “If you say that again I’ll hit you.”

“You are the greatest…” and they fell to blows.

Later they made up over several bottles of wine at a nearby bistro. As they went out into the street, one said, “You are the world’s greatest painter.”

“No, you are.”

And so the fight broke out again, until both were down in the gutter, where they went to sleep. In the early dawn they woke up to discover that they had been robbed.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedTough night wouldn’t you say?  But it could all have been avoided with one tip that good trainers follow and that all sales managers and coaches ought to.  It’s simply that when you give someone feedback, make sure it specifically describes the behavior. Never offer an “attaboy” or “Good job!”  Instead, tell them why.

Utrillo might have said, “Your mastery of brush strokes in painting delicate faces is masterful and you use light well.”  Now you have a discussion, not a fight.

Similarly, if a sales manager goes on a joint call and afterwards offers this feedback, what can the salesperson learn from it:

“You did a really good job in there. I thought you asked a lot of good questions.”

Instead, how about this:

“I liked the way you kept the customer talking, asking useful questions to build your point.  Your best two questions in my opinion were, ‘Other than cost considerations, what else is getting in the way of your making a change right now?’ and then ‘What’s the next step in moving our relationship along?’  These were engaging questions and I saw that the customer took his time replying, which means he was highly engaged.”

If you are a senior or executive level manager attending one of my workshops, I generally don’t have you role play with your team. It isn’t that you don’t need the practice or you’re unwilling.  It’s more that I want you to spend workshop time doing what you need to do more effectively, and that means being precise and specific in offering feedback to your own team members.

You grab a pad and pen and you sit and observe everyone. At the end of the session you give each participant some specific feedback on what you saw and felt.  You’ll see something amazing when you do this.  Everyone you address will be riveted on what you say.

People like feedback.  They want it to be specific and useful, so they can internalize it and compare or contrast what they did with what you observed.  It’s a new year, so why don’t you start doing it this way from now on. Instead of “Good job,” make it “Good job and here’s why.”  That’s how you…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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