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Mar 12, 2012

The following article is derived in part from the thinking of Randall Murphy and the Acclivus Corporation and their curriculum entitled Acclivus Coaching for Sales Performance. This program is offered in a partnership with Next Level Exchange.

“As a billing manager, I never seem to have the time to coach my people consistently and they have such a limited attention span that I get the feeling, especially with my veterans, that they aren’t really into learning anyway. How do I find the balance and provide them what they need in a format that is of interest and relevant?”

This question ranks as No. 1 among owners, billing managers, and even trainers, trying to find the balance between their own work load and providing their recruiters with essential skills and knowledge. We are all experiencing work environments that are intensely more competitive and constantly changing with business goals and objectives that continue to escalate. And while there are still seven days in a week and 24 hours in a day, our challenge is to do more with those same seven days and 24 hours then we did just a year ago, especially now that so many managers are back on a desk.

So how do we begin to find the gift of time to coach our people and who is to say they are open to receiving it? It is one of the classic recruiting organizational dilemmas.

The truth is that most of us grew into our positions. We came up through the ranks and, when we became a manager, practice leader, trainer, or coach, nothing was taken off our plate in the transition!

For most of us historically, the concept of coaching and learning comes from the perspective of “throwing them in the water to see if they can swim.” So naturally, the coaching sounds something like this — as you stroll by their cubicle: “Hey, I just looked at your call report and your dials are low… need to get ‘em up! You must have four hours of connect time to be successful in this business. 

This is certainly understandable, as most of us were raised in results-oriented, bottom-line, do-or-die environments. And while these coaching statements are true, the problem is that these comments boil down to “work harder” which only helps if “work harder” is the right answer. The “work harder” response is about as effective as a football coach standing under the goalpost and yelling out the score to his team.

Key point: If I’m going to position myself as your coach, I’ve got to watch you play the game. This means I have to coach to more than just results or the attempt at results. The scope of this conversation goes beyond this article, but one of the best resources for learning to coach in a meaningful and impactful way is a technique called the unobserved coaching method as taught in Acclivus Coaching for Sales Performance. It is a great way to be “in the moment” with your people and be able to connect with them in a meaningful way without spending hours. For coaching and learning to be truly effective, it must be around more than just the results. It must be around skills, knowledge, effort, and attitude on the work being done. You will spend less time on meaningless coaching and end up with a coaching message to your people that is both valuable and executable!

That brings us to the second challenge: Your recruiter’s receptiveness toward being coached, and learning from the experience. This is especially true with three generational groups working together in the same environment. So let’s just put this on the table right at the beginning: even with the gift of time, assuming you have it, and know how to use it effectively, not every one is going to be open to learning. You will always have prisoners in your camp or perhaps perpetually self-absorbed individuals who already think they know everything. That is a fact of life. Our focus therefore in this article will be on the core of your office or team that is open to learning and being mentored if properly challenged. We just need to know how to better connect with them in the limited amount of time that we have.

Here’s the key: Most people are willing to learn if you know how to tap into their learning style. There is a real science to helping people learn and we all learn and absorb information in different ways. By the way, this is true in communication with your clients and candidates as well!

Dr. Bernice McCarthy is a subject matter expert around learning styles. In her book Hold On, You Lost Me! — Use Learning Styles to Create Training That Sticks, she discusses learning styles and the modeling around the styles to help ensure an effective coaching and learning opportunity for all. Your challenge is to develop your coaching style and your training curriculum so that it engages all four learning styles effectively.

For the time-conscious manager, the best way to insure the incorporation of all four learning styles into the training curriculum is through the process known as blended learning.

Unlike traditional education, corporate training exists primarily to improve business performance. We deal primarily with adults: people who want and need to learn just enough to become more effective at their jobs.

Blended learning allows for the consideration of each individual — the human factor. A study by Harvard Business School faculty Drs. DeLacey and Leonard Peter found that providing several linked options for learners, in addition to group/classroom training, significantly increased what they learned. The report determined that people not only learned more when online sessions were added to traditional courses, but interaction and satisfaction improved as well.

What’s in a blend? Blended learning includes face to face classroom training, videos, on-line training workshops, one-on-one coaching, as well as webinar guest speakers and literature. Often, for the time weary manager, using outside resources helps to reinforce a message in a multitude of ways. It is typically the type of message that the manager “harps on” on a daily basis, but when the same message is delivered a different way, or by a different person, it is often at that point the learner suddenly “gets it” – to the obvious frustration of many managers who wondered why their people did not “listen” to them in the first place!

Blended learning is a living concept, not just terminology, a phrase, a DVD, or a series of webinars. Therefore it is important that you have a variety of quality training/coaching options available to ensure the application of the right mix to any given business problem.

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