I have been in countless meetings over the years where the focus of the meeting was either a Profit & Loss or sales numbers, and the gist of the meetings was driving home the importance of hitting a particular number. Numbers are important. Actually, numbers are critical. That’s why we are in business, to generate revenue.
A few months ago I interviewed a C-suite leader at a very successful and very progressive national organization that told me his organization followed meeting guidelines that prevented the discussion of numbers in any meeting below senior executive level. They had found that even with extensive training of managers and leaders it was necessary to restrict (define the nature of) meetings to prevent leaders from falling back into old habits.
Too many leaders confuse driving numbers with leadership. Numbers are an outcome. Numbers are a measure of behaviors. Leadership is about behaviors. Can you imagine a football coach getting together with the team and merely telling them that they need to score more points?
In anything other than a very senior leadership meeting, numbers should only be discussed as an indicator of whether specific behaviors are working or not. If a specific number isn’t being reached, then what behaviors can be identified as having a bearing on that number, and what behaviors need to be changed?
If you are my leader, you really don’t help me by pointing out that I didn’t reach my number. You would be so much more effective by helping me identify what behavior I can change that will improve my chances of hitting your number. Then look at the number to measure the success of the new behaviors.
With the leaders that we work with, whether it’s on their own leadership improvement plan or helping them identify improvement plans for their direct reports, we have found that many struggle with identifying specific behaviors. Too often we hear recommendations such as “they need to be more assertive with their directs,” or “they need to provide more feedback.”
What if you, as a leader, were to sit down with them and identify specific behaviors that they might demonstrate in order to be more assertive, or literally walk them through a model for providing feedback?
While this might sound rather elementary for many, if you, or your direct report have not been exposed to effective leadership skills on a regular basis, what you believe to be a fundamental skill might be a foreign concept to someone else.
Effective coaching requires identifying, communicating, and practicing.