The Power of Focusing on Employee Strengths – Lessons Learned Coaching Youth Soccer
By Neal Williams, Regional Sales Manager, cStor
In the span of my career, I have participated in many sales and management training courses. All were helpful, but perhaps the most helpful training has come from coaching 10-year-old soccer players – an experience that has helped shaped my management style at work.
People often say you should focus on improving your weaknesses, but what I’ve learned through coaching is that weaknesses can be an inherent personality trait that you or your employees may not have the ability to improve significantly.
This is not to say that we should ignore our weaknesses or those of our employees altogether. In order to grow, we must focus on our areas of weakness and how we can strengthen them. As a manager, we should coach our employees on their weaknesses while giving greater focus to their natural strengths and abilities.
In coaching soccer, there are kids who are large and strong but lack speed. These kids may not be physically able to significantly increase their speed, no matter how much they train on that skill. Instead, we put them in a position of strength where they can maximize their natural abilities.
Relating this back to our salesforce, there are people who are inherently more introverted or extroverted. For instance, in our organization, inside salespeople tend to be more operational with specific tasks that are less customer-facing. On the other hand, we find that our most successful Account Managers thrive when they are out meeting with clients and prospects and engaging them. Both are important roles in sales, so it’s best to put people in a position where they are comfortable and can naturally shine based upon their personality.
In soccer, kids will typically have a position they are passionate about and want to succeed in. Finding the right position where they have an interest is key as putting them in a position where they have no desire to perform can hurt the entire team. For example, you would never want to put a kid who was afraid of getting hit by the ball in the position of goalkeeper.
In sales management, we can often identify an employee’s interests and put them in positions that match those interests. For example, if there is an Account Manager who loves sports, we can put him or her in accounts that are sports-related versus other industries. Likewise, if someone loves calling on C-level people and has a natural rapport with executives, why put them in a position where they are calling on a more technical client level where they are less comfortable? The same applies to reps who enjoy more in-depth technical conversations and are better aligned with those individuals. Why force either of those types to perform in an area they are uncomfortable with when both areas are needed?
As a coach, kids typically fall into one of two mindsets – goal scorers vs goal defenders. Some kids get a huge thrill from seeing the ball go into the net; others have an instinct to naturally defend against the other team scoring. Although there are plenty of kids that enjoy both, it’s important to recognize those that have a true desire and ability to do one or the other and place them in the proper positions to accommodate those natural mindsets. We need both types of players for the team to be successful.
Likewise in business, we shouldn’t force a goal-driven personality type to be in constant positions of defense. This can be seen in the roles of Sales Executives versus Account Managers. Those individuals who flourish with developing new relationships and new wins often perform better in sales positions. Others who prefer nurturing relationships and defending them from competitors tend to do better in Account Management positions. Again, both are necessary to the organization and are best performed by those who have a natural affinity for one over the other.
Once you have a feel for your employee’s personality, interests and goals, you can develop a plan to put them in positions that focus on their natural strengths while benefiting the organization. The result is happier, more productive employees and increased performance and results for the business.