We all know that leaders are most successful if they are able to coach and develop their teams.
For geographically distributed businesses, like retailers and professional services, coaching is even more vital because it directly drives business results. In these business models, a dispersed network of leaders ensures an extraordinary customer experience and consistent execution of strategy. The challenge, however, is that opportunities to see a leader in action are very infrequent—the work happens in local stores or at client sites. Developing new leaders requires coaching them to solve the problems they face, not fixing the problems directly.
In a recent business simulation, we challenged retail leaders to practice coaching in typical difficult situations they see in their stores. They had to identify the ‘content’ of their coaching conversation (what problem they chose to coach for) and then conduct the dialogue in a role-play. Their peers graded their approach and process (how they coached). Not surprisingly, the majority of participants scored well in choosing the right key message and not as well on the process and approach:
The business simulation took this feedback one step further. We modelled the impact of their focus and their process on the store’s employee performance, customer experience and sales. Leaders were able to see the impact of their coaching on business results.
To help retail leaders build their coaching skills, we believe they need a process, practice and feedback. We teach a model for coaching that helps them move away from direct problem solving. Our simulation experiences create an engaging, realistic environment for practice and feedback.
By shifting the balance of their leadership time from fixing to coaching, retail leaders will create stable and sustainable results. Even after they’ve left the building.
Karen Maxwell Powell is an affiliate at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.