Tough Love: Sales Coaching with Candor

Wikipedia defines “tough love” as an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run. In most uses, there must be some actual love or feeling of affection behind the harsh or stern treatment to be defined as tough love.

That’s the general idea behind the article “Radical Candor – The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss”. If you are a frontline sales manager and, especially, if you are a first-time manager, this article is a must-read.

Here are the big ideas:

  • The single most important thing a manager can do is focus on giving, receiving, and encouraging guidance.
  • Guidance is nothing more than praise or criticism.
  • We fear giving and getting feedback. We love giving and getting guidance.
  • ‘Radical Candor’ results from combining genuinely caring personally for the individual’s well-being and development while challenging directly when the moment warrants it.
  • Core concept: criticizing your employees when they screw up is not just your job, it’s your moral obligation.
  • Radical candor is  humble + helpful + immediate + in-person (private if criticism and in public if praise) + about the behavior not the person
  • To drive team-wide commitment, encourage the whole team to be radically candid
  • Seek opportunities for impromptu feedback
  • Push for radical candor every day
  • Make sure that everyone on your team feels they can criticize the manager

To be an effective sales manager you need to be a great coach. To do this, you need to set high activity, behavior, and performance standards and employ the combination of “tough” and “love” to help your salespeople achieve them.

A word of caution: Be careful not to error on leaning on one approach versus the other. All tough creates unnecessary stress for you and the team. All love results in no sense of commitment or accountability. Think about the best managers and if you played sports the best coaches you’ve had that brought out the best in you. I’ll bet that they were masters at applying the artful mix of tough and love.

Kim Scott, the author of the article and a book by the same title, offers a framework to help make “radical candor” your default coaching style. You’ll find details including a video here.

With whom on your team do you have an opportunity or, better put, a responsibility to provide a strong dose of tough love?

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