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Salesperson: Hey boss, I’ve got this issue with the Jones account. We had a good meeting last week, they said they were very impressed by our presentation and that we had really made them think about some things. Now, I can’t get anyone to call me back. I’ve left messages, sent emails…I don’t know what else to do! I need advice. What should I do?

Boss: Yes of course…happy to do it. So, they won’t call you back huh? The old “gone dark” tactic. Well, back in the day…you know…when I carried the bag, I had that once and here’s what I did. I went back and….

It plays out in conference rooms, offices, and Zoom meetings across the world on a daily basis. The sage, wise manager solving yet another problem. Another team member rescued. Another day where the boss goes home a hero.

Except they aren’t. No, they aren’t a hero. Not even close. They are the problem.

Many managers don’t understand their job. I once knew a young, up-and-coming manager who said “My job is to remove the problems, the barriers, from my people so they can do their job. If I can solve their problem, that’s one less thing they have to worry about.”

That manager was me.

I spent my days solving problems. I could never get my work done because I was so busy being “helpful” to my team. I was not being helpful. I was hurting them. One Saturday morning, I was reviewing the sales deck for a sales representative’s upcoming meeting (he said it didn’t flow right and needed some help), I picked up my cell phone to give him a quick call because I had a question. When he answered, I heard birds chirping. Then I heard a “ping.” Then the sound of…a golf cart! So, I am working on HIS deck and he is playing golf!

That is when I realized I was not doing this right. I had created an environment of learned helplessness. Every time my team had a problem, challenge, or issue, they came to me. I thought it was my job to solve it. It made me feel good. I felt helpful. But as I reflected on that Saturday morning, I was solving the same problems over and over. This wasn’t the first time I’d “helped with the sales deck.” I spent my days (and weekends) solving the same problems over and over and over.

If this is you, stop it. Just stop it.

Your job is NOT to solve your team’s problems. Your job is to grow and develop your people. That’s it. You get your results through others. You have to hire, coach, train, mentor, and supervise them. You have to make them better. That’s your job - grow your team and develop them to be better versions of themselves.

When your salesperson shares that they are having trouble with the Jones account going dark, they are asking you to tell them what to do. Our “coaching” often looks like war stories and campfire tales from back in the day. That is not coaching. That is not strategic. That is having a fixation with fixing…and a recipe for an underdeveloped team and an overstressed boss.

Stop playing rescuer. Quit being a fixer. Be a coach.

Coaches extract. They ask questions. They are curious. They say things like “tell me more about that” and “then what happened?” They go frame-by-frame, not drive-thru coaching at 90 mph. They help the salesperson discover the answers for themselves.

Coaching is not telling. It’s asking. It’s empowering others with the confidence that they are smart, they have keen insight, they are creative, and capable. They begin a path of growth and development – and that’s your job.

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