Two weeks ago, I attended the Mason School of Business’s Alumni weekend. On Friday, I took part in a round-table discussion about Mentorship. I cover why you need a mentor in my book. But this discussion took a different turn and talked about how to be a better mentor. During the discussion, we had a bit of disagreement on how to coach/train a mentee. The two thought patterns were to focus on areas of improvements (weaknesses) or to work on their strengths.
Many of the more experienced people in the room wanted to focus on weaknesses to make the person better. I disagreed with that thought process. In honor of the NBA Finals starting this week, let’s look at this from a basketball standpoint. Steph Curry is one of the best basketball players the NBA has to offer. If you were his mentor you would look at his top strength and identify it as his 3-pt shooting ability. If you were to look at his stats and determine his weakness, you would most likely see is he is not known for his shot blocking ability
. The “old-school” approach would be to focus on his weaknesses and you would start coaching him on being a better shot blocker. But is that what the Golden State Warriors (his team) need him to do? They have other team members who are better at shot blocking and can do that role if Steph Curry is unable to. If I was coaching Steph Curry, I would look at his strengths and see where we can make them stronger. What if we could improve his passing ability, his crossover, or his ability to steal the basketball? Those skills, which would possibly be considered his strengths, if enhanced, would make him a better asset for his team.
In addition to focusing on the strengths instead of the weaknesses, I would advise coaches, managers, and mentors to look past the numbers. Again looking at a sports analogy, if I was looking at a pitcher in baseball and my stats told me that every outing he had, he would produce 2 strikeouts. Is that good? The answer to that question is…it depends. Is he a starter? Starters hopefully pitch 5-8 innings with three outs per inning would mean that he would see a total of 15-24 outs in each outing. Only 2 strikeouts would tell you that he is not a pitcher known for throwing strikeouts. But I told you he was the closer who comes into the last inning of a game to help the team win. He only has three outs in his appearance and if he strikes out 2 of the 3 then he is most likely identified as a strikeout pitcher. So when you look at your sales reps, do not just look at the number of dollars closed, the number of deals closed, and the number of opportunities opened. You would also want to look at what percentage of calls made turned into meetings. What percentage of meetings turned into opportunities and what percentage of opportunities turned into successfully won deals.
If you are a manager, start focusing on the strengths and start looking at percentages. If you are a sales professional, ask your manager for help on your strengths and make sure you know your numbers. Not just the actual activity, but also the success rates that you have.