“Hi Coach I’m really great thanks. Hey Coach, this is my dad, and he wants to meet you.”
“Hello sir, nice to meet you finally.”
“Yes, it’s nice to meet you too Coach, and please, call me Tom.”
“Ok, Tom, sure, and how are you on this fine day?”
“I’m well thanks Coach. John, I’ll meet you over at the practice bunker in 15 minutes, I want to have a word with Coach.”
“Ok, dad, I’ll see you there.”
“How can I help you Tom?”
“Well, Coach, I wanted to talk about John, and specifically, I wanted to talk to you about his lack of progress actually.”
“Oh; Ok, Tom, I’ve got some time now, before my next lesson arrives.”
“Coach I have to be up front with you and say that I think that John’s progress since having lessons with you is much slower than I would have expected, and I wanted to know what the problem was?”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘much slower’ Tom?”
“Are you talking about scores on the golf course in particular Tom, or something else?”
“I am talking about his performances playing the local junior tournaments Coach. I’m sure you know that he is not performing anywhere near as well as Tim.”
I’m sorry, did you say Tim? Tom I wasn’t aware that you were using Tim as your yardstick for how John should perform in tournaments.”
“Huh, w-what do you mean? No, I’m not, it’s not like that at all, really.”
“Can I ask you Tom what level of progress would be acceptable to you by this time?
The reason I ask is that by the sounds of it, you think that John should be learning and improving at about the same rate, and in the same way as Tim?...
Tom, do you mind if I ask what you do for a living?”
“I’m not sure what this has to do with anything, but I’m a VP of sales for a local drug company with around 100 sales managers and staff under me.”
“Yes, Coach, it is, and it certainly has its moments.”
“As a manager of sales teams Tom, I imagine that you set benchmarks for your staff that you expect them to achieve?"
“Yes, of course we do Coach, that’s pretty much the modus operandi of the sales game.”
“What do you base your benchmarks on Tom?”
“Well, mainly we base our benchmark on the sales made in the previous quarter, and then increase the benchmark for that quarter by 2 to 5 percentage points.”
“How do you arrive at your numbers Tom? I mean, where does the 2 to 5 percent come from.”
“We believe this range is a reasonable goal for our sales teams to achieve based on historical data.”
“They go through an orientation and sales training program for a full week. Then we give them a probation period of 6 weeks, and if they achieve the minimal targets we set them, then they can start working with one of our sales teams.”
“Ok, I see. So Tom, in your experience, what do you believe the main difference is between one of your sales champions—say someone who is making a lot of sales working with the same products in the same region, as compared to someone who is struggling to achieve the benchmarks you establish?”
“It’s based on sales performance Coach—the amount of sales they make over the quarter.”
“So it’s based more-or-less on the quantity of results?”
“Yes, it sure is. It’s the game we are in, like I said, you either make the cut in sales, or you best find another job.”
“Ok, Tom, thanks for that. One last question if you don’t mind?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“Tom can you tell me specifically what you believe the difference is between your sales champions and your sales strugglers? Specifically, what do they do that makes them perform better?”
“Look Coach, it’s a simple 3 step sales process. It’s the one they are taught during their orientation and training week. They make as many sales calls as they can between 9am and 4pm, book a full day of appointments for the next day, and then convert as many of those appointments into sales.”
“Well, it is in what they do within the sales process that makes the difference. You see our sales champions for one thing don’t take rejection personally. ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘No,’ it means maybe, or not now.
Our champion sellers believe that a ‘No’ is just feedback, that it’s not personal. So they can make a lot more calls during the day, and the other thing is that they use persuasive language patterns to get the prospect to stay on the call for longer.”
“That’s interesting Tom.”
“So Tom have any of your sales champions been strugglers who turned their performances around?”
“Sure, plenty of them have over the year’s Coach.”
“So they make mistakes like not getting the process right Tom?”
“Sure, they do, and our sales managers just keep providing positive feedback and guidance, to continually help them to adjust their process until they can turn their performance around.”
“So Tom help me to understand something that I’m a little confused about.”
“Sure Coach what is it?”
“Well, when John is having lessons with me he tells me that you are very hard on him, and are constantly scolding and criticizing him for even the smallest mistakes he makes on the golf course.
He also says that you get angry with him if he hits bad shots or makes bad scores on holes, and that you often say that he is nowhere near the golfer that Tim is.”
“Really, he says that Coach?”
“Yes he does quite often Tom, He feels under constant pressure to play well in front of you, and to live up to your expectations of him. He says that you hover over him like an eagle at junior tournaments, and he feels he can’t be himself around his friends.
He says he doesn’t want to look you in the eye when he’s playing in tournaments because your expressions are mostly negative.
Tom this seems to be inconsistent with what you have just explained to me about how your sales managers manage your sales strugglers, because you seem to fully support their development by nurturing their potential to become sales champions.”
Just because there’s a performance gap in 2 students of the same age doesn’t mean that I have to do something special to even up the gap.
I simply work with what I have, and I patiently develop their skills and confidence with no particular time line, as they are growing and developing their skills. I let Mother Nature determine their rate of progress.
My role is to nurture their nature, and their golf game.
“By any chance have you ever heard of a Confirmation Bias Tom?”
“No I haven’t Coach, what is it?”
“Basically a Confirmation Bias is a type of selective thinking Tom, and it’s something that I see exhibited by many parents at junior tournaments.
Tom, a confirmation bias is a type of bias that involves favouring information that confirms your existing beliefs or prejudices about something.
So it’s a tendency to gather, interpret, and recall information in a biased way, confirming your pre-existing views about something, while at the same time limiting your ability to consider alternative possibilities.
So for example Tom, you are displaying a confirmation bias when you compare John’s scores just to Tim’s, without ever considering other junior golfers competing in the event. Your tendency to remember specific information about John’s performances—such as particular scores on holes, certain shots he hits that turn out poorly—without remembering all the good shots he hits is a Confirmation Bias.
It’s a very selective observation and interpretation of John’s results communicated in a biased and unfair way Tom.”
“Gee Coach, thinking about it, I do tend to just see things just the way I want them to be, without considering other possibilities. You are right, I am always talking about how Tim hit this shot or that shot, or how he played a hole, and I always compare his results to John’s.
I think I’m actually more focused on Tim’s play than my son John’s and come to think about it, I rarely if ever talk about other junior golfers results in a tournament. Man, I feel like a real ass, I’m ashamed of myself and really feel bad for doing that to John,
He’s trying so hard to not hit bad shots that he can’t focus on all the good things he has been learning that would actually make him play better.
This extra layer of interference he experiences, gets in the way of him developing his potential as a golfer, and also a young human being.
It has been my experience that this is one of the big reasons why so many talented junior golfers give up playing the game by about 18 years of age, because they are often victims of their parent’s Confirmation Bias.”
“Wow, I never thought about it like that Coach. So what should I do?”
“Tom, it’s simple really. Let John play the game to enjoy the game. Don’t compare him to another junior golfer, and especially don’t compare his results to other junior golfers. He is a great kid Tom, he’s a very good listener, and has tons of ability.
If you can back off with your pressure and expectations, I know he will respond by playing much better in no time. There is no reason in this world why he can’t play competitively in junior tournament, but just like your simple sales process, I want to share my 3 suggestions that will help John to make progress Tom.
- Focus on the good things John does on the golf course. Talk about his good shots and his good putts, and don’t focus on his bad shots and scores. If he talks about bad shots and results with you Tom, help him to re-frame the event into a positive learning experience.
- Golf progress is a process of reducing mistakes—not playing perfectly. Improving his green-side skills will help him to maximize his scoring potential when he makes a mistake. Now this process needs time, like anything else Tom. Remember learning and improving golf is more a game of subtraction rather than addition. Less is definitely more in golf. Remove the interference and golf progress is possible.
- Let him play golf the way he wants to play it Tom, rather than trying to get him to play the game of golf the way you might want him to play. Let him make mistakes and learn from them, and work with him like your managers do with your sales strugglers by providing positive and constant feedback and guidance, continually help him to adjust his learning process.
Thanks so much Coach for helping me to understand this problem. I truly want John to enjoy his golf, and the way I was going about it, well, John would most certainly have become another casualty of an over-zealous parent wanting a perfect golfing kid.”
“Here are my last thoughts on this Tom, for what it’s worth.
Confucius once said that life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Like I said earlier Tom, we seem to be better at adding more and more complication to the game, rather than reducing and simplifying it.
And after all Tom, isn’t that really what it’s all about?”
“Yes Coach, I believe you’re right; simplify it by playing the game to enjoy the game, I won’t forget that.”
“Well Tom, my next lesson has arrived, so I better get over to the practice tee to sort out his pesky slice.
Enjoy the rest of your day and thanks for dropping by."
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