Co-active coaching and the power of sales coaching individual goals

Pooja Kumar is the Director, Sales Enablement & Organisational Culture – Asia Pacific, Business Development Group at Oracle.  Pooja joined The Collaborator to discuss co-active coaching and the two sales coaching program they launched and the impact of focusing on individual goals.

Critical lessons to pull from this conversation, amongst others, included:

1️⃣There is a lot of research in the market showing the positive benefits of structured coaching.  As you make your case for formalizing coaching, use this research, come to the executive team with options, and get their buy-in and support.

2️⃣ Shadow Coaching was one of the programs — listening in and advising sales managers on their leadership conversations.  One of the outcomes?  Longer employee tenures.

3️⃣Peak Performance Coaching, the other program, started by identifying high-potential employees with leadership capabilities.  The goal?  To build the next round of organization leaders, a start towards succession planning.

Pooja used a co-active coaching and training approach built upon key principles including:

  • The employee, the person being coached, created the agenda and focus for every coaching conversation.  It was about them, their goals, not the business, and generally focused on personal goals instead of business goals.
  • The coach was fully present, listening and helping the employee with their goals, no hidden business objectives.

There is a ton of insight in here, thanks Pooja!  If anyone is looking for a professional co active coach, reach out to Pooja, she has her certification.

Give a listen and remain curious!

Audio Transcript

The Collaborator
I’m excited, super excited to once again have my friend Pooja Kumar here Pooja, how are you?

Pooja Kumar
I’m fabulous, fabulous, nicely refreshed after a wee break.

The Collaborator
Yeah, you know why? I’m fantastic, but you said it really well before we came on, we all get so insanely busy. And it’s so sometimes so easy to, to forget to take those very, very important breaks. I unplugged completely at the end of the year. And it was wonderful. And it was wonderful. So, but I’m excited to come back and start doing these conversations all over. I’m a very sick person, Pooja, I like learning from everybody. You know,

Unknown Speaker
I love you. I

Pooja Kumar
love what you’re doing because I like learning from everybody as well. And I love the content that you put out there.

The Collaborator
I appreciate you. I appreciate that comment. That’s wonderful. It do me a favor. You came on before but not everybody necessarily heard you could you just reintroduce yourself Pooja?

Pooja Kumar
Sure. Okay, so my name is Pooja Kumar, and you’ll find me on LinkedIn. I work for Oracle Business Development Group. And I look after I’m the director of sales enablement, and organizational culture for the JPEG team. I’m based here in Kuala Lumpur. And about four years ago Oracle made a move to move all of its business development teams into Kuala Lumpur as a centralized hub. And and so I look after sales enablement for them over here and all culture now.

The Collaborator
I love that. I love that and at some point when this crazy Coronavirus is all gone, I want to travel the world and come visit and see what your what your center of enablement excellence looks like there.

Pooja Kumar
I’d love that.

The Collaborator
One day, we’ll make it happen. Hey, do me a favor. We I was super excited when we last spoke. And the point of this conversation was you started to tell me about this really exciting. I call it a coaching program that you were putting together? What was the motivation behind it? And at a high level? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Pooja Kumar
Yeah, okay, so. So I established the sales enablement function here for the business development group, I think about three and a bit years ago. And I guess, okay, there was three, three things that that was the tipping point. I am very lucky. So I’ve worked in the industry for about two decades, very long. And early on in my career, I was a salesperson, and I am very lucky to have received early on as a business development rep myself are an inside seller myself, some excellent coaching that really helped me build my confidence. And, and really helped me pave the path to my career, but also to my life was really high impact coaching.

The Collaborator
I love that. I love that

Unknown Speaker
that was

Pooja Kumar
one thing. And in fact, the person who coached me then was my sales manager. Her name is Anna Bronner. She’s now a coach in Germany. She used to be a sales leader in Australia. And, and she’s still my coach. So I still tap on Anna shoulder every now and then and say, Hey, you know what? I need some help getting out of this funk. Can you help me?

The Collaborator
And that’s such an important reality butcher we all none of us are islands unto ourselves and can do this completely on our own. Yeah, and I love that you’ve stayed connected with her all this time.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah, it’s been pretty good actually. And more so in the last two or three years. And I then also so that was number one, having received it myself. I know what impact that can have. I also am a trained coach myself, I’ve done some collective I’m trained as a collective coach. And I’ve done about 200 hours of coaching so I can see the impact on other people. Through through the coaching that I give about a year as I had established the function, the sales enablement function in the bbg. About a year in I thought, hang on a minute, I’m really I was I had done some work to create a coaching culture with it within the teams. But as I looked back, and as I reviewed what I did, I really wasn’t happy, and I felt like something needed to change but I wasn’t quite sure what it was, and

Unknown Speaker
actually

The Collaborator
weren’t happy with the outcomes are you Weren’t guilty going along or what was a pleasure,

Pooja Kumar
I just wasn’t happy that I had gone, we had gotten as far along in the, in that cycle of creating a coaching culture as we should have been wonderful. So I need to do something big and something a little bit different. And coincidentally, at that time, I actually was part of, I’m going to call it a project team, where we looked at the imia, teams operations as well as the JPEG teams operations. And we exchanged ideas and best practices. So I talked to them about sales enablement, and structure. And what they had was this brilliant Talent Development Program, which was led by three coaches. And I had the opportunity to go into the Dublin office to watch what they were doing. And I did some shadow shadowing of these three coaches, and when gosh, that made so much sense. And so I came back and I introduced two programs within our organization, you know, after some selling, one was a manager shadow coaching program, and the second was peak performance coaching for our high potential teams.

The Collaborator
I love that. Now what you touched on something I didn’t want to skip over right away. You had to do some selling to get to get people on board with this. But so before we dive into what those programs were, and all of that, what kind of selling did you end up having to do and? and What magic words did you use Pooja to say, you will let me do this? You think it was

Pooja Kumar
that it was their plan?

The Collaborator
But it’s my idea. It’s really smart. So yeah, a lot of times convincing people to that it does go into it a lot. Was that was that a lot of it though? Was it trying to tie it back to Hey, I can help you and leading them to this kind of solution? Or? Or were there other things you ended up doing?

Pooja Kumar
Um, okay, so I, at that period of time, I was asked to also look at talent development within this organization. And given that Amelia had said success that was already, you know, that was already a selling point. But I still needed to sell it to the VP of Business Development Group and j pack. And I started by talking about what was it? You know, I mean, if you google coaching effects on pipeline, right, you have a whole bunch of stats, you can have the similar amount of stats around revenue generation, and coaching, and talent retention. So I had I had a bunch of stats where we had a conversation with her. And I talked to her about a few options and paths we could take. One of those stats was actually from CSO insights and and that the one the one that was clincher was around a systematic coaching program led to in a sales organization late lead to 18% 80% higher win rates, oh, revenue 14% win rate or something like that? Yeah, yeah. Yes, pipeline number two, and I can’t remember what the pipeline number was now, and they will certainly have talent retention number. So anyway, so my conversation with her and all of her leadership team was, was very much around the stats, and the fact that you know, what I felt like, we’ve done some manager training and taught them how to be coaches, but we really need to show them how to apply this. And that really needs to come top down, etc, etc. So it was it wasn’t too hard to sell because it was part of kind of what I was doing anyway, as talent development. It was an area that I had recognized as a problem. I felt like we needed to, I needed to pull my socks up in that manner. I had done some work for for sales enablement and realized that actually sales coaching is not and that coaching culture is not as prevalent. So I needed to, to show people how to coach anyway,

The Collaborator
just smarter protrusion taking stats, finding stats from reputable sources, and talking to people about how it can actually impact the bottom line is what I heard you did on top of, you know, on top of the fact that you had this mandate to look at it in general, it really allowed you to build a very powerful argument. Now what

Pooja Kumar
a powerful argument and Sorry, no, no, please. Yeah, the thing after that though, the thing that I did was I said okay, here are some options. On what we can do, and here are some of the impacts I think it can have, or here’s the impact I think it can have, what I really wanted to do john was go big. So I actually went out trying to hire looking for a position where I could either hire a coach or as as a full resource. And I got, I got the approvals for that, which was pretty cool. In Asia Pacific, I didn’t think I could. So that was option number one, or we could go and get an external contract coaching company, because I didn’t have the resource myself to go as big as I wanted to, to create that change as quickly as I wanted to, because I was the only accredited coach and yeah,

The Collaborator
I love them. I love the fact that stats, you went big, you gave me options, but you can convince them to go big and they went for it. Now you have the coaching yourself, but you’re a leader, you need to manage the team grow the team and the vision. Beyond just beyond, I was gonna say it poorly, I was gonna say, beyond just being the coach, Coach is a very powerful role, but you couldn’t do it all. So you say you hired a coach?

Pooja Kumar
Well, I tried to hire a coach. And I didn’t find the type of person I was looking for in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore at that stage. And I just decided, Okay, you know, what I’m going to, actually there was an option to I could actually put that money into getting a consultant. But through the changes that we you know, as you have all the time, and headcount changes that happen in a taken all taken a bit long. So that money and funding dried up. And what I’m going to try this myself, I’m going to give it a go myself, this is the number of hours, and that’s where my coach and I actually came, came, helped me through this, I said, Look, this is the impact I want to make. These are, this is how I think I can make it. And these are the number of hours I can spend within a week myself to prioritize coaching.

The Collaborator
So 40 hours a week, right? And then 40 hours for the leadership stuff. We bought, you’re laughing, but you know, there’s probably some weeks where that’s been true. So what kind of challenges? So I mean, it challenges hiring, having to take this on yourself, at least initially, what other kinds of challenges did you encounter when you were getting started with this?

Pooja Kumar
Okay, so once I had sold this program, and what I wanted to do, which was peak performance coaching and shadow coaching, what I wanted to do and how many hours I needed to spend and thus had to deprioritize or delegate some of the other stuff that I was doing. I then had two other challenges that I needed to overcome. And they One of them was personal. So I’m quite a directive person. And as a coach, you need to be a good listener and not a directive person. So it wasn’t really very coach like and I think that came with you know, it came with the territory of establishing a sales enablement function. And, and leading that sales enablement function I did need to be directive and that’s the brand that I created within this organization for myself. And so so it was quite different to the coach like person that I needed to be. So I needed to overcome that myself and create a whole new brand which was the Pooja the enablement leader, but also Pooja the coach, which is a different person also comes with a different tone of voice.

The Collaborator
Yeah, I was gonna say a very different role that you had to take on.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah. And so I had to establish that brand to start with the second piece. And I kind of alluded to this, in Asia, coaching is seen as a deal. It’s a remedy to problem. And it’s not about really helping, which is what coaching is all about, which is helping you perform, helping you identify your own potential and perform at your peak or perform at your best. So in Asia, the brand that goes with coaching is almost our you know, you’ve got a problem and thus you’ll go for for Yeah, and, and, and, in fact, one of the coaches that I was interviewing, remember when I was trying to interview a coach to do this job, even called a therapy and I thought, Okay, I need to change this

The Collaborator
on my couch and tell me about why you hate your mother and your father and all yeah, that’s, that’s wild. That’s a very different view. Why,

Pooja Kumar
right if what it is, and, and it is very much an Asian viewpoint, and I live in Asia and I was raised with Asian people, so I have to change the brand of coaching. And explain what coaching is all about leadership donalda, my, my, you know, the senior leaders are extremely clever, and they, they understand coaching, but middle management and and the sales reps themselves are needed to explain what coaching is all about. And it’s not remedy, it’s actually going to help you leapfrog some of your goals, or even set you some of the goals that you may not have considered. So those were my two big challenges. rebranding myself and rebound branding, coaching,

The Collaborator
and not small task, either, which are which is incredible as well, because those aren’t easy things to do. So kudos to you Pooja, because that that’s, I’m sure, there was a lot of work that went into it. But let’s switch gears and dive into the programs themselves. Because I know people want to hear about that, too. Yeah. Tell us about the programs, you know, what, what are they in a little bit more detail and, and, and tell us that?

Pooja Kumar
Okay, I’m going to just touch on shadow coaching, and not really talk in any level of detail around that because shadow coaching is exactly that he is listening in to a manager’s one on one coaching session, you have established confidence and and the ability to be there, I did advise him and kind of put myself off video, and then giving feedback to the manager and coaching them to be stronger for the next coaching conversation. So that was shadow coaching. And I did that with every manager for about, I want to say 12 weeks, but it was it was sporadic, because some managers just didn’t need that much.

The Collaborator
They were willing to see for outcomes, because because frankly, I love that push of too often we make our managers, you’re the manager, go manage, and we don’t give them a whole lot of insight and support and training and coaching. What did you learn in that process? And what outcomes? Did you see if anything measurable?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, you

Pooja Kumar
know, it was interesting. So we had given, and this is where I saw my strategy wasn’t quite right in the first place, with the managers, a lot of training on how to coach how to be a great sales leader. Now remember, I work with a business development group, right? So all of our managers are quite new in their management career, some of them are first time managers, putting that concept and theory into practice. And they tried with the grow model and with the skill model and all of these other models that we talked about. But they weren’t really there, and they didn’t feel confident in themselves. So having me listen to them, made them feel like Okay, you know what I’m here. And it took me a little while. Clearly, you know, I mean, I’m very, I work very closely with our managers, so I didn’t need to establish too much confidentiality, etc. I work closely there, it was a given. But, so after listening to this 45 minute coaching session, and take 15 minutes and say, Hey, manager x, you know, Hey, Joe, how do you think you could have done that better? And now that’s getting them to think about what else that I would do? Or I’d say, you know, how, what do you think really worked? Well, over there? And how can you expand on that next time? So now they’re starting to connect the concepts that they’ve learned to how to apply them? And, in fact, you know, john, I think I think I introduced it as a 12 week. So the full quarter shadow coaching program where I try to coach one manager a week, but there was at least three managers that I can think of, and I don’t need to do it anymore. There was at least three managers that I can think of, I would just, you know, they were done in three weeks, there was really there had done their own learning. And they had reflected on their own coaching, and they had become really solid coaches themselves.

The Collaborator
That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Did you see Did you see higher team performance, higher satisfaction with the jobs for the managers in their teams? Or did you observe anything like that

Pooja Kumar
while retention? Yeah, yeah. So better retention during that period. In fact, a BDR role is generally an 18 month turnover. And I think the average tenure in our organization now is about two and a half years. So that’s That’s pretty cool. That’s awesome. Where they really spent the time coaching their reps now, and and I’ve been reviewing this with the teams now, with the managers now, where they have the ability to spend more time with the reps, you can see an increase in performance. It’s just a matter of with managers, it’s always a matter of, and I’ve been a sales manager myself, so I know this for a fact. It’s the dance, it’s the game. You know, I need to do these several reviews. But I know that I need to spend some time over here. So, you know, we’re doing some work around getting them to find more time, and what they need to do to find more time coaching. But there’s certainly a difference in the coaching culture.

The Collaborator
That’s amazing, though. What about the other program Pooja, what was the other

Pooja Kumar
the other program is still going on. So I started off a pilot one year ago with eight people. It’s called peak performance coaching. And what I did was this wasn’t intentional, started off as a talent development program, but I saw incredible figures in actual performance as well. So this is where I take I purposely took eight high performers, who already had some we could see had some leadership traits, right. So it was two, it was a true problem, we wanted the performance to improve if it could, or as as good as could get. And, and we also wanted to build those leadership skills to start building a bit of a succession plan within the organization. Well, that was the intention. But But, and I’ll talk to that in a minute. So I actually for this program, I used very much a co active coaching approach. And this was pure coaching. So I established I found these we nominated these eight people leadership down who wanted to who we were going to pilot the program with, with each one of them, I established confidentiality. Now I’ve seen contracts for confidentiality, I didn’t need to do that. I asked them if they’d like a contract. They were okay with me. And then co active coaching has got four, which is what I’m trained on has four cornerstones. And the first one is the client. We know when you’re the client or the coachee is naturally resourceful, and creative and home. We also the second Cornerstone is it’s the client’s agenda, it’s not your agenda.

The Collaborator
So it’s about them. It’s not about you

Pooja Kumar
dangling the agenda. It’s not just about them, they’re bringing the agenda.

The Collaborator
So they’re active, actively building the agenda and showing up for it. That’s I love that. Okay.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah, it’s their agenda and not my agenda. And it has nothing to do with work. The third piece is the employee doesn’t have anything to do with work if it doesn’t need to be. The third piece is and this is a funny one. It’s called the coaching the coach dances in the moment. That’s the third cornerstone of CO active coaching. And what that means is the coach is present and available and completely intuitive in this conversation.

The Collaborator
So so you’re not sitting here on your phone trying to figure out how to how to move this opportunity forward or anything else. You’re really here.

Pooja Kumar
Absolutely here and and absolutely concentrating and intuitive and asking questions of the client to help them move along in their own agenda.

The Collaborator
Wonderful. Okay.

Pooja Kumar
And then And then thirdly, the sorry, fourthly. It’s a collective coaching is holistic coaching. So it addresses the clients or the coaches life. It’s not just about work. It’s not just about where they want to be in two years time. It’s what’s going on and what do you wear? What do you want to what what would you like to achieve from a community perspective from every perspective, personal development community, etc. So you’re really talking about the whole person?

The Collaborator
It that’s exciting to me, because it’s it’s one of the few times I hear somebody talking about Well, I’m not teaching them how to close a deal. I’m not teaching them how to know maybe you are, but it’s about I have these goals as a human being and you’re there actively trying to support them.

Pooja Kumar
And actually, they I’d like to think that there is different coaching for different People and that’s what I guess the message that I would like to communicate. Yeah, some people do need help with just finding that pipeline and coaching. And that’s a type of coaching, where you’re giving some level of direction to help them progress in their own performance. But the reason I took this high performance cohort or high potential cohort to do this coaching is because I wanted to address them as an individual. So we do the sales coaching anyway, as part of the sales enablement course. Yeah. But what about them? And, and some people, yeah, they did have, you know, an area that they wanted to improve, which was work related. And they bring that over to me, but a lot of them, and I’ve done, you know, I’ve done I’ve coached about 16 people in the organization. Now, it’s not as much as I’d like to bet a lot of them have brought to to me and agenda about their own where they want to be personally. And that is been quite different. And it’s different for every, every single person that I speak to has had a different agenda.

The Collaborator
It’s inspiring for me Pooja, it really is inspiring for me to hear this. Now, I would imagine, but tell me, they must have been so much more engaged, simply by being able to talk about what matters for them. Did you see that level of engagement increased? Did you see attrition go down? Did you see improvement and performance as well? How did you get the whole person?

Pooja Kumar
Okay, so my first cohort was about to about four quarters ago, six to 12 months ago. And my first cohort had eight people in it. The out of the eight people, we’ve had two that have left the organization to to pursue different goals that they identified, so I’m very happy for them. But six people have turned into kind of leaders within the organization through some of the uncovering that they did through the coaching sessions around where they wanted to be. So I’m not saying, you know, we do have some in management positions, but but also team leadership positions, etc. within the organization. So engagement definitely has been stronger. You know, what was really cool. Those, so I said high potential, right, I started this as a talent development program. Yeah, that cohort of eight people were already doing brilliantly 110 120%. You know, overall blended achievement. What I had quarter and quarter from them that quarter. And then consistently, I haven’t tracked after that, but but quarter on quarter on that quarter of coaching was on average 92% increase on what they were already doing. Those numbers were insane.

The Collaborator
Boom. Yeah. Well, let me ask, I mean, incredible, what

Unknown Speaker
a cool.

The Collaborator
Boy. And like you said, you were working with high potentials, who probably had a lot of upside already, but really focused in on, on helping them grow. How collective coaching, where can people learn more about that? First off,

Pooja Kumar
and so it’s called coaches training instance, I did my training about a long time ago when I started my journey and sales enablement. Yes. But it’s called the coaches Training Institute CTI. I think it’s American based training institute. So go and Google co active coaching CTI, but you know, what, john, all coaching is good coaching. And

The Collaborator
a lot of advice. Yeah, I think there’s a lot of coaching approaches. Yeah,

Pooja Kumar
yeah, there are a lot of great coaching approaches so CTI I love co active coaching, the fact that I love the four cornerstones and the philosophy behind it. And I’ve seen huge amounts of impact. I do some executive coaching on my own when when I have the time to Yeah, and and also coach startups using the CO active coaching model blended with a few other things. And that has had some really phenomenal outcomes for the individual. But all coaching is good. Well, most coaching is good coaching.

The Collaborator
Yeah, no, we agree. We agree most coaching is not not everything, but most coaching is you know, we’re 31 minutes in Pooja and I like to keep 30 which is crazy, which is crazy because I feel like I could talk forever. for five days with you about this, but let’s bring this conversation to an end. And as we do so, what what we haven’t talked about? There’s a number of things we haven’t talked about. But are there one or two things that you want to really get across to people as we close this out? Yeah.

Pooja Kumar
As sales enablement, people, leaders, you already have the ability to coach generally, you are doing some level of coaching to bring your teams up to speed. My recommendation is try and have a look, if you haven’t already, try and get some formal training. It doesn’t have to be anything as extensive as co active coaching, although that’ll be great. But But there are other coaching models out there. So try and get some formal training, because that’s important. But also have a look at statistics on the web, and that very, very, you know, there’s statistics depending on how you want to die, dice it. But there is a lot of evidence to show that coaching programs and effective coaching program improves pipeline attrition rates, you know, reduce major impacts,

The Collaborator
but no, but major impacts to the

Pooja Kumar
tax on revenue. And so, so do have a think about it, and know that you already have as a sales enablement leader, you probably have a coaching muscle and they already

The Collaborator
you may not have developed yet, but it’s their pleasure, my friend, I could talk for another five days, but I’m gonna let you go. You have a phenomenal, safe and productive rest of the day. And I and we’re gonna have to do this again, because I still feel like there’s so much more to talk about

Pooja Kumar
to get a cohort of coaches and coaches and talking about some of the impacts. So that’ll be great at some stage. If we could come back again.

The Collaborator
You know what, I’m gonna go find a bunch of other coach coaches out there and let’s have a conversation. We’ll schedule something later in the quarter maybe because I think that would be a fun conversation.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah. Okay. Well, hey, thank you very much for having me on board on again. And it’s always an absolute pleasure chatting to you.

The Collaborator
Oh, Pooja, it was such an honor and such a wonderful conversation. You take care and everybody thank you for listening and reach out to Pooja on LinkedIn if you have any questions. All right. Bye bye.

Unknown Speaker
Oh, thank you.

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