Jennifer Buzzard and Kristine Sullivan (or Buzz and Sully as they’re known in the office) worked their way through the ranks from Account Executives to sales managers to now running Training and Development for Yelp’s Phoenix office. After over six years of both being coached and coaching others, they’ve become resident experts in giving and receiving feedback. Since coachability is a key part of being a successful professional in any industry, they’re sharing the most effective ways to take tough feedback and remain coachable in the workplace.
Why is coachability such an important trait for any professional?
Sully – “In order to learn any new skill, you’re going to have to fail before you succeed. In order to learn from your failures at a faster rate, you’re going to need to be open to feedback and coaching. The best athletes don’t become great by resisting coaching, just like the best salespeople don’t become great by resisting feedback. Coaches and managers are there to make you better, so whatever they tell you to do comes from a place of wanting to make you great. The ability to implement tough feedback is only going to make you greater, faster.”
What does coachability mean to you?
Buzz – “Coachability encompasses two things – being receptive to feedback and implementing feedback. Being receptive to feedback means you don’t make excuses about or justify why you did it that way previously. Try to acknowledge, even if you don’t believe the feedback is valid. A previous boss once told me that you can always find a nugget of truth in any feedback you receive, even if it’s small. You should be constantly searching for that nugget.
Implementing feedback is often the toughest part. The thing that someone is telling you to do differently might put you really far outside your comfort to actually implement, or, again, you may not think it’s even valid. My best advice is to simply attempt to change what you’re being told. Just try it! Then try it again, and again. Being coachable is about being able to implement something over time, not just once. Chances are, if you implement the feedback over and over, you’ll wind up not feeling uncomfortable about doing it, and that’s how you learn a new skill!”
What advice do you typically give your new Account Executives to help them become more coachable?
Sully – “Coachability means being moldable and willing to get uncomfortable in order to try anything that will make you better at your job. It’s easy to rationalize “I’ll try this tomorrow”, but instead, try it on your next call! Our sales process is very different than other companies’, so leave anything you know from previous experiences at the door and be willing to try it the ‘Yelp way!’”
Sully points out that this is the case for any company and any role. Every organization has their own way of doing things, so if you’re starting a new job that you’ve done at another company you should be ready and willing to do things completely differently than you’ve done them in the past.
What specifically can someone do to learn how to be coachable?
Buzz – “Not all feedback will be positive, however, constructive feedback will get you better at the job or role you’re doing. If you get some feedback that stings a bit, my advice is to take a breath, let it sink in, and make sure you and your leader are on the same page. Ask questions if you want any clarification, and come up with a game plan together on how to track your improvements.”
Let’s say you give one of your AEs some feedback that’s very tough for them to hear. As a leader, what would you like to see that AE do?
Sully – “Delivering tough feedback isn’t our favorite part of the job, however we know that it’s necessary in order to be candid with our people so that they can see success sooner. I would like to see that AE ask questions about the feedback if they need more clarity, but then just put their head down and implement it on the very next call. You’ll never know what works for you and what doesn’t until you try it multiple times, so rip the bandaid off and give it a shot. Your manager will be there to support you through the uncomfortable times.”
Have you ever gotten feedback from someone that you didn’t agree with?
Sully – “Just like anyone else, of course I’ve gotten feedback that initially hurts to hear. However, any feedback I get from my boss or peers is feedback that I always want to take to heart, because I know if they’re giving me this feedback it’s because they think I can be better. If at any time I’m unclear on the feedback, I ask questions to seek to understand. I don’t think I’d ever disagree with feedback being given to me. We all have the ability to learn something new every day and learn from someone different every day. Receiving feedback, both positive & constructive, is a learning opportunity for all parties involved. I just embrace it!”
Coachability isn’t a one-way street. In order for someone to be coachable, they need to be given feedback in a helpful and constructive way. So now that we’ve talked through your advice on how to receive feedback, what advice do you have for leaders on how to give feedback?
Buzz – “Have examples, always! If you’re going to give someone on your team feedback, make sure you have specific examples to back it up! If you have constructive feedback to give, you can always say “Hey, can I give you feedback about something I noticed today?” I also think it’s important to have a plan of action moving forward. Your goal as a leader is to make sure the feedback is direct and understood, implemented, then tracked for progress.
It sounds like the common theme here is to be self aware and eager to get outside your comfort zone. If you could boil all of this down into a single piece of advice what would it be?
Sully – Work hard, be optimistic & implement feedback. If you do those three things you’ll get to where you want to be, and others will love working with you.
We’re looking for coachable individuals to join our sales team. Looking for your #FiveStarCareer? Head over to www.yelp.com/careers to get started.