The Coaching Effect: What Great Leaders Do to Increase Sales, Enhance Performance, and Sustain Growth

The Coaching Effect: What Great Leaders Do to Increase Sales, Enhance Performance, and Sustain Growth

by Bill Eckstrom, Sarah Wirth
The Coaching Effect: What Great Leaders Do to Increase Sales, Enhance Performance, and Sustain Growth

The Coaching Effect: What Great Leaders Do to Increase Sales, Enhance Performance, and Sustain Growth

by Bill Eckstrom, Sarah Wirth


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The most effective leader behaves more like a coach
​Authors Bill Eckstrom and Sarah Wirth have spent a decade researching the activities, behaviors, and performance of leaders. After studying more than 100,000 coaching interactions in the workplace, primarily of sales teams, they have been able to determine how coaching affects team outcomes and growth.

The authors share three critical performance drivers, along with the four high-growth activities that coaches must execute to build a team that is motivated to achieve at the highest levels. Through both hard data and rich stories, Eckstrom and Wirth demonstrate how leaders can measure and improve their coaching to lead their teams to better results.

The Coaching Effect will help leaders at all levels understand the necessity of challenging people out of their comfort zone to create a high-growth organization. Leaders will learn how they can develop trust relationships, drive accountability and leverage growth experiences to propel their team members to the highest levels of success.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626346093
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 684,570
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Bill Eckstrom is an executive, entrepreneur, mentor, student, husband, and father. His primary passion is growth—especially how coaches and leaders influence the growth and performance of individuals and teams.
Bill began his management career in 2000 and climbed the ranks to become US director of sales in just three years. In 2004, Bill was named the senior vice president of business development for a publicly traded health-care organization. In 2008 he founded the EcSell Institute, a research-based organization that works with leaders internationally to help them better understand, measure, and elevate coaching’s impact on performance. 
Bill’s work as a keynote speaker is internationally renowned. He has presented to hundreds of groups and is a popular guest on podcasts and shows around the world. His viral TEDx Talk “Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life” was the fastest-growing talk in the history of the event when it was released in 2017.
Bill’s home is in Nebraska, where he lives with his wife, Kerstin. Together they have three children—Will Jr., Claire, and Maddie.

Sarah Wirth has twenty years of experience in employee assessment, leadership development, sales executive coaching, and customer service.
In 2011, Sarah came on board with the EcSell Institute as vice president of client service and increased its retention rate to over 94 percent.
Sarah has a passion for leadership and its impact on the performance of teams. Sarah has presented to executives from across the globe. Her expertise, combined with her fact-based and commonsense approach, make her a sought-after presenter.
Sarah has a BA from the University of Nebraska, holds a JD from the University of Michigan Law School, and is a member of the Nebraska Bar Association. She has served as a legal advisor for many organizations, specifically in the areas of contract, employment, and intellectual property law. She lives in Kansas City with her husband, Mike, and two sons, Miles and Emmett. 

Read an Excerpt


The Growth Rings


Question: What does your manager do best as a sales coach?

Answer: I don't know. I've never been coached.

— Through the Eyes of the Team survey respondent

IN THE EARLY YEARS of our company, our small EcSell team spent countless hours in coffee shops, restaurants, our family room (before we could afford an office), or any place that would allow our patronage while we obsessively debated and analyzed how coaches contributed to high-performing teams. We knew that coaching had the most significant impact on performance. We knew there was something to high-growth coaching that classic leadership and management models were not explaining. But figuring out how to research and explain it had us stumped.

We assumed coaches understood that their primary role was to create growth above and beyond what their subordinates were willing to do on their own, but our work with clients proved we were wrong. So to help managers better comprehend what to do and how to do it well, we studied basic coaching activities and behaviors. However, the more we researched, the more we learned that the best leaders were unique in their coaching, and we could see that — either intentionally or unintentionally — they created or embraced an environment of discomfort as a growth mechanism. But why did these behaviors have such powerful outcomes? What was it about discomfort that created so much growth?

Ironically, it all came together when we injected some discomfort into our own discussions by inviting leadership guru Mary Uhl-Bien, PhD, to work with us. Her research background, profound knowledge, and passion for the study of leadership helped us view growth through a different lens. She constantly challenged and expanded our myopic views on the role of a coach-leader versus a manager.

Dr. Mary was invaluable in assisting with a paramount discovery that was quite literally an epiphany, a "holy $#it" moment that stopped us in our tracks. What began as a journey to understand how coaching affects the performance of individuals and teams had turned into a global model for explaining how growth is sustained and amplified by all living things. We discovered a model that showed why exponential and sustained growth only occur in a state of discomfort. We call this model the Growth Rings.

Since this discovery, we have spent years on additional research, challenging the concept, refining it, and finding understandable ways to explain it. And after communicating the Growth Rings to more than a thousand presidents, CEOs, and various executives; another eighteen hundred people at the University of Nevada TEDx event; and an astonishing two million (and growing) who have since viewed the "Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life" TEDx Talk online, we know the Growth Rings are resonating with business leaders and have immense performance applications to all businesses throughout the world. Even more, since the TEDx Talk introduced the Growth Rings, our company has been inundated with emails, tweets, Facebook posts, phone calls, and LinkedIn messages from people around the world with professional and personal stories of how the Growth Rings have already affected them as well as those on their teams.

For us, understanding the Growth Rings has changed how we parent, coach, view adversity, and think about human behavior. The Growth Rings have altered how we view the world and thrive within differing environments (or opt out of them). The Growth Rings have played a powerful role in our personal peace and emotional development.

The Growth Rings illustrate differing environments that exist in our world and how they either promote or hinder growth. Each ring encompasses one of four primary environments: Stagnation, Order, Complexity, and Chaos.

These primary environments could represent one's dorm room, home, place of work, government, sports team, nature, and especially one's body and mind. The growth state of every living thing can be represented within a Growth Ring. And, while we'll explain all the environments that compose the Growth Rings in detail, we will take a more expansive look into Order and Complexity. Order and Complexity are the environments that are most represented in high-growth teams and therefore more applicable to coaching and growth.


The first Growth Ring represents a low-performing, low, or negative growth environment called Stagnation. Stagnation is a situation in which people may need to follow too many steps, get someone else's permission, or deal with minutia that stifle creativity, independent thought, or action. Stagnation isn't a popular or common environment, but it exists in certain businesses, homes, and natural places. Stagnated environments don't just freeze growth; they regress it. Stagnation causes environments within nature to wither and die (think about old, rotting forests and stagnant water); it causes our bodies to lose muscle and our minds to lose imagination.

By the time a business reaches Stagnation, drastic measures need to be taken to reverse the decline. These may include, but are not limited to, changes in leadership personnel, rapid evolutions in products and services and how they are marketed, adjustments in markets, the hiring of outside consultants, and so on. Surprisingly, we have worked with very few businesses in this environmental ring, perhaps for the very same reasons they are in Stagnation — they are not willing to change. Although more examples abound, the most common example of a stagnated environment is a local or federal government bureaucracy. In these cultures, performance improvement, creativity, effective collaboration, and working out of the norm are not highly valued. They are all components of high-growth teams.


The antithesis of Stagnation is an environment called Chaos. Also lowgrowth and low-performance, Chaos can be caused by internal or external events or conditions. Chaos may be a temporary state that occurs (for example, in the early stages of a new business). We also see Chaos ensue as the result of natural disasters and horrific events like 9/11 and, though less tragic, business mergers and acquisitions.

We have often visited with leaders and employees from newly acquired companies that have no idea to whom they report, how their duties are affected, or if their employment will be retained. Behaviors exhibited in chaotic environments typify those when fear is present; fear tends to trigger in our brains one of the three Fs: freeze, fight, or flight.

A graphic example occurred recently with an acquired company in the Midwest. We received several calls from longtime employees of the acquired company who were devastated over the outcome of the acquisition. They didn't believe that strategic direction commitments by the acquiring company were met; organizational structure deadlines were missed; and terminations, which are endemic to most acquisitions, were randomly occurring. When asked what it felt like to work there, an employee said, "We are numb, frozen, and afraid to do anything." Another employee shared how colleagues were receiving random phone calls informing them of their termination. He likened it to being a victim of a sniper attack: "We don't know when the shots are coming or who will be picked off next." It is easy to see how growth is limited in this type of environment. Chaos is having zero predictability or control over inputs and outcomes. And although more common than Stagnation, it is not an environment to desire, frequent, or reside in.


Next to Stagnation is Order. Order is where people tend to want to exist because it is the most comfortable environment, but it is also the most dangerous. Order is achieved when the same repeated processes lead to a predictable result. However, predictability can lead to comfort and comfort is what can make Order catastrophic.

Doing the same thing with predictable outcomes is attractive in many settings. For example, the process followed by Southwest Airline pilots with an outcome of delivering us to our destination safely creates healthy Order. (However, if new, safer ways to fly a plane were discovered and not adopted, Southwest's Order could quickly turn into Stagnation.) As frequent business travelers, we have developed a detailed process that makes the ordered outcome of our 150-plus trips a year through airports very predictable and tolerable. For every trip, we keep our passport and wallet in the same briefcase sleeve; put our tablet and laptop in their own compartment; place our money clip, purse, glasses, and belt in the X-ray bin; and so on — everything is repeated in the same manner when we navigate airports and airplanes.

Why the repetition? In these examples, the same, consistent inputs lead to predictable, desirable, and repeatable outcomes — Order. Keep in mind the objectives of putting these specific processes in place have nothing to do with growth or advancement. For Southwest, the desired outcome is passenger safety, and that needs to be highly repeatable. So, if the passenger-safety goal is met, the same process is followed. For us, our disciplined travel process ensures that passport, phone, glasses, purse, tablet, and other critical items arrive at our destination with us — the desired outcome — as opposed to leaving them on airplanes or at security checkpoints.

Some years ago, my (Bill's) wife informed me of a new opportunity to make my trips through airport security more efficient. It was called TSA PreCheck. To obtain this qualification would require me to take a trip to the local TSA office (sixty miles away), fill out paperwork, go through an approval process, and pay a small fee. My response to her suggestion? No! I explained to her how my current process was effective, and I didn't see a need to change it. What I was saying without using the words was that I was entrenched in my Order and comfortable with the outcome.

Fast-forward to a time shortly thereafter when I was late for a flight taking me to a meeting. The security line was long, which created immense stress for me. I wondered if I would miss my plane and the important meeting that awaited. While moving at the typical snail's pace, I watched a smaller line moving more quickly through security. I asked a TSA employee why the other line was so much shorter and moving more quickly, and she responded, "Oh, that line? That is for our TSA PreCheck passengers."

What was my best Order now proved to be an inefficient way to navigate airport security. The existing comfort that resulted from predictable outcomes shrouded my opportunity for an improved result. It took an emotional event (the fear of missing my meeting) to bring attention to my antiquated Order, which motivated me to jump through the TSA PreCheck approval hoops, which I did the following week.

Predictable, ordered environments are so desirable, they affect almost everyone's behaviors and daily business practices. Revenue predictability influences share price in publicly traded companies as well as goal setting and budgeting processes. To create more Order throughout our professional careers, we've been required to, and have required others to, create plans — sales plans, professional-development plans, territory plans, and operational plans. The publisher of this book required us to develop an outline, a plan for how the book would be laid out and written. And this is all done with the goal of having repeatable, desirable outcomes. And when predictability is achieved, comfort follows.

However, Order also presents its fair share of challenges. Order, by nature, doesn't promote evolution, and for quite some time science has shown that absence of evolution leads to extinction. Examples of evolution and lack thereof are abundant in the history of our planet. Pesticides that are used to kill insects and plants have been found to be ineffective after several generations (which is a brief period in the insect and plant world). The insects and plants evolve and develop immunities to the poison so they can continue to exist and perpetuate. Another example is the peppered moth, which at one time had a light coloring, but darkened in response to pollution from the industrial revolution. This mutation came about because the light-colored moths were seen and eaten by birds more readily, so with natural selection the dark-colored moths survived to reproduce.

If conditions change faster than a species can evolve, then extinction is the likely result. This applies not only to biology but also to products, markets, skills, and businesses. In your businesses, technology has exacerbated the speed at which Order morphs to Stagnation, and we see nothing that indicates this will slow down. Order that does not evolve is a threat to everything: land and water, our bodies, our governments, and certainly the department or team that you coach. Take the story of Blockbuster Video, a popular and successful business in its time. It's a worldwide example of how sticking to the comfort of Order can ruin your business. Here is an overview of the timeline of events leading up to Blockbuster's demise:

1985: David Cook opens first Blockbuster in Dallas, Texas

1987: Blockbuster sold to investors for $18.5 million

1992: 800 stores worldwide

1994: Viacom purchases Blockbuster for $8.4 billion

1997: Reed Hastings is charged $40 late fee for tardy return of a movie, which motivates him to create Netflix

1999: Viacom takes Blockbuster public

2000: Blockbuster brings in almost $800 million of revenue ... in late fees

2000: Blockbuster turns down offer to buy Netflix for $50 million

2002: Netflix goes public

2004: Blockbuster has 9,094 locations, 84,300 employees, and $5.9 billion in revenue

2007: Blockbuster CEO steps down

2010: Blockbuster declares bankruptcy

For years, Blockbuster's processes provided them desired, ordered outcomes, but there were signs of technology shifts. Digital streaming, though relatively new in the early 2000s, seems like an obvious threat in hindsight. At a minimum, it should have been seen as a reason to shift the way Blockbuster distributed its movies. But Blockbuster did not do this. It stayed with a process model built on having physical outlets, charging late fees, and making people leave their homes to rent a movie. This indicates that the company made conscious decisions to stay the course, to accept their ordered environment. This does not mean, however, that Blockbuster didn't attempt other models and directions, but they were either executed poorly or did not have enough resources committed to make them successful. And while Blockbuster was floundering, Netflix, though founded twelve years after Blockbuster, was thriving. It is now an $11 billion company. Blockbuster is one of many examples in a long line of businesses that were gobbled up by Order.

Every day, we visit with executive leaders who have no idea they are cemented in Order or that the key to breaking their minimal growth cycle and getting beyond their limiting Order lies in the activities and behaviors of their frontline managers, not their salespeople. Many of these leaders are from large Fortune 500 companies that are stuck in mid- to upper-singledigit sales growth, or they have no ability to grow organic revenue. They sell, train to sell, roll out new products, manage pipelines, and track every activity a salesperson does or doesn't do (an executive leader told us they put GPSs in the cars of their salespeople, so they even know when they stop at a Starbucks) consistently, year after year. They have unknowingly created an ordered environment that develops and executes plans for single-digit growth and nothing more.

One of the most relatable and understandable examples of Order is physiological. Most everyone who exercises understands what the word plateau means, especially weight lifters and runners. A runner who measures progress by lowering their time in a 5K race can run the same course, the same days, over and over again, and improve their time. A weight lifter who measures progress by the maximum amount they can bench-press can bench-press four sets a day, three days a week, and improve their maximum lift. This proves that a person can do something repeatedly and realize gain, but only for a period of time. When working with executives in a workshop setting, I walk them through the exercise example and then ask, "If you never change your exercise process or input, what happens?" Their response if always the same: "You plateau." I then ask, "So, what do you need to do to avoid plateauing and always be growing?" The answer is always the same: "Change your routine!"


Excerpted from "The Coaching Effect"
by .
Copyright © 2019 EcSell Institute, LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xxi

Introduction 1

1 The Growth Rings 15

2 Coaching Redefined 37

3 Coaching Quantity and Coaching Quality 57

4 One-to-One Meetings 79

5 Team Meetings 95

6 Performance Feedback 111

7 Career Development 129

Conclusion: The Four-Step Coaching Process 147

About the Authors 171

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