How to be a manager who coaches

Most of us like to be managed in a way which makes us feel both supported and given an appropriate degree of autonomy. Very few people would say they want to be closely supervised, and to be called a ‘micro-manager’ is rarely a compliment.

The level of autonomy allowed by a manager will depend on the experience of the employee and whether they are performing a task which is new or familiar. Managers who assess these factors successfully can adjust their delegation style to suit the situation, still ensuring that they provide clear instructions and follow up as required.

If you want to delegate in a way which gives your team members a sense of greater autonomy and also develops their skills, you may like to try using coaching.

Where coaching fits

Coaching techniques can fit within normal delegation and feedback processes. The basic premise of coaching for managers is to ask (and ask, and ask again) before you tell. A manager-coach believes in the potential of employees to find their own solutions. The coach’s role is to ask the right questions and help them get there.

When delegating you will need to do some ‘telling’ up front to ensure that your employee clearly understands what is required. Coaching techniques are used when the employee has progressed the task or project to a certain point and comes back to you needing assistance or feedback. If they have run into a problem and are asking for advice, resist the temptation of immediately telling them what to do. Ask them for a few options as to how the problem might be addressed, and which one they think would be preferable. They may come up with the solution you would have suggested, or an even better one which you hadn’t considered.

Coaching can also be used as part of giving feedback, whether it’s about a particular piece of work or in a formal appraisal situation. Before giving your views, ask the employee how they think they have performed, what was successful and what they could have done differently. You may be surprised by the level of insight shown.

When to coach

Coaching is not the right approach to every situation. It will be most effective with employees who are already competent in their roles, are interested in developing further and needing to be challenged. An employee who is in a new role or has just taken on new responsibilities will need more instruction and guidance. As their skill level increases and they become more confident, coaching techniques can be introduced.

There are also situations where you just need to give an employee the solution to a problem, because there may be legal issues or other important factors of which they’re unaware.

Outside of these situations, don’t be too quick to jump in with the ‘right’ answer, and try not to use questions which push the employee towards a particular solution. Open questions are more effective and encourage people to think more deeply, even if it takes longer.

If you haven’t used coaching with your team before and have a more directive style, it’s a good idea to warn your team members that you’re going to try this new approach. Otherwise they may be confused about the sudden change.

How the team will benefit

Coaching your employees to come up with their own solutions will help them build confidence and be ready to take on further challenges. Team members will feel that you are taking an interest in their development and helping them to progress.

The benefit to you as a manager is that your team members will develop their skills, be able to take on different tasks and require less direct management from you. You will also be providing a development opportunity to each person which is targeted to their particular needs.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use coaching techniques, contact us.

Drive your career

I’ve worked in organisations which had very structured career paths for employees. Whether you started as a graduate or at a later stage, you knew exactly how you’d be promoted up the career ladder and roughly how long it would take to reach the top.

I’ve worked in other places which had no structured career path, either because the organisation was small or the roles were highly specialised, with no obvious next step. In this situation some employees seemed to thrive and progress, often making quite surprising career moves. Others felt resentful at the lack of opportunities and would either move on elsewhere or remain in the same role becoming bored and disengaged.

I’ve observed some common characteristics among the ‘go-getters’ who seem to find great opportunities regardless of where they work. I believe these principles can be applied by anyone wanting to progress their career.

Give your very best to the job you’re in now

You might be in a job which you find boring or menial. It can be hard to give your best in this situation. However, if you want to be considered for a promotion or a transfer at some stage, your employer will largely assess you on their experience of your performance. Even if your current role doesn’t show all your capabilities, you can still impress by performing it to the best of your ability.

If you think your job is boring or beneath your abilities and you’re doing it half-heartedly, it makes a poor impression and puts you at a disadvantage when being considered for a promotion.

Create your own opportunities

In organisations with no structured career path, employees often complain about the lack of opportunities for progression. If you’ve positioned yourself correctly, you can be ready to take advantage of opportunities when they do come or even create your own.

Don’t wait for your next promotion to be handed to you, as that’s unlikely to happen. If you’re keen to progress or move to a new area within your organisation, make sure that the right people know about your interest. If there are no opportunities for you at the moment, identify what steps you can take to be ready when the time comes. If you want to be promoted, ask your manager for feedback about your strengths and areas for development so you can work on those. If you’re interested in a completely different role, speak to someone who works in that area and find out what skills they look for, then identify ways you can address any gaps.

If you can’t move into a new role you might get the opportunity to add different responsibilities to your current role. This is still career progression because it allows you to build new skills, show how quickly you can learn, and demonstrate to your employer that you will take opportunities when offered.

Be patient but know when to move on

This approach requires patience, as it may take some time for your efforts to result in any change. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your employer just can’t see your potential or isn’t able to offer you anything more than your current role. In that case, it’s important to know when to move on and try somewhere else. The work you put into identifying your interests and developing your skills will put you in a good position for your next move.

When you are ready to move on, don’t give your current employer the impression that you’re already on the way out and don’t care anymore. If you want good references from that employer in future it’s important to stay focused right up until it’s time to leave. The people you’ve worked with in any organisation become part of your career network and may be the source of future opportunities.

If you’d like to find out more about career coaching, contact us.

So what is it you do?

Executive coaching is a relatively recent but rapidly growing profession. When I meet someone for the first time and tell them that I’m a coach, there’s usually a flash of recognition followed by lots of questions. Many people have heard of coaching but don’t really understand what’s involved and want to know more.

As an enthusiastic convert to the benefits of coaching, I have to be careful not to overdo my elevator pitch and become a bore by talking about it endlessly. These are the three key points I usually try to make about what a coach does.

Ask questions

Much of the power of coaching comes from the questioning process. Being able to ask the right question at the right time can create transformation in a client’s thinking. This is exciting for both client and coach. When clients reach a new insight for themselves they feel empowered and inspired. Rather than telling the client what to do I have facilitated this process. This brings me to my next point.

Never give advice (or hardly ever)

Coming from a background in HR management, where I needed to give advice on a daily basis, starting as a coach required a fundamental shift in my thinking. For clients, the real value in coaching is to come up with their own answers and gain confidence in the process. If I give advice as a coach I take away this benefit. I may also create a relationship of dependence, which is even worse. I give greater value by believing that my clients can reach their own solutions and helping them to get there. The other key part to my role is holding my clients accountable to make the changes they’ve identified.

Keep you accountable

It’s relatively easy to come up with a list of goals, and even to identify the steps which will help you achieve those goals. It’s much harder to get started on actually doing those things. Usually by the end of a coaching session, a client will have worked out what action to take next. If they know that at the following session I’ll be asking, “What have you done? How did it go?” it makes them more likely to actually follow through. No one wants to admit to their coach that they’ve taken no action since the last session. Those who have taken action and made progress towards their goals get a wonderful sense of achievement and feel inspired to do even more.

If you’d like to learn more about executive coaching, contact us.