Preparing new managers to be effective coaches


Guest blog by Sean Conrad, Halogen Software

Note from the Editor, Elisabeth Goodman

Every now and then, people approach me (or I approach them) with a suggestion for a guest blog.  Anything that can bring insights for helping teams, or team leaders to work more effectively is potentially of interest.  What I like about this blog is the recognition that managers have a role in coaching, as well as in directing the work of their teams.  It resonates with some of my earlier blogs on the different roles managers need to play as their teams go through the various stages of team development.  Team members particularly need the support of their managers when they are going through the ‘storming’ and ‘mourning’ or ‘renewing’ stages.  The role of the project manager as coach is also something that came up in one of my recent blogs.  Read the rest of this blog to find out what Sean Conrad, of Halogen Software, has to say.

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Preparing new managers to be effective coaches

Like anything in life, doing something for the first time can be a little daunting. Becoming a line manager for the first time is no exception. While many organisations have some excellent programs in place to develop, groom, shape and mold individuals to become great people managers, sometimes a key aspect of training is overlooked. I’m referring to the need for organisations to provide their managers-to-be with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to become not only good managers but also great coaches to the members of their teams.

Why is coaching so important in the workplace?

When managers do receive the training they need to be great coaches, the benefits to the organisation can be many. In particular, developing effective coaches can lead to:

  • Improved employee engagement and higher performance
  • More meaningful annual performance reviews
  • Better conflict resolution or resolving issues before they happen

If there are some new wet-behind-the-ears managers in your organisation looking for ways to improve their coaching skills, here are a few ideas.

Teach them to coach rather than clone

One of the most common mistakes managers can make is using themselves as the yardstick to measure their employees’ progress and performance. They look at their employees, their work, how they handle situations, and they think about how they (i.e., the manager) would have done it differently. Then the manager gives their employees feedback and coaching based on these reflections (e.g., “That’s not how I would’ve approached it.”)

What’s wrong with this scenario?

For starters, these well-intended managers end up trying to create clones of themselves rather than coaching employees to be their best and put their best skills and talents to use for the good of the organisation.

How can you help ensure your new managers are coaching rather than cloning? First, and foremost, it’s critical to recognise that everyone is different. That’s right, no two people think or process information in exactly the same way. Equally important to remember that the perspectives, motivations and responses of others aren’t any better or worse than ours, they’re simply different.  We need to value our different ways of thinking, perceiving, solving and acting. Often we can achieve the best results when we consider all perspectives, and use a combination of approaches to the situation.  Not surprisingly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. This means that managers need to get to know their employees as individuals.

Building good manager-employee relationships

At the risk of stating the obvious — but sometimes forgotten — here are some ways your new managers can get to know their team members while also positioning themselves as trusted and effective coaches.

  • Show interest in what motivates employees by asking them questions about a particular work situation and why they handled it a certain way (this can reveal a lot about an individual). Determine their aspirations, interests, preferences, strengths and passion (and encourage them to bring this passion to work each and every day).
  • Give employees meaningful feedback on an ongoing basis by increasing the frequency of employee reviews and one-on-one meetings.  Ensure that you provide regular recognition/praise for achievements. Consider gathering input from others. Feedback from multiple sources is broader and more objective, and helps you and your employees get a more accurate view of their performance.
  • Maintain an ongoing, two-way dialogue about employee performance where you share expectations, provide coaching, answer questions, support employee performance, and solicit feedback on your own performance. During these conversations, you should remember to be an active listener not an active talker (avoid the autobiographical overlay).
  • Provide employees with ongoing development opportunities, both formal and informal. Everyone needs to know where they are and where they’re going (i.e., that they have a future with the company). Work with them to determine and plan training and development activities.

Regardless of approach, techniques or individual differences, a good manager will work with employees to listen, question and “coach” them to be the best they can be, leading to greater engagement, higher productivity and improved organisational performance.

Notes

  1. A senior product analyst and Certified Human Capital Strategist at Halogen Software, Sean Conrad regularly writes about talent management trends and issues in industry publication and the Exploring Talent Management Blog.
  2. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale (and using coaching as well as training, mentoring and consulting). 
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