If a manager wants to be a leader, he or she must develop the ability to coach others.
It is a core skill required of every successful manager in the 21st century. The days of command and control leadership as a standard way of managing people are long gone.
Coaching and collaboration have taken over as the most effective way for managers to lead. If managers do not become skilled at coaching their employees, it is unlikely that they will be able to achieve sustainable long-term positive results for themselves or their organizations.
Coaching requires skill and time. But before one applies either of these, managers should understand what coaching is and why it is important.
In its simplest form, coaching is the act of helping others to perform better. Sometimes it is focused on helping to correct poor performance or improve existing skills.
At other times, it’s targeted at developing entirely new skills. Whatever the case, it is important because good coaching by managers will accelerate the development of employees and lift their organizations to higher levels of achievement.
So why don’t all managers coach? Most likely because of one of three reasons:
1. They don’t understand the value or importance of coaching.
2. They don’t possess the skills to coach others.
3. Even if they understand the importance and have the skills, they don’t have the time.
To overcome these barriers and transform your managers into coaches, there are five things that you can do to foster change.
• Build the personal case for coaching. You can’t force coaching responsibilities on managers who don’t see its relevance. While most managers have a strong sense of loyalty to their organization, that alone may not be enough to motivate them to develop their coaching skills. There is still a “What’s in it for me?” element that must be addressed in building the case with most managers. When you point out the fact that the strongest leaders and most successful executives in their organization and/or discipline are also excellent coaches (this is almost always the case), they will be more inclined to seize the opportunity to learn how to become an effective coach. Once the managers understand that they can get more done and achieve stronger results through the efforts of others, they will want to learn how coaching, not command and control, will enable them to better leverage the talents of their employees. Whether they are just trying to do a better job for their employer or seeking to promote their own careers, managers will embrace coaching as an effective means to a mutually beneficial result.
• Establish some firm expectations. Making it clear that coaching is a primary responsibility of each manager in your organization is an essential prerequisite to creating a coaching organization. If you don’t establish firm expectations around coaching, you are unlikely to get the results you want. Coaching should be a key element in your organization’s culture and part of every manager’s job description. Coaching requires skill and time. Enabling managers the opportunity to develop the skills and allocating the time for them to both learn and apply their skills should be incorporated into every organization’s operating model. It should be a topic of discussion at every performance management evaluation and highlighted when managers are promoted or assigned to new roles.
• Teach coaching skills and put them to practice. Coaching does not necessarily come naturally to most managers. In fact, before they become managers, employees are generally rewarded for their individual skills and their ability to get tasks done on their own or in small teams. So, the appointment to a manager role can represent a significant and sometimes difficult shift in both what the manager does and how he or she allocates time. Core coaching skills such as listening, questioning, observing, building rapport, constructive analysis and feedback, empathy, supportive encouragement and holding others accountable are all skills that can be enhanced or taught in a variety of formats. Whether it is in workshops, mentoring relationships or simply modeling those who are strong coaches, managers can improve their knowledge and understanding of coaching skills. But they need to be able to put the skills to use in real-time situations. This means allocating the time to practice these skills when coachable moments occur. If also means creating coachable moments or situations. When managers delegate tasks or responsibilities to direct reports, they create coaching opportunities by default. Delegation is a powerful management tool and a powerful vehicle for practicing and developing one’s coaching skills.
• Give a manager a coach. There is no more effective means for learning than through hands-on experience. Therefore, if you want to transform a manager into a coach, it’s a good idea to give that person the opportunity to experience coaching firsthand. Having a manager coached by another executive in your organization will accomplish two things: It will enable the manager to experience the benefits of coaching and become more committed to coaching as a method for developing others. It will also provide a model of how to provide coaching for others. If you don’t have skilled coaches within your organization, you should consider hiring third-party external coaches to work with your key managers.
• Reward the best coaches with the best jobs. This should not be a stretch. The managers who demonstrate the strongest coaching skills are likely to be the strongest performers. As such, they should be candidates for the most important manager and executive roles in the organization. Placing these managers in the most important roles and crediting these assignments, at least in part, to their excellent coaching skills will send a strong message to the rest of the organization that coaching is a critical skill for all managers.
These are just five of the steps to accelerate the transformation of managers into coaches and to turn your organization into a coaching organization. The benefits will accrue to both the individual managers in terms of their own career advancement and to the overall organization in terms of the enhanced collaboration and stronger performance. In many organizations the evidence is compelling.
Many have discovered that their strongest managers are also their strongest coaches. Tanya Clemens, the vice president of global executive development at IBM, says, “We have done lots of research … and we have found that the leaders who have the best coaching skills have better business results.”
When managers become aware of these types of outcomes, they will be motivated to begin their own transformation.
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