Founder Saberr
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Why coaching is a manager’s job

Many managers feel that coaching isn’t within their remit, but it should be. Here, we look at the reasons for this and how to encourage your managers to be better coaches for their teams. 

18th Nov 2019
Founder Saberr
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colleagues coaching each other at work
iStock/Anchiy

A manager is responsible for maximising team performance and generally this isn’t disputed. Despite this, most managers feel that coaching their team to help them improve their performance is going above and beyond, that it’s not their responsibility.

Imagine if it was possible for everyone in your organisation to have a coach. How much more motivated and engaged would employees be and how much more effective would your organisation be as a result of that?

In fact, 92% of managers report that coaching is not part of their role expectations. These statistics aren’t surprising, managers are stretched, and even the best managers can struggle to find time to do anything beyond business as usual.

As the benefits of coaching become more and more evident, however, the demand for managers to coach their employees is increasing. This article looks at why managers should coach, why they don’t and, crucially, how to coach them to coach.

Why managers should coach

In 2008 Google launched Project Oxygen, an in-depth research project into what makes a great manager. At the top of the list was being a good coach. Since this initial research Google has tailored its management training to focus on these key behaviours and, as a result, has seen an improvement in management at Google, as well as in team outcomes like turnover, satisfaction and performance over time.

Just last year the same research was repeated and there was no change at the top spot – the number one most important manger trait remained being a good coach.

The changing dynamic of the workforce is also an important consideration. Research by Deloitte found that in the millennials’ ideal working week there would be significantly more time devoted to the discussion of new ideas and ways of working, on coaching and mentoring and on the development of their leadership skills.

Imagine if it was possible for everyone in your organisation to have a coach. How much more motivated and engaged would employees be and how much more effective would your organisation be as a result of that?

Why managers don’t coach

In the past, coaching wasn’t a manager’s job. Teaching technical or functional skills and reviewing performance was more common, as managers would have moved up the ranks because they had the technical expertise to pass onto their team.

In today’s world of rapid change, managers can’t have all the answers, which is why coaching has become - and will continue to be - increasingly important.

If coaching is seen as a push from HR or executives, there’s a risk that managers will comply but with little conviction.

It seems that the way we’re training managers isn’t keeping up with today’s demands – 47% of managers admit the reason they don’t coach is that they don’t know how, with a significant proportion not understanding what coaching really is.

The common perception of coaching is that an external consultant will come into a business to coach managers face-to-face. It can be time consuming and, for many companies, prohibitively expensive, especially at scale. If we want our managers to become better coaches, as companies we need to become better at coaching managers. This means looking at new ways that fit in with the modern workplace.

How to coach a manager to coach

Why?

A coaching culture is the practice that’s most highly correlated with business performance, employee engagement and overall retention.

Managers need to understand the importance of becoming a coach. If coaching is seen as a push from HR or executives, there’s a risk that managers will comply but with little conviction. Instead, they should be educated in the benefits of coaching as a personal skill as well as why it will benefit both themselves and their team.

The whole company should be educated on the cultural strength of coaching with the executive team leading by example. To most managers, the benefits will be clear – instead of annual performance appraisals, regular feedback can help identify issues early and ensures employees are managing their work and tracking towards their goals.

 Every manager should be a positive role model and empower their teams by focusing on their strengths and developing their individual expertise.

Regular coaching means there’s no surprises, very few awkward conversations and improved team engagement, compared to a forced ranking of employees for their whole years’ work.

On top of improving wellbeing, productivity and retention coaching can strengthen employees’ autonomy and independence, helping them adapt to new challenges and become more innovative.

Regular feedback doesn’t mean micromanaging, instead coaching is about two-way check-ins. This enables employees to work towards team and company goals with their manager’s trust that trying something new is allowed and encouraged.

How?

The good news is that you don’t need to invest in months of management training to see a shift in behaviours, if you leverage coaching technology as part of the solution.

According to Harvard Business Review, “an effective manager-as-coach asks questions instead of providing answers, supports employees instead of judging them and facilitates their development instead of dictating what has to be done”.

Technology like CoachBot can provide managers with these coaching frameworks and conversations in a way that easily embeds into their everyday. For example, one-to-one templates, guidance on goal setting and team meetings and digitally facilitated sessions on team purpose and behaviours are all available in one place and accessible whenever works best for them and their team.

It’s also essential that the executive team lead by example. Managers look to leaders to demonstrate the behaviour they’re expected to follow – particularly new managers. Every manager should be a positive role model and empower their teams by focusing on their strengths and developing their individual expertise.

When your biggest cost is your people, as it is for most companies, you need to ensure the best possible return on this organisational investment. You simply can’t get the best out of a workforce unless managers are coaching their employees towards higher performance. With the right tools and support anyone can become a coach.

Interested in this topic? Read Five ways to make coaching work for your organisation.

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