During one of my job transitions, I went from a 30-person local firm to a 5,000+ employee-sized global company. It was an adjustment to say the least. I was hired by Debbie S., my new manager. Although we had an immediate rapport during the interview process, little did I know how lucky I was to have landed with Debbie as my manager. It turned out that Debbie spoke to me a lot on a regular basis, she was accessible, she provided guidance and readily shared valuable insights and knowledge with me. It’s one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had in my career. At the time, I didn’t term it as such, but she was my coach.
One of the predictions this year is that coaching inside companies will spread. Human Resources can help make way to creating a coaching culture by helping managers become better coaches. What’s propelling this trend? Today’s workers want skills development, continuous feedback and opportunities for growth. With changes in what employees want in their jobs and careers, managers need to change as well for two reasons: 1) to effectively develop and retain staff, and 2) to grow and succeed in their own positions.
Coaching is the art of helping someone improve their performance and reach their higher aspirations and potential. For managers coaching employees, this breaks down to a couple of basic components:
- Teaching and advising.
Coaching includes sharing knowledge, expertise and insights gained from a manager’s experience. By a manager’s sharing, it tells the employee they are important to the manager, they are investing in them and that they believe in them. As HR looks to help managers in their coaching roles, they must ensure managers have a healthy attitude about their employee’s aptitude for learning and improving. Managers who have little faith, have become negative or jaded in their attitudes about their employees won’t be effective at coaching them until that certainly changes. Otherwise, it’s going to feel disingenuous and forced to the employee.
You can’t fake caring.
- Asking questions.
This is a critical piece of the mix. Just teaching and advising isn’t going to help develop the employee. Asking questions is the step that is collaborative and engaging. It helps develop the relationship between the manager and employee. This is the place where faith in the employee shows. It’s the step that puts the employee center stage to voice their ideas and opinions to the open ears of the manager. What could be more motivating!
Questions need to be open ended to create dialogue that explores issues, ideas and solutions. It’s what leads an employee to think and stretch to find answers. When employees are the ones to be part of or arrive with an answer, it strengthens their commitment and is a strong confidence builder.
Not every manager is a natural born coach and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad manager if you’re not coaching. But, what it does mean is, employees who aren’t being coached by their manager are not being developed. By not developing employees, companies aren’t performing and competing at the highest level they could be. They’re not increasing the company’s talent pool and not innovating. For employees, increasing skills mean opportunities for promotions and increases in earnings.
Non-managerial coaching cultures are likely having an impact on retention as well, since today’s employees highly value learning, development, moving forward and new opportunities in their careers. How long will stifled employees stick around?
Shifting cultural norms inside a company is never an easy task and something you don’t want to take lightly, nor do on a regular basis. So, moving toward a coaching culture will take some time and several steps. Managers must be educated about coaching so they understand its importance and effect so they can connect why it’s worth their time and effort. (Many may still complain it’s too time consuming, which is to be expected).
For managers to be successful coaches, employees must trust them. This is essential. If trust doesn’t exist, then it’s going to have to start being built somewhere. HR can help managers by facilitating communications and understanding with employees about the new coaching culture and its goals. For some managers and some employees, this may mean taking baby steps to start and taking them over time to help build trust.
Successful managers inside the company who are already coaching should be paired with managers who need to learn how to coach. This “coach the coach” arrangement will help untrained managers from two angles: 1) learning how to be a coach, and 2) learning what it’s like when you’re coached. Sort of tackling two problems with one stone, if you will. By this arrangement, the new managers learning to be coaches will have an important support system they can tap into for help and guidance along the way.
Coaching employees is not an event, but something that should be part of every manager’s skill set and the daily company/managerial culture.
How does your company incorporate the concept of coaching managers and a coaching culture?