Managers see better results coaching, not telling |

Managers see better results coaching, not telling

Mike Hawkins
Alpine Link Corp.

Management approaches change very little throughout the years, but the past few years have seen a significant shift away from the traditional “command and control” approach to that of coaching.

Since the industrial age, the prevailing style of management has been directive. While it softened from that of a drill sergeant to that of an orchestra director, it has been largely based on telling employees what to do.-

The problem with a directing style of management is that it overlooks the unique opportunities that lie within every employee. When management focuses on directing and controlling, there is little attention given to individual employee development.–

I remember when I first discovered this in my own management career. I asked one of my employees one day what percent of his talents and capability he was putting into his job. His answer was 25 percent.

I then asked him what else he could offer, and for the first time, I was in a listening versus a telling mode. I went on to learn about other skills and knowledge that I had overlooked before. –

I later learned to also ask my employees, “What percentage of the skills and knowledge needed did they actually possess?” This question required a little more probing, but I consistently received answers that also ran below ideal levels.

Unlike coaching athletes, coaching in business defines a style of management that focuses on employee development through noncoercive means. It is an approach based on honest and open communication that employs listening and questioning skills. Here are four key steps to effective employee coaching:

– First, establish a trusting relationship between you and your employee. Without a relationship and an environment that makes the employee feel safe in being transparent with thoughts and feelings, coaching can’t take place. Let your employees know they are valued and respected. Be transparent with some of your own shortcomings and create an atmosphere of open communication.

– Second, look for coachable moments. When employees come to you with questions, don’t be quick to give them the answer. Ask them for their opinions. Brainstorm with them on alternatives. Ask them about the pros and cons of each. Discuss the key criteria to be evaluated. Help them with the analysis. Not only does this result in their development, but it also gives them a stronger sense of ownership for the results.

– Third, give your employees special assignments. Give them developmental projects in an environment where it is safe to fail. Help them develop measurements to track progress and gain better self-awareness. Debrief them on lessons learned. Help them not only understand where they did well or underperformed, but also how to apply what they learned.

– Finally, give them support and candid feedback. Always be constructive but challenge them. Let them know you believe in them yet believe they can do better. When they do better, tell them. Give them praise, recognition, and let them know you are their advocate.

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