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What is all this about ‘coaching’?

“What is all this about ‘coaching’? Is that different from managing…and can my Managers learn that skill?”

Managing is a role and responsibility, defined as getting things done through others. A Manager knows that he only succeeds if his employees do, and that he gets rewarded for how his employees perform. Coaching is that behavior that improves the performance of those employees. And what could be more important?  Many managers are not good coaches; results and turnover make that obvious. Almost any manager can become an effective coach, but it takes an education in a proven process that increases engagement, productivity and engagement.  Role-playing these critical one-on-one performance discussions can be awkward, but it works

How can I identify the future stars and leaders?

Just as we find that the best technician does not necessarily make the best manager, the converse can be true, as well. You may have a good, “B” employee who could be a great leader! Think about sports: The best Managers and Coaches were almost never the best players. The identification begins with a study of each leadership position: what characteristics, skills and behaviors are most likely to lead to success? Then we compare middle managers’ past reviews, traits and propensities with the requirements, using tests and interviews. Finally, we design a custom plan, including mentoring and frequent feedback, which prepares the “high-potentials” for the jobs of the future.

I know that the Managers need training, but how can I know what each needs?

Much of what an organization spends on training and development is wasted, because needs, skills and past experience is varied; the “one size fits all” doesn’t work. By analyzing the specific needs of the company and of that position and then comparing that to a knowledge and skills assessment of the managers, a custom program can be developed that focuses on filling those learning “gaps.”

Our turnover is high, but what else can I do besides increasing what we pay people?

If you think that increasing pay across the board will fix your turnover problem, think again. Unless your company pays far less than market rate, employees will not respond to a random pay increase with loyalty and retention any more than your customers can be “won over” with a sudden price reduction. Research shows that (good) employees stay with an organization because they are appreciated and engaged…and both of those feelings are results of that employee’s relationship with his or her immediate supervisor.

How do I keep my high anxiety about the business from trickling down to my employees?

Almost two-thirds of employees believe that they experience job stress, which affects their engagement and productivity. 

Organizational anxiety often starts from the top, and the leader’s anxiety affects the whole system, and that sentiment disseminates throughout the organization. However, through training and coaching, the leader is can learn to reduce the nervous voltage in the system by demonstrating calm and composure. If the    leader leads in this manner, it, too, can be infectious; employees will work more calmly and more focused.

I know where I want this company to go. Do my managers have the skills to get us there?

That is THE question. Managers in companies at which growth and change have never occurred may not—or may—be equipped with the ability to manage “at the next level.” For example, can he or she keep the team motivated and focused during anxious times? Can he or she attempt to get staff buy-in before initiating change? These and other questions can be answered with assessments and interviews…followed by the necessary training to fill the knowledge gaps.

Why do we come up with great ideas and strategies — and then nothing ever happens?

This is a question that a client asked a few months ago, and it’s not an uncommon one. Without actions and execution, how many strategic plans end up in binders in an office? Success of a strategic plan depends, ultimately, on both a high-functioning team and on individual accountability. The next step in making a plan “happen” can’t be nebulous and/or too general. If trained in the process to do so, teams can learn to work together, to hold each other accountable and to ensure that a plan is carried out. Without accountability from specific tasks, names and dates, any leader is just planning and hoping.

I promoted the managers because they were great workers. Can they be good managers?

Maybe. Management ability isn’t innate; it’s learned, like any other behavioral skill. Yet, 50% of new managers report that they received no training before assuming the role. We don’t allow a new employee to run a machine or to enter data without training; should employees who are new to management be treated any differently? The Manager, or immediate supervisor, is the single biggest factor in employees’ engagement and retention. Also, a management development program tells employees that they are valued, and worthy of investment.

To develop effective teams, I don’t have to do that ‘zipline-in-the-woods’ stuff, do I?

No, but that would be fun. Outdoors aside, real team building happens when the members learn how to collaborate. This includes learning how to run meetings, to align responsibilities, to discuss roles, to disagree, to proactively plan, and to develop workable solutions. Your team members want to be part of a high functioning team, and the results benefit everyone in the organization.

Our monthly meetings have become meaningless, but I don’t know another way to communicate.

One of the biggest errors senior management makes is in thinking that communication happens all at once. Just because you say or write something doesn’t mean anyone in your organization listens or understands. Communication is a learned skill and ha to be frequent, consistent, and done with clarity and empathy. As important is that managers have to teach their managers how to do it well.

How do I avoid having to be involved in every decision?

Time is just one more asset that you cannot afford to waste, and you making little decisions means that no one is making big ones. But what do you really want, and why is this happening? Are you micro-managing for control, or are you forced to cover for weak managers…or both (the classic chicken-and-egg)? Through team development that includes the CEO or Senior Executive, we can work through an actual work problem and zero in on why you “have to be involved.”

Why is ‘Employee Engagement’ such a big deal?

Engagement occurs when an employee is committed to his/her organization’s goals and    values , and actively is involved with the company’s success, both contributing to the employee’s self-esteem.  According to Gallup, employee disengagement–the relationship between an organization and its employees–was measured at 70%. Gallup estimated that disengaged employees were “more likely to steal from a company, negatively influence coworkers, miss work, and to drive customers away.” All Managers can learn and coached on how to better engage their employees. See my blog article for more on Employee Engagement.

The Managers have quarterly goals. Isn’t that enough to motivate them?

Well, in a word…no. Are you motivated about something because you might be praised in 3 months?

Short-term goals and frequent feedback have been proven to keep employees driven and engaged. Managers have to know what is expected each day, each week, each month…so that they can learn to hold their people accountable the same way. One client has daily goals, saying “I want a manager to sit down at dinner after work either knowing that he did a good job that day, or eager to get back tomorrow and do a better one.” Your Managers will become more effective when they learn how to develop the right goals and, in turn, learn how to coach their managers to the same for theirs.

How do I hold my subordinates accountable without being a tyrant?

One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. When you say “tyrant,” you probably mean yelling and “my way or the highway.” Accountability—understanding how an employee will be measured and judged is something each wants; it leads to engagement and accomplishment. The steps to reach true accountability, which include   writing (together) clear roles and responsibilities—can be learned and coached.