Are your Managers Coaches?

“In the future, people who are not coaches will not be promoted. Managers who are coaches will be the norm”.
Jack Welch, ex CEO GE

The job of managers is to lead their people – to develop them, to help them reach their potential and to support them to do their jobs well, and with fulfilment. Coaching is arguably the most effective tool managers have in their toolkit to achieve long term positive outcomes for their people and organisation. So how do you create the right climate, and skills, to transform your managers into coaches?

First of all, managers need to understand what coaching is and why it is important. They also need to be supported to learn the skills and make the time for coaching. Coaching is about assisting people to develop, enhance their performance and reach their potential. It can be focussed on addressing poor areas of performance but more importantly it is about working to strengths and setting and achieving goals.

Mike Noble identified five ways to transform managers into coaches :
1. Build the personal case for coaching. Managers need to understand the value of coaching and to understand WIIFM (what’s in it for me). You need to point out the positive impact that a coaching style of management can have on individual, team and organisational performance.
2. Establish some firm expectations and be clear that coaching is a key management responsibility. It should be a topic of discussion at every performance management review and clearly defined in job descriptions and objectives.
3. Teach coaching skills and put them to practice. Managers need support to develop core coaching skills such as listening, questioning, observing, building rapport, constructive analysis, feedback and empathy.
4. Give a manager a coach. There is no more effective means for learning than through hands-on experience – if your managers benefit from coaching they are more likely to see the benefit in coaching others. If you don’t have skilled coaches within your organisation, you should consider hiring third-party external coaches to work with your key managers.
5. Reward the best coaches with the best jobs. The managers who demonstrate the strongest coaching skills are likely to be the strongest performers and as such should be the ones who rise in the organisation, sending the right message to other mangers.

An effective coaching culture requires visible sponsorship from the top of the organisation and the policies and frameworks to embed coaching in the organisation. Alan Fine , renowned coach and author, offers three practical steps to building the right culture for coaching:
1. providing a clear process, or conversation map, for leaders to follow
2. spotting everyday opportunities so that coaching becomes an ongoing conversation
3. making coaching visible by measuring, rewarding and reinforcing coaching behaviours.

With budgetary and time pressures, executives also need both the financial support and the permission – or better still expectation – of prioritising coaching and mentoring activities. Without this coaching will tend to be ad hoc and may lack impact at an organisational level.

A huge benefit of coaching as a form of development is that it works best when its undertaken ‘on the go’. Employees benefit more from regular coaching conversations, reviewing what’s worked well and what can be improved.

Bawany (2015) goes further and argues that achieving strong employee engagement and retention necessitates the development of a comprehensive needs-based coaching plan with internal buy-in and support. He asserts that a ‘coaching culture needs the disciplines of building a shared vision, learning and a desire for personal mastery to realise its potential’. This concept of equipping and supporting coaches as managers not only fosters a positive coaching culture, if its consistently applied throughout the organisation it also impacts at the most senior levels.