The daily life of a manager is complex and requires a combination
of skills and approaches. The important thing to remember is that
action which a manager takes has a direct relationship to the whole
system. When a manager plans a project, it impacts how the project will
be organized. Who will be asked to lead and participate in the project.
How the results will be measured. How all of this will be communicated. The Best manager
knows that all actions are connected and have an impact on the people
within the system. Improving the system will have a farther reaching
effort than trying to change one component or person in the system. For
example, imagine morale is low in the organization. People have lost
confidence in the products and services.
A non-systems-thinking manager decides to implement a Friday
dress casual day. People can wear jeans to work. The manager thinks this
will help people to relax and perhaps improve their mood at work. This
manager is surprised later when people complain about this and morale
Another approach which a systems-thinking manager takes is to call
a series of meetings with all staff to discuss what improvements can be
made in the organization’s products and services. After a series of
meetings, employees seem to be more productive, and it appears to be
more energy in the environment. Customers start to see a better result.
And people feel more vested in the organization.
What is the role of management?
Of course, many might suggest that the classic role is to plan,
control, measure, and direct work. While this may be true, the classic
approach tends to ignore how work gets done. Work gets done with people.
And people are not robots. They have feelings, motivations, goals, and,
also, personal lives. Too many managers just assume if people are paid
well, they should be motivated. And if they are not, the Friday casual
dress policy should solve all motivation problems for people at work.
Assuming that there is a vision in place, which has been well
communicated, the manager’s role is to make sure that people are
following the right path to close the gap between the desired state and
the present. The manager’s approach WILL make the difference in movement
toward success. Simply giving commands is not sufficient. While the
approach of direct evaluation may gain short term success as a result of
scaring people into line, it will not last for long. People can only
work so long under fear of failure before stress settles in and short
term gains give away to human error and breakdown.
For example, let’s call this employee John, who has a very
demanding manager in the call center. His manager is always setting
higher goals, demanding compliance, and always giving evaluation. John
feels constant stress at work despite being one of the better performing
employees. Regardless the new reward promise of a Hawaii vacation for
meeting goals which he is close to, John worries what will come next
after the vacation and time away. How much better can he actually become
in this repetitive high maintenance job?
What is coaching?
Think of a great coach you admire. What does this coach do right?
Perhaps he or she is good at teaching the rules of the game, or at
determining which roles each person must play on the team. Maybe this
coach is great at facilitating all team members to get along and play
fair together. In addition to this coach probably knows how to get the
most out of people through positive feedback and encouraging words.
Well, guess what, these same skills are needed for managers in getting
the most out of their people at work.
What is the difference between managing and coaching?
Manager’s role is very important. Managers need to pay attention to the bottom line and check on the following:
If those activities are on track in order to meet current goals?
If people are clear on the objectives?
If budget has been met?
If current plans are sufficient in order to meet changing demands?
If customers needs have been met?
Imagine a bus with a sport’s team on driving to the new game. The
driver has to make sure that the team will reach the destination on
time. Along the way the bus driver ala manager checks that everyone has a
seat belt fastened, that people are not making too much noise, and stay
in their seat. The manager needs compliance and people to understand
and follow the rules to ensure a safe and productive journey. The coach
has another role on this trip. The coach must make sure that the team is
comfortable during this long journey and assigned to sit with those
people with whom they felt comfortable. The coach worked hard to prepare
everyone to this game. The coach wants to ensure that everyone’s needs
met during the trip. The coach knows what to expect. The coach is always
ready to listen to any questions and/or feedback. Prior to the trip,
the coach like any good coach had many practices with this team. The
coach worked hard to get to the point when everyone had the right idea
what to do. Given a choice during the trip, this coach was more focused
on observing and giving feedback, than evaluations that were rigid and
Both managing and coaching are required for this team to win the game.
Why coaching is good for business
Coaching is not an alternative form of managing. It IS the best
method of working with people to ensure both the business and its people
are developing and making progress towards its most important goals.
When people feel listened too, respected and paid attention to, they in
turn feel more vested in the business, perform better, and are happier
in their work. An environment of coaching is not another fad for SOME
managers; it is a mandatory strategy for all managers to get the best
out of the people they lead.
Coaching as a strategy for getting work done through people
Imagine this situation. Phil, a systems analyst, has a report due
to his manager in the morning. He ran out of time at work and figured
out when he got home, he would accomplish this in the evening.
Unfortunately, his family had other plans. Phil forgot that tonight was
his daughter’s musical performance at school. Ok, he thought he would
just stay up late and finish this report after they got home. The family
returned home around 9 p.m. Tired and yet determined, Phil started down
to his table to pull out this report. His wife, however, reminded him
that tonight was the only time they had together to help her decide on
the schedule for her upcoming masters degree program. It was also due
the next day and this was the only time to figure out together the
schedule, finances, and so on. Needless to say that after putting the
kids to bed and working together on his wife’s plans, it was 11:30 and
Phil could no longer keep his eyes open. In the morning, Phil approached
his manager to let her know that he would need another day for this
report. As soon as Jean, Phil’s manager, saw him she asked, “Where is
the report?’’ without even a good morning. As Phil started to explain
his prior evening and what prevented him from completing his work, his
manager suddenly said, “Phil, I am tired of excuses. It seems you may
not be the person for this job and I need to reconsider your future role
Well, the next day, Phil managed to submit his report but the
quality was poor. He was more upset that his manager failed to give him a
chance to explain why he was late. Shortly after submitting this
report, Phil got the flu over stress, called in sick for several days
and cancelled the family vacation worried now about losing his job. A
few months later, Phil quit. 12 Months later, the organization rehired
and retrained Phil’s replacement at a cost of $75,000 dollars which
included a combination of recruiting costs, temp agency costs, and the
increased costs a year later to rehire and retrain .
So, this manager’s response cost the company $75,000 thousand
dollars, lost time, and most importantly loss of a very good worker.
What would a coach have done?
Probably, a good coach would listen to Phil from the beginning
and then provided a feedback which was helpful to Phil vs. direct
evaluation without understanding all the facts. Would this approach have
made the report on-time? No, but it would have saved a good worker,
saved the organization money in the long run, and, as a result of
showing empathy to Phil, he would have gotten a better report one day
How to be an effective coach
An effective coach listens before speaking. An effective coach
uses feedback and not evaluation. An effective coach is a good teacher.
Good coaching requires time for listening, observing and then responding
in a way that always balances the business need and the need for
preserving a person’s pride and self-worth. The great coach knows this
is the best way to work with people to get great work done. The
effective coach asks questions leading the person down the best path
given the situation. The best coach knows that it gains more leverage to
give suggestions and resources than to simply give evaluation. The good
coach knows that people tend to be their own worst critics when things
go wrong. What’s needed is new ideas, directions, and empathy to show
that a person is respected and cared about above all else. A great
coach knows that this is the best way to get great results with people!
The benefit from coaching feedback vs. management evaluation
Just like the child who gets reprimanded by an angry parent and
then later repeats the same behavior, adults are much the same. Better
to provide positive forward looking feedback to enable learning and
development. Despite a challenging economy, as a result of technology
and multiple opportunities, people today have more choices for what and
how they do their work than ever before in our history. Smart
organizations know that the way to a successful bottom line is through
the retention and development of its employees. Management coaching is
not only good for business; it is a competitive advantage.
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