Just the ticket for a first-class business coach

Leaders today must deal with a more nuanced workforce than in decades past, and there are some simple tips to develop your coaching and team management in this environment writes Michael Sleap.

Compared with twenty to fifty years ago we now have a much more highly educated workforce as well as more complex and less rigidly defined jobs. The days of command and control style leadership are all but gone and organisations are now trying to encourage the role of manager as coach working in partnership with their team members.

Here are some tips for managers and business leaders on how to be an effective team coach:

Ignore the fluff and keep it practical

A lot of training and information relating to manager as coach is just too complex and often irrelevant to a manager’s role. Whilst there is some overlap, we need to keep separate the capability requirements of an external executive coach and the role of a manager as coach.

The latter role is simply to help team members perform their job to the best possible standard and to develop their capability – using coaching. So ignore the fluff and jargon and focus on the basics.

Be confident – you’re already a coach

Many managers do not acknowledge that they’re already a coach and have most of the skills and knowledge required to do it well. Most managers are already coaching on a day to day basis with team members, they just may not recognise it as coaching due to the mystique and lack of clarity about what it is (or isn’t).

Recognise the capability and experience of your people

Being a good manager doesn’t mean providing all the answers. Most employees already have considerable skills, knowledge and experience that they bring to work each day. Resist the temptation to solve all of your employee’s problems for them – through your coaching they will generally work through to an effective solution – one that they own and implement themselves.

Also remember, it is normal if one of your team members struggles with an issue for a while – it is the struggle that then leads to a solution that in turn creates the learning.

Use goal setting

Goal setting is the difference between coaching being just a nice chat and being an effective leadership tool. Managers who coach well ensure that their people set relevant and realistic goals. This helps ensure team members have clear and measurable goals to work towards and tangible individual and business outcomes to aim for.

Listen, ask questions and be present

The key skills of coaching are what most people would consider to be basic communication skills: listening, asking questions, and giving someone your full attention.

The vast majority of people can execute each of these three skills competently – when they have the focus and desire to do so. What gets in the way? The distractions of work and life, not being focused on your team, and falling into the trap of talking too much and not listening enough.

Make coaching a priority

The role of a manager is to achieve results through their people. Most managers need to let go of some of their ‘technical’ work by delegating more to their team and shifting their work focus to coaching and developing employees. The shift to being a coaching manager is largely a behavioural change – you need to make coaching a priority in your every day work.

Remember this is not ‘extra’ work – coaching is a fundamental part of a manager’s job. By investing time into coaching and developing your team you will eventually be rewarded by having some of your time freed up to focus on that elusive strategic planning that often falls to the bottom of the pile.

Ensure clear expectations and provide feedback and encouragement

The foundations for coaching your team are having in place very clear performance and behavioural expectations supported by provision of regular and effective feedback. Feedback is a vital component, which when combined with coaching, leads to performance improvement. Don’t forget the importance of providing encouragement and support to your team member as they work towards the goal and celebrate the success when it’s achieved.

Every manager has the capability to coach their team members. Some managers may need some further skill and knowledge development but ultimately more effective day to day coaching of employees is a choice and a shift in mindset. Managers who coach their people will be rewarded with higher performing and more proactive employees who stay longer with the organisation.

Michael Sleap is a senior consultant at Right Management.

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