4 Key Ingredients to Managing Like a Coach

Build Employee Confidence, Competence and Engagement

Managers as coachesIf you’ve ever played sports, you know a good coach when you see one. They’re humble, compassionate and passionate about the sport. You know what they expect because they communicate clearly (although they don’t talk too much). You believe they can lead you and your team to success. You trust them. They’ve got a plan. They’re enthusiastic. And they make you want to be part of making great things happen. And those great things usually do happen—you become a better athlete and your team wins!

Managers as coaches … it’s easy to see the correlation.

“Coaching is a sophisticated management style that requires developing a relationship that empowers employees by building confidence and competence,” suggests mit.edu. Emphasis is not on checking and monitoring but on developing a higher level of performance.

coaching employeesBut coaching is a management style that isn’t right for every situation. When to be a coach and when to take a more directive approach is based largely on the complexity of the task and the experience level of the employee.

Certainly, when managing your own work teams, there are times that call for a directive management style—an inexperienced or new employee, a tight deadline, a crisis, dealing with a habitual problem employee or running a meeting. In these situations, you need to tell people what to do, because you have the experience needed.

But for a large portion of the work, over-managing means your employees don’t learn to think for themselves. They can become disengaged because they feel their ideas and suggestions aren’t being heard. (For more details on re-inspiring, read this article.)

To make yourself a better coaching manager, here are the main components of the coaching role (outlined by mit.edu).

  1. consultative managementProvide Direction. Clearly define goals and values. This helps employees understand the context and how their work contributes to the overall success of the project or organization. Help them understand the priorities so they can make good choices on their own.
  2. Improve Performance. Create a learning environment where employees are supported to continuously improve. Begin by assessing their current capability. Ask questions. Then give feedback and outline the gap between their ability and where you both agree they should be. Create opportunities that enable them to work on this gap.
  3. Open up possibilities. Help employees develop to solve problems and make decisions. Do this by asking the right questions, challenging employee’s thinking, offering options, giving information and providing new interpretation to a situation. Make employees part of the decision-making process.
  4. Help remove obstacles. Stay close to projects by asking questions. Confront people who become obstacles to your employees. Provide additional resources if needed. Or, serve as a sounding board for the employee to develop his or her own plan for overcoming the obstacles.

A coaching management style helps you gain trust and get a deeper commitment from your team by developing and inspiring them rather than simply demanding compliance. Help them see their potential. Help them to grow and be more confident in their work by pointing out its value. Define what excellence looks like. Then step out of the way!

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