Manager Coach

What does it take for a manager to become an effective executive coach

1- why should you consider of becoming a coach for your team?

After all, you are the boss, aren’t you?, you can influence the level of rewards / salary / bonuses, evaluate the level of execution of your direct reports .
Talking about execution, don’t you have the experience that a great deal of your time is spent fixing things, extinguishing fires instead of using it for long-term planning, developing a vision, developing new products, analyzing competition, etc.

You want that the strategy of your company is executed in a timely fashion and that’s great. Just consider a possible paradigm shift in doing your job and let’s reflect how it could be done more effectively by helping direct report to improve skills, feel more responsible /empowered and succeed,
It is not a quick fix and it would allow you in the long term to gain more time for yourself, to be able to move from Important and Urgent activities (Crises, fixing timely issues) to Important and non-Urgent ones (vision, strategy, anticipating possible roadblocks, reflecting, training) while achieving your and your department goals (Steven Covey: the 7 Habits for highly effective people).

The way , the style of management has changed over time. Why?
It has because human being has changed, society has changed.
The middle of the XXth century mark the end of what some call the Industrial worker age. (Peter Drucker : Landmarks of tomorrow) In the industrial worker age, labor, Capital, hierarchy and position were key.
Today, labor or capital as key resources are giving ground to “Knowledge”.
In Wikipedia the following definition for “knowledge worker” can be found: “use research skills to define problems and to identify alternatives. Fueled by their expertise and insight, they work to solve those problems, in an effort to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies”

Modern technology facilitate the access to knowledge (quantity, variety and speed of accessibility). Your position as manager is not accepted anymore either because you have the position or because it is written on your business card. It will be accepted because of your ability to deal with people, motivate them. By the way they even do not consider themselves as direct reports and more as team members.
As manager we need to change how we manage. How? This is the paradygm shift we want to explore now.

2- what need to be done: The paradigm shift

A manager needs to move from telling to asking; from directing to helping his/her team succeed; from pushing to pulling: from quick fixing to allowing excellent results over time.

Coaches create conditions and stimulate others; they do not hand out all the answers to every question and problem.

As a coach of your team, this is what you can achieve. Today to lead is to serve (Shar Mcbee: To lead is to serve)
So help your team to find its way to success: don’t forget, you win because your team wins and you “train” them to be more independent nad proactive when changes are necessary

Coaching refers to the activity of a person in developing the abilities of others. In all companies, the goals are set, as a manager your focus will be to lead and coach your team. Meaning, you will focus on allowing your team (and each member of the team) to define the most adapted solutions in order to achieve the set goals in an effective, creative and elegant way. It is not anymore your solution; it is the solution of the team.

Nobody can be forced to change and adopt a new attitude. Definitely on the long run, forcing will never work. Results could be obtained on the short run and will request constant effort, energy and control.
The prerequisites to the paradigm shift are:

  1. Willingness to change. It is your choice and it is your life. It is an inside out approach, you might not have realize it yet, and the world is how you see it. You created it; you created the situation you are in. Yes, of course others, the environment, the economic situation… all were part of it and you choose to answer as you did. That’s where it comes to: how do you answer to situation, event in your life. The good news we have the choice, we always have the choice. First, recognize, acknowledge first your qualities, Trust yourself and then take responsibility for what you do.
  2. It is much easier to find the solution, when you have understood the problem, so understand the situation you are in. Be open and look for feedback from others: they will tell you how they perceive what you say and how you say it. They will help you to look at the “blind spots”. Trust others and do get regular feedback.
  3. An objective assessment of the present tendencies and behaviors and their effect on others and on results. What do you expect from others? This will save time when the process has started and help you to be clear and crystal clear on what you want to focus on the discipline to implement change .It is not a quick win and the road will be bumpy and a lot of very good reasons to go back to previous pattern will appear. Trust the process and be patient.

A- Trust yourself.

Trust is key in this adventure. It starts with you.
If you don’t trust yourself, you commit to fail.
If you do not trust yourself, you will be challenged to trust others and will increase your control on others, micromanage too much. As a result your team will function in just doing what you say as they will not feel empowered. You know what will happen? You might meet your objectives, feel frustrated, and be overworked with, what you think is a team of incapable people. And sooner or later the good ones will leave you.
Start with you and focus on the qualities you have, look on your successes, understand why they were successes and learn from them. You can and should do that with failures and it is more painful.
Yes, you will need to get disciplined and patient! Of course, change does not happen in a second: It will require constant effort.
Researches have shown that we need 3 weeks time to change a Habit. It works if you want to stop smoking as well as if you want to have a new management style.

As a motivation, you might try the following exercise:

  1. Choose a quiet and comfortable place
  2. Put three different chairs in front of you, position them in a half circle (A, B, C).
  3. Think of three persons you know and admire; you might have read about them; they might be alive or not and each of them have a skill, a behavior, something you admire.
  4. Invite the first one (for example let’s name him Prof XYZ) sit on chair A, visualize the person, and make it real. Then proceed with the same way with the 2 others.
  5. Now go and sit on Chair A you are now Prof. XYZ, feel as he would, think as he thinks and ask the following question: what are my qualities, what are my strengths? Write them done and do not judge anything
  6. Change chair and repeat the same thing with your 2 other persons
  7. Look at your list: a nice list of your qualities /strengths. Acknowledge them. All these points describe your own greatness. Of course, you can improve and be more effective. You will become it by cultivating these virtues and make them stronger. They will get you out of your comfort zone so that you are able to discover new frontiers and grow. Try, assess and live up to your own greatness.

B- Trust the people

The greatest resistance to transferring to a coaching style of leadership is usually offered by managers themselves. After all, giving instructions and solutions always has short-term effect! The fire has been extinguished, and a solution has been found. All they see is that you, the manager, have come up with an effective solution; this in turn increases their dependence on you as a person.
Some managers will blame their decision not to coach on the culture of their organization, which they believe is unsuitable for this management style. Others will claim that their employees do not want to embrace this style, as they see their manager as an expert, who comes up with the solutions. Another argument dictates that coaching is highly time-consuming. Time you do not have, as all your spare time is taken up assessing, directing, recruiting and selecting.
Another frequently made managerial mistake is to base all your actions on your ability to judge and experience, and to believe that you know everything and can simply tell your employees the solution. You fix it and get results.

What about combining your own experience and expertise with the operational experiences of your employees? Your experience can challenge your employees to put his or her knowledge into action and get better results. To do that . you need to first trust them.

“I rather trust and feel disappointed occasionally than mistrust and feel miserable all the time. ” John Wooden

Trusting others is making the right compromise of both character and competence. Stephen M. R Covey called it “extend smart trust”(Stephen M.R. Covey: the speed of trust). This means to trust wisely – to exercise a propensity to trust people AND to analyze situations carefully.

As a Coach you should have high expectation of the potential and abilities of your team, and frequently voice these expectations. You make your team members feel important and competent. Treat people as top performers, and they will act as such. You should have great belief and confidence in the fact that the person in question is capable of more than he/she has demonstrated so far. Good coaches have expectations of people, which might exceed the expectations these people have of themselves. As a manager and a coach be clear and communicate your expectations of your team performances and abilities.

C- Trust the process

As there are obstacles, especially if as a manager your old habit is:
· wanting to score
· having difficulty delegating
· wanting to come up with his own solutions
· having a tendency to control
· being too business-like/reserved,
· or too focused on work, not enough on people.

Your employees will perceive you as an effective coach if you:
· pay attention and take time to listen
· see the other party as a person, and not just an employee
· help the other person solve his own problems
· set the right example
· make someone feel they can do more
· challenge and encourage
· say what is happening
· show appreciation for good work
· explain clearly when something has not been done correctly
· give the other person an insight into his own competencies
· help the other person strengthen his competencies
· ask why before asking how

You will need some practice, methods and tools. Some things, you can start doing right away is any situation

  1. Move off the solution.
    Forget first your solution. Get evidence, understand and diagnose. (Business think: Dave Marcum, Steve Smith and Mahan Khalsa)
    Forget for a second what you know or you think you know. Focus on the person and on the situation. Have the intention of understanding first. Be as a good doctor: diagnose the situation and by doing that invite the person to explain his/her “world map”
  2. Stop telling, begin asking
    Sometimes we look at things on the surface, and any question, which is asked to look deeper, is helpful.
    Here are some:
    – What does that mean for you?
    – What will it look like when you have done that?
    – What else might that mean?
    – What’s another way to interpret that?
    – What part of that fits into your dream/goal/vision?
    – ‘What makes you think/say/do that….?’
If you were a fly on the wall right now, what would you be thinking?
    – If you keep going like this, what’s going to happen?’
    – ………….

    This helps the person from the “what” to the “why” to focus on present and future as well as to have a clearer view of a situation and probably the solution.

  3. Listen
    This is probably the most difficult part: to listen empathically to the person.
    Do not judge. You might rephrase what the person has said using key words the person has used and get to the next question.
    Try, as it seems simple, it might be difficult. Keep it simple and don’t give up in the middle of the road (“the dive”: Seth Godin)

3- Conclusion

As a manager in the “Knowledge worker time” you cannot monitor everything yourself and want to choose to trust others and accept that people make choices and mistakes.
The assets of opting to coach your team, can be defined as follows:
You make better use of the capabilities of each member in the team, while simultaneously unveiling hidden talents.
You stimulate the development, independence and responsibility of each member in your team, and contribute to enhancing the quality of work.
You contribute to greater flexibility and decisiveness of your team while responding to changes and new developments.

Last but not least you help each one in your team to “grow” and you know the great thing is : “you grow yourself” and allow your team to do the work!

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