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Why You Should Be A Coach, Not Just A Manager

Aug 17, 2007
As an outstanding manager, you won't just "manage" people; you'll also assist the members of your team develop to their true potential.

This means helping team members utilize their talents, develop new skills and knowledge, overcome fresh challenges, become more and more productive, become happier, and in all respects grow as employees and people.

To fulfill these responsibilities you'll need to develop coaching -- as well as -- managing skills.

The essence of being a coach is to help someone reach beyond his or her own perceived limitations and achieve his or her full potential. (I'll now interchange the male and female pronouns for the purpose of readability.)

Unlike other aspects of managing, when you coach someone, you are focused on her as a person, not on the task or tasks you want her to complete.

You have many "tools" to accomplish this. You can give advice and direction -- on the individual's career, on how to complete certain tasks, on how to work within the political framework of the organization, and so on. For the most part, however, coaching involves prompting the person -- asking questions -- to help the "coachee" discover her own answers.

You may coach via your regular, day-to-day, interactions with your staff as well as during your more formal meetings (including the performance appraisal).

Ideally, however, you will schedule some specific coaching sessions with each team member. These aren't for giving feedback or for appraising her performance; they're for coaching. During these meetings -- which may last for 30 to 60 minutes -- you'll ask some questions and let your employee do most of the talking. Your aim is to find out if she has any specific goals or challenges, and help her find a way to overcome them.

You might kick off a coaching session by explaining how coaching works. Then you might ask the employee what she would like to be coached about. She might have a problem working with someone else, or she might want to know how she can get promoted faster, or she might want to change roles. (If that's the case, relax. Remember, you want the best people working for you, not people who want to be somewhere else!).

Your next question may be to ask her what outcomes she wants. After she answers -- and remember to give her as much time as she needs to do so -- your next question might be about the difficulties or challenges she perceives in pursuing those outcomes.

You might then ask, "How can you overcome those difficulties?" in order to prompt her to work out her own solutions. Of course, she might be looking for answers from you at this point... and although there is a place for giving her advice... ideally she will come up with her own ideas.

Finally, you might ask your employee to give you her "game plan" for overcoming the problem or achieving the goal, ensuring that she has covered off all possible roadblocks to her success.

You can also coach people on a more informal basis. In fact, all "feedback opportunities" are coaching opportunities.

For example, if someone hasn't performed a task very well, he will learn where he went wrong and how to work better next time if you coach him through the problem rather than simply tell him what he did badly.

Instead of saying "You should have done this..." "You should have done that..." you might ask him lots of "what" and "how" questions like, "what went wrong" and "how would you do this next time?"

There are also situations where you may wish to engage a professional coach -- from within or outside your company (as the case may be) -- to work with members of your team. For instance, if they want to make dramatic and difficult changes in their working lives... or you think they need an outside perspective... or you want them to have coaching on a more regular basis than what you can provide...

There are no special qualifications required to be a coach, so it's critical for you to select one carefully. In particular, look for someone who specializes in coaching executives and who has been through a rigorous and highly regarded training program.

Incorporate coaching into your role as a manager and you're almost certain to develop a closer relationship with your staff that leads to greater productivity, better results and higher morale.
About the Author
Anna Johnson is the author of the How To Manage People System, including her book, How To Manage People (Even If You're A Control Freak!). Get Anna's FREE 12-page report How To Be An Outstanding Manager - The 8 Vital Keys To Managing People Effectively
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