“Coaching managers” are managers who coach their team members in a work context. The person being coached is sometimes referred to as the coachee. Effective coaching, according to Hunt and Weintraub, ‘is much more powerful and useful than merely providing feedback to someone with a performance problem’ (2002:2).
Yet the role of the coaching manager is, according to Cox et al., Bachkirova and Clutterbuck, ‘the most difficult and controversial coaching role’ (2010) and the most problematic according to Bresser (2011). Managers may be reluctant or sceptical about the coaching manager role if they have not been coached themselves (Ladyshewsky, 2010). On the other hand, if a manager has had a positive experience of being coached, they are more likely to want their team members to experience coaching and to want to develop their own coaching skills (Knights and Poppleton, 2007).
Given that the relationship between coach and coachee is not just of significant importance but is actually the critical success factor in coaching (according to Bluckert 2005), where a manager has an existing strong relationship that enhances the prospect of success if they progressively adopt a coaching style.
In the Third Sector there are numerous tools that can help a manager take more of a managerial coaching approach. Bridgespan, for example, have a free on-line diagnostic survey that helps managers and leaders to identify those leadership development activities already in place and to think about how to step up to the next level.
The results from this survey frequently kick-start the flywheel and can help bolster a a culture of development. To keep things moving forward managers can then:
Meet with each of their direct reports during the year to discuss progress against their goals. Managers may not want to create something new: in which case they might use existing review meetings within which they are used to discussing progress against other goals. This existing framework can easily absorb a “progress against development goals” topic.
Development of people can sometimes be seen as an optional, “nice to do” process. If that’s the case managers may need an accountability framework. A coaching manager will want to ensure that they multiply their time investment by ensuring that their direct reports have development goals in their annual performance agreements. Then, at key points in the year, these will need effective review and an end year evaluation. This business-like approach is a powerful way for a leader to make clear that development is part of a leader’s and a manager’s job.
Of course, the coaching manager should expect to be ready to coach and counsel those struggling with developing their staff. The well timed follow up after managers have had discussions with their team members to see how it went and to provide advice for the future is often key to setting expectations. (You might bring in an outside coach to run a session for the entire leadership team on this topic).
Having established these accountabilities discussing the performance and potential of staff members becomes an easier conversation to have and, if a 9 Box Performance/Potential Matrix is used, the provides a great framework.
This annual review is helpfully put into context if it is possible to start the discussion with a perspective on where the organisation is going and what the likely leadership and other capability requirements will be in three years or so. This meeting may also help the top team to develop a common view of the key positions that will probably become vacant in that timescale.
The coaching manager will need to ensure that the top team using the 9 Box Performance/Potential Matrix agree on what constitutes “high potential,” for example. It’s good to calibrate judgements by first discussing a few individuals whom the top team know really well. Once you’ve established a rough set of standards and benchmarks, the senior team can plot their direct reports on the performance-potential matrix. Time spent in focused discussion on the outliers is invariably a good investment. Who stand out clearly as future leaders? Where do you face problems? Who are the excellent individual contributors that you need to retain and develop? Pick a small number of future leaders to focus on for development discussions, and charge each senior leader with the collaborative development of a plan with the individuals and for them.
Leadership teams get better at this each time they do it. Before long, your top team will be talking about more staff and about how to move individuals from the upper left to the upper right of the performance-potential matrix. You’ll soon increase the number of individuals whom your top team should focus on from a few to many.
Tom Henschel grooms senior leaders and executive teams. An internationally recognised expert in the field of workplace communications and self-presentation, he has helped hundreds of executives achieve The Look & Sound of Leadership™. He provides excellent 15 minute case study-based podcasts of huge value to any manager wanting to adopt a coaching approach. √itas Consult recommend these for starters:
- Coaching your people: A fifteen minute crash course in managerial (or leadership) coaching, tutored by one of the world’s most respected coaches.
- Leading through delegation: Learn the three steps of effective delegation (in under 15 minutes) and discover how to inject coaching into the mix, for greater success in getting the job done and developing your people.
- Coaching versus therapy: Both interventions share certain features and yet also differ. An experienced, professional coach explains how and why.
- Thinking errors: A thinking error is a pattern of thoughts that aren’t true. But we believe them. And since it’s a pattern, it repeats itself. Usually for years. Thinking errors tend to lead to bad outcomes. The coach explains how a thinking error was handicapping a client’s work.
- Assertion: Rosa’s main coaching goal was to become more assertive. Her boss, her teammates and her direct reports all wanted her to manage more boldly, share her wisdom sooner, and speak up when she saw things going awry. But Rosa was very uncomfortable asserting herself. Find out how her coach helped Rosa speak her truth.
Need advice about managerial coaching? Contact √itas Consult.