Elevating Management Through Coaching

Corporate culture has changed significantly in the past few decades. Gone are the days when people accepted jobs, grew with their companies, and retired after 30 years with a pension. Jobs are more transitional than ever before, and if employees feel they’re not being properly supported and trained, they leave for better opportunities.  As a result, companies are asking themselves how they can retain their best employees, while getting the most from them during their tenure at the company.

Companies can achieve these goals by supporting their front-line managers in becoming better coaches to the people they supervise. According to Monique Valcour of HBR, “At most companies, coaching isn’t part of what managers are formally expected to do. … Managers think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. So if line managers aren’t supportive and actively involved, employee growth is stunted. So is engagement and retention.”

Progressive companies are beginning to understand the range of benefits good coaching provides to employee engagement and performance, and many have begun to focus on upskilling managers and redefining their roles to include more coaching.

This makes sense, because Human Resources cannot be solely responsible for developing, engaging, and motivating employees. HR doesn’t have daily and direct contact with front line employees, and it isn’t as knowledgeable about the details of each department as the people who work in the specific departments. Consequently, deep coaching needs to come from the employee’s direct manager, who is positioned to be accessible, knowledgeable, and accountable for the employee’s success. However, most companies have not yet developed or incentivized their managers to become good coaches.

The most successful companies will instill a coaching culture at all levels.  Managers aren’t the only ones who should be coaches; individual contributors can also serve as peer coaches to their colleagues.  Want to start practicing some basic coaching skills? Here are some tips:

Build trust: This is critical. People are usually more open to others’ ideas and feedback when they feel they have a close, trusting relationship with that person. At my firm Ferrazzi Greenlight, we’ve seen that trust is built through generosity, intimacy, candor, and accountability.  Start to build the relationship by leading with generosity, which will open the door for intimacy, candor, and accountability to follow.

Check-in frequently: Coaching is not a “one and done” activity like annual performance reviews of the past.  It’s also not about micromanaging, which can kill morale. It’s best to view coaching as an ongoing process and dialogue.  Make a habit of scheduling both formal and informal check-ins frequently.

Ask, don’t tell: The solution to the coachee’s issues lie within the coachee, not the coach.  The coach’s job is to ask the right questions to help the coachee arrive at his/her own conclusions. Managers of the past spent more time giving direction, instead of listening and asking questions. Managers of the future should incorporate coaching skills into their repertoire to support employees in developing their own plans, instead of giving employees plans to follow. This process leads to greater learning and commitment to change for the employee as they discover answers for themselves.

Listen deeply: During a coaching dialogue make sure you’re not thinking about yourself or anything outside of the person speaking and your conversation.  Focus on them fully to become completely immersed in the dialogue.  Show that you care by devoting your undivided attention and interest, and taking the time to really hear what the other person has to say about their feelings, hopes, and aspirations. This kind of listening furthers the connection between manager and employee. Listening deeply helps uncover issues beyond the superficial and gets to the root of problems so they can be resolved.

Focus on meaning, purpose, and goals: If you want to improve employee engagement, encourage, instead of direct, employees and help them tap into their own intrinsic motivation at work. Ask questions to find out what matters to employees and what kind of work they enjoy doing, and work those themes into the focus of the employee’s daily tasks.

Advocate for development activities: One of the best ways to show that you respect your coachee’s abilities, experience, and interests is by encouraging them to participate in development activities. It communicates that you don’t just value what they currently bring to the table, but what they could bring with additional learning and growth.

Job-hopping may be becoming more prevalent, but it’s still important to let employees know that they are valued for their skills and cared about as people. This investment of time that managers make through coaching can help employees learn faster, perform at a higher level, and stay at the organization longer.  Many managers find the process increases their own engagement as well, because they get to contribute to someone else’s life and career in a meaningful way.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Jessica Carlson

Jessica Carlson

Consulting Manager & Head of Talent

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