Manager as Coach: 4 game changing skills to focus on

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Manager as Coach: 4 game changing skills to focus on

   Once upon a time, most people began great careers by developing proficiency  in a technical or functional discipline.   As a manager you may excel at various skills such as planning,  directing others, measuring output, solving problems, taking action, controlling work tasks and team effort, project implementation, and that may  also be the reason you were promoted in the first place.  These are critically important skills to  the organisation and probably come quite naturally to you as well.

   Most managers are already aware that the management competency profile  doesn’t end there.  Having the right  ‘people skills’ also matters.  When  given the opportunity to learn and grow, people thrive.  Today’s new business environments demand a  change in the traditional manager’s role. The role of the manager, in short,  is becoming that of a coach.

   Coaching skills for managers are quickly replacing ‘leadership 101’ in many  organisations. Coaching as a managerial skill underpins many other employee  management skills and qualities.  Just  consider the comprehensive reach of emotional intelligence theory and  application in organisations and well in our every day lives.

   By adopting a coaching mentality and approach, you as a manager and leader,  can help members of your team realise their potential. The fast pace of  change dictates quicker learning from everyone.  Bersin by Deloitte estimates that today’s  skills only have a life of 2 ½ to 5 years.p members of your team realise their potential. The fast pace of change dictates quicker learning from  everyone.   As a manager you are  instrumental in taking your team to the next level through coaching.  70% of learning takes place on the job,  coaching is one of the vehicles for this process.

   Managers with good coaching skills are able to ask the right questions,  direct people on the right track, and keep their team encouraged, engaged and  driven to achieve goals and also allow for talent development and personal  growth.

   Adopting a coaching orientation at work takes skill and practice.  It means that managers need to change their paradigm of what constitutes management and leadership.  Here are 4 competencies that you should  incorporate into your skillset to support being a good coach to your team.

   Having a Coaching Mindset
   One of the foundational principles in all coaching practice is the  understanding and belief in others, their capacity for learning and development  as well as changing and growing.  A  coaching mindset runs concurrent with a growth mindset. The developments in  neuroscience have established that unlike historical belief, the brain  doesn’t stop growing as we age – neuroplasticity. New neural networks are  established daily and we can, with focused intention, create these ourselves.  The following is the result of 40 years of neuroplasticity research and was  published in the peer-reviewed journal, Neural Plasticity: “Within the last  four decades, our view of the mature vertebrate brain has changed  significantly. Today it is generally accepted that the adult brain is far  from being fixed. A number of factors such as stress, adrenal and gonadal  hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors, certain drugs, environmental  stimulation, learning, and ageing change neuronal structures and  functions.”

   Coaching supports this focus and setting intentions.

   “In a fixed mindset the cardinal rule is: Look smart at all costs. In a  growth mindset the cardinal rule is: Learn, learn, learn.” -Carol Dweck,  Mindset

   The coaching mindset also incorporates the understanding and belief that  everyone has their own unique skills, competencies and capability.  Everyone one can reach their own unique  potential through the right support, guidance and empowerment. This is where  your role as coach comes in. As Sir John Whitmore, a leading figure in the  field, defined it, skilled coaching involves “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.”

   Having this mindset means that you are therefore also continuously working  on your own personal development, transforming and changing to incorporate  the new.

   Building Trust
    Trust affects the ability of those  involved to accomplish their objectives. Trust substantially boots an  organisation’s performance, employee engagement, retention and  well-being.  Removing fear is very  important when building trust with your team. When we are afraid, our brain  goes into a state of distrust; we close down and move into protect behaviour.  We are not open to sharing and we are not open to learning. Instead, we  become attached to our own beliefs and ideas and are not open to have healthy  conversations about what’s really on our minds. As a manager, it will be  incredibly difficult to manage a team to success under these  circumstances.

   Our daily interactions and conversations are opportunities to build trust  or break it down. Conversations induce feelings and thoughts. We assign  meaning to these thoughts and they become an interpretation resulting in a  belief. We draw conclusions from these beliefs and these become fixed in our  minds. We behave according to those conclusions – this is how trust can be  built or destroyed. Work past unhealthy conversations by reframing,  refocusing and redirecting.

   How can you enhance your trust building skills?

   Be transparent
   Share information broadly
   Focus on relationship building
   Focus on building understanding
   Show vulnerability

   Coaching effectively, means that you create a safe space for your team to  function within, where they feel at ease to contribute and to ask questions  and feel they are being heard. When you show empathy and behave sincerely in  the best interest of your employees you will create trust.  People easily sense when managers are not  being sincere and act in their own interest instead of the employees.

   Providing feedback
   Its almost impossible to learn, grow and develop when you do not receive  feedback on your performance.  Annual  appraisals are becoming a process of the past and companies are increasingly  realising that continuous feedback is more valuable, accurate and supports  learning and development.

   To give good feedback to your team members is an important skill.  It is also a difficult skill to  master.  You need to know each of your  team members well; their strengths and development areas, as well as their  personality.

   It is advisable to check your motives prior to giving feedback, since this  will influence the conversation and outcome.   Feedback is useful when employees can learn from it.  It also serves to motivate and enhance  confidence in team members.  Feedback  should be used when things are going well and when things can be  improved.  Its not a tool for managing  poor performance only.  Feedback is an  honest conversation, and another way to build trust while removing fear and  lack of information.

   You would almost assume this skill goes without saying.  Unfortunately, most people do not listen  effectively. Coupled with being in a position of authority and an old  management paradigm of managers direct tasks, action and results, listening  is not a high priority for most.  Being  under pressure and experiencing stress will make this even a bigger problem  in the workplace.

   There is also the dopamine release that affects listening, where those in  authority gets used to the

   From a leadership perspective traditional models, we grew up with  influenced our brain wiring. The old paradigm of leadership stipulates for  example that the leader,

    has all the answers
    must be listened to
    must be agreed with
    may not be interrupted

   These beliefs albeit out of date still occurs. Teams and individuals feel  deflated and their own energy sapped when they have to endure one-way  conversations. Motivation is affected when they cannot contribute without  fear of retribution.

   When having conversations with your team, listen with your full attention,  and create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up  and to think creatively. Ask open ended questions which provides the  opportunity for you to actively listen and allow you to also learn and gain  insights which can be useful in meeting objectives.

   The Centre for Creative Leadership suggests the following actions as part  of effective listening skills:

   Paying attention
   Withholding judgement

   As you can see, the role of managing has fundamentally changed out of  necessity. The new identity of managers will feel uncomfortable and  unusual.  That is only because we  developed neural networks that transfixed this way of behaving in our  brains.  We now need to replace this by  creating new brain connections supporting coaching skills and techniques to  get the best out of our teams.


Liesl Keen


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