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.
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?
Share information broadly
Focus on relationship building
Focus on building understanding
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.
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:
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.