More and more organisations are looking for coaching skills training for their managers, and this flies in the face of the traditional “Command and Control” management style. They’re not doing this to develop their managers into professional coaches. Instead this is to encourage workplace coaching in everyday conversations, when a manager might respond to a request for help by asking a single question, such as “What have you already thought of?” or “What really matters here?”
Why are organisations doing this?
When life and business was relatively stable, we saw a lot of “command and control” leadership style. Managers passed their knowledge and expertise onto their team members, because they “had been there” and “had done it”. It’s likely the Manager worked their way up through the organisation, and what made them great at their jobs, was that they had all the answers – they knew best. Those days don’t really exist any more. The pace of change has increased dramatically. Managers don’t have all the answers anymore because technology, customer expectations and the market has changed so much (and continues to change), knowledge becomes outdated very quickly
These days we also know more about what really engages people and how to get the best out of them. Research has shown positive correlations between coaching and employee satisfaction, individual performance and organisational goals (Ellinger et al. 2011; Wheeler 2011). WIth different generations in the workplace, the traditional role of the manager has had to evolve to develop and engage a variety of generations with different aspirations and expectations. We also know that about 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. So organisations are trying to make the most out of those learning opportunities by developing managers to coach, not just tell or direct.
How easy is this to implement?
In the UK, the CIPD 2015 Learning and development survey suggested that line managers are most likely to take the main responsibility for delivering coaching in organisations. Look at many leadership frameworks these days and you’ll see many core coaching skills like empathy, curiosity and listening skills featuring in them. My personal view is that to be successful in the future, Managers and Leaders should have the ability to coach AS WELL as direct and guide others too.
But to be able to do this, we need to invest in Management and Leadership training. It’s not as simple as encouraging or telling Manages to coach. There are specific skills needed to be a great coach. These include:
Appreciating how to create Emotional Safety. When people are worried about retribution, politics or punishment, they operate from a position of “threat”. The capacity to solve problems, reflect and have Insights is generally reduced from a position of threat. Understanding their part in creating emotional safety is an important skill for Managers.
Curiosity rather than judgement. Being curious lets you read between the lines, thinking about what isn’t being said. Tap into genuine curiosity, and employees will feel seen and heard, and Managers will learn more about their team.
Listening to understand. For many coachees, listening is the best part of coaching, as their ideas are being heard and valued at a deep level. Listening can make people feel engaged, interested, included and cared for.
Ask Questions – questions which will prompt the coachee to think, to reflect on their goals and assumptions, to become aware and to grow, rather than give solutions.
Feedback – For these coaching conversations to be useful, managers need to be able to give feedback constructively and to encourage a Growth Mindset.
What could developing your Managers to coach their teams do for your organisation? In today’s labour market it’s hard to find great talent, and then just as hard to retain them. If you are known as an organisation who helps people be at their best – you’re more likely to attract and retain talented people. Then take a look at those coaching skills. Imagine how relationships between departments and people could improve if Managers developed more of those skills? How could all this influence the culture of your organisation, particularly during periods of change and uncertainty. If change and disruption feels like the norm, Managers who are aware of, and can actively influence a culture of Emotional Safety feel like a great bunch of people to have!
So I don’t think this is the death of the external coach who comes into an organisation to coach individuals. Instead I see this as complementing Leadership Coaches, and bringing the concept of coaching into the spotlight. Afterall, we are all humans aren’t we? So bringing more humanness into the workplace can only be a good thing.