Manager coaching is not executive coaching.
A shortcoming of many coaching efforts aimed at managers (or the expectations set on managers) is to attempt to duplicate the approaches of executive or professional coaching programs. Naturally, there is plenty of overlap in the philosophy, techniques and targeted outcomes. But when it comes to developing managers as coaches there are three important factors we need to bear in mind:
- The manager is committed to coaching…to a point. Unlike the many professionals who embrace coaching as a career, managers rightly view this as just one component of their role. They will seek to balance coaching with more direct management tasks as well as completing their own work.
- The manager is not an independent agent, detached from the outcomes of the coaching. Even in the most trusting of reporting relationships, it is understood that the manager retains a certain degree of self-interest in the coaching. The manager must keep each direct report on-task and committed. They expect to see a tangible return on their own coaching efforts, preferably in the short term.
- The manager is far more knowledgeable about their specific business than an external coach. Managers have a bias for action, typically years of experience in the direct report’s role plus a lot of knowledge of the situation at hand. Unlike an external coach, the temptation to be prescriptive is great.
Based on our research and experience working with top leaders in companies around the globe, managers need the following to excel:
- Clear Goals and Expectations: According to a Lock and Latham Study, with clear goals and expectations managers saw a 16% improvement.
- Training: According to an ASTD Study, companies in top quarter of training expense ($1,500 per year or more) average 24% higher profit margins.
- Communication: According to a Wyatt Study, with good communication there was a 30% increase in market value.
- Coaching: According to the Personal Management Association, coaching yielded an 88% positive impact.
- Leadership Flexibility: According to Blanchard, Hersey, Goleman, managers that incorporated leadership flexibility saw 15%-20% more results.
- Recognition: According to a Jackson ROI Study, there was a triple return on equity for companies with more recognition than those companies who do less.
- Promotions/Incentives: According to the Performance Improvement Institute, promotions and incentives had a 22% impact on results.
- Customer Loyalty: According to a Bain Research study, there was a 5% improvement in customer retention improves profit 25% or more.
- Hiring: According to the Personnel Policy Service, the right hire saves 3 times the annual salary
With these differences in mind, coaching efforts must seek to support managers in tapping into coaching approaches where it makes sense. But expecting the manager to put all self-interest to one side or pretend to act temporarily as an objective third party is counterproductive.
The Bottom Line
Coaching remains a key skill for managers to develop, and one that is growing in importance as organizations seek to remain nimble in response to a fast-changing environment. Traditional processes and management approaches are not, in themselves, flexible enough to adapt to changing business needs. Coaching is.
Managers may be unclear about what is expected of them, or even the value the organization places on coaching. Direct reports are looking for pragmatic advice and support that respects their independence and autonomy.
By building trusting relationships and balancing both the needs of the coachee and the business outcomes, managers can foster a team environment in which all members are open to giving and receiving feedback.
As organizations look to build stronger coaching cultures, key factors to consider include reinforcing a belief in coaching, developing senior leaders who can model coaching, and providing training that goes beyond coaching skills and establishes the belief and context required for success.