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Why the Coach Approach Beats the Manager Mentality

February 19, 2014

Great Managers What The Office TV show is telling usWhile the terms “manager” and “manager-coach” are sometimes used interchangeably, we know that they are in fact entirely different from one another.  A manager focuses on the needs of the business and a manager-coach focuses on the needs of the person in support of the goals of the business. A manager might show someone how to perform a task. A manager-coach intentionally focuses questions to enable an individual to realize his/her full potential and maximize positive outcomes. A manager uses questions in a more definitive time-line focus while a manager-coach has a longer-term focus.

Many of those in a supervisory or management position, across all industries and company size, own a bit of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) from the TV show “The Office”. The Office is a fly-on-the-wall comedic “docu-reality” parody of modern American office life that delves into the lives of the workers at Dunder Mifflin, a paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scott, the manager in the office, has an authoritarian ego that wants everyone to respect him, has his own take on how everything from Corporate needs to be handled differently and at the same wants to use a coach-approach but has no clue how to do it. He seems much more concerned about rules, politics and maintaining control.

Effectively delivering a coach-approach requires trust and skills. The investment in manager training comes back in higher employee engagement, lower unwanted turnover and greater goal accomplishment.

Ask questions instead of directing or dictating. The business of coaching is the business of motivating. Organizations that hire managers with the manager-as-coach attitude and skill set will be the ones that lead from the front, dedicate themselves to the importance of their mission and encourage teamwork through inclusion. But hiring manager-coaches isn’t likely the solution. This needs to be an internal cultural mandate that is recognized, valued and modeled at the top. To change the culture, practically overnight, I strongly recommend a two-day program for managers and supervisors that we deliver at your location. You can view more information on that at The Nielson Group website. For the senior leadership team, we have the half-day version.

A coach-approach uses less of the telling/directing skills (knows when that is the best approach) and more of a dialogue approach that uses  powerful discovery questions to help the employee (or team) brainstorm solutions and flex their analytical problem solving skills. Business leaders that take a 60%/40% approach to coaching vs. telling find themselves developing far more effective teams and much greater levels of trust across the organization. An effective manager-coach reveals team member potential, builds confidence in others, points out the value of what employees do and inspires them to be the best version of themselves. People’s self-worth is often derived from the importance of what they do for a living, and the ability to positively affect others is hugely important and rewarding. Every time we interact with an individual, we as leaders have that opportunity to have a bigger impact.

The manager-coach approach uses a five step communication process:

  1. Establish focus
  2. Discover possibilities
  3. Plan actions
  4. Remove barriers
  5. Recap

There are special skills that are potentially used at any of the steps. These are contextual listening, discovery questioning, messaging, acknowledging and celebrating.

The idea that people think they somehow innately know how to use these communication steps effectively is what gives comedy shows like The Office so much great material. The show was wildly popular mainly because so many people could relate. Employees recognize and relate to all the characters, but especially to Michael Scott, the manager. This suggests manager-as-coach skill development is critically important and needed in any organization.

For teams (department, cross-functional, leadership) we offer a powerful and fun one-day Dynamic Communication workshop that will have everyone talking.

Want more information about bringing The Coaching Clinic® for Managers and Supervisors or the Dynamic Communication workshop into your organization? Complete the form below:

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