How Does Managing by Coaching Really Work?

The phrases “managing by coaching” and “manager as coach” describe a management practice involving the application of various coaching principles to the management of employees and employee groups and integrating these coaching principles into ongoing management practices and procedures.

manager as coachManaging by coaching is a more practical, real world implementation of the phrase “managing by walking around,” since, to me, the walking around part did not give the employees or the manager much opportunity to chat.  Some would argue as well that the walking around part, while healthy for the manager did little to encourage productivity improvements for the company.

Creating Dialogue

At its heart (and soul), managing by coaching first is about the manager creating an ongoing dialogue with his employees to understand what motivates and excites them and how the manager and the employees can develop a continual dialogue on a variety of work related topics.

Creating The Right Environment

Second, managing by coaching is about the manager creating an environment of reciprocal trust and respect with his employees.  Trust and respect can be acquired, over time, by asking or inquiring of an employee his perspective, his motivation, his professional standards – in a way that is comfortable, unassuming, respectful and sincere, and by following through on his commitments to his employees.  Showing respect and caring about another helps to create a strong interpersonal bond.

Being Comfortable

Third, managing by coaching is about the manager being comfortable with whom he is – his level of performance, his authenticity, and his self-awareness so that when he works with staff they understand better his commitment to their success.

Taking Ownership

Fourth, managing by coaching is about the manager letting his employees do the work, taking ownership of work processes, improving work processes, and improving their productivity and performance.

It might be that the manager has an idea to improve a specific work process.  He may not know exactly what is needed so he engages his employees in a problem-solving discussion.  He enters a dialogue with his employees confident that, collectively, his employees will develop a solution and will be able to implement it.  He understands his role to be that of the facilitator, the encourager, the coach.

In this facilitative role he may use process improvement or project management techniques, training the employees in these techniques, and encouraging his employees to take ownership of the problem, the analysis on the problems causes, and the preferred solution to the problem.  Many use the word “empowerment,” I prefer to use the term “taking ownership,” as this term imputes responsibility and accountability.

The Manager’s Adaptive Role – Self-Awareness

The central element here is that the manager understands it is more his role to encourage dialogue, problem solving and discussion.  Earlier I mentioned that the manager needs to be self-aware.  By this I mean he needs to be comfortable with his direction in life, he needs to be comfortable with his role, and, he needs to have a good view of himself.  He understands he is more effective as a manager by encouraging his employees to arrive at solutions.  He is not insecure, afraid, or lacking in self-esteem.

I have worked with quite a few managers who were not certain, at first, that they could perform this managing by coaching role very well.  They were uncomfortable in their manager role because they had not been trained as a manager.

Certainly they thought they could learn how to manage, to create a productive work environment, or to establish effective motivating procedures.  But they were a bit uncertain about the coaching role.  They also sensed that they were missing a better understanding of the management role they occupied.

When I talked with the employees of these managers it was very evident that these employees understood or sensed their manager’s lack of confidence, role doubt, and insecurity.  Consequently, they were certainly not enthusiastic performers.

The Authenticity Imperative

I mentioned earlier that it was important for a manager to be authentic.  I have found time and again that managers who understand their talents, behaviors, and motivational drivers can perform at a much higher level by focusing on using them more frequently with greater effect.  When I see managers performing at this higher level their employees read that sense of certainty, significance, and connection in their manager more readily.

Employees do want to look to their manager for the leadership, vision, and direction a manager can provide them through the effective use of the manager’s talents, strengths, values, and behaviors – and they also want that manager to recognize that they have talents, strengths, values, and behaviors that can positively influence the direction and growth of your company.  There is a reciprocal expectation in the manager – employee relationship.

The more that a manager can understand each of employees’ talents, strengths, values, and behaviors – and the more he can help them to achieve a higher level of performance to those strengths – the more productive and profitable your business will become.  This is a simple, understated formula for success.  Call it the “power within,” “5th level performance,” “your genius,” or your other personal favorites.  The level of personal excellence that your employees attain is up to them – and it is through the manager as the coach that they can attain it.

It is important, as part of a managing by coaching program to help the managers and their employees become more success focused by using objective processes to understand the manager and his employee better, by training the manager to learn successful management techniques, and successful coaching techniques.

The use of formal authority to lead and manage others does not yield effective results over time.  Managing by coaching is effective at motivating and managing employees to excel.

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