The Manager-Coach: 7 Critical Benefits of Coaching Employees
“The goal of coaching is the goal of good management: to make the most of an organization’s valuable resources.” Harvard Business Review
Overwhelming evidence has revealed that for many work has become an unhappy and stressful place to be (1). Engagement is at a dramatically low level. Only between 10% and 30% of employees worldwide are enthusiastic about their work and contribute actively to the success of their organization. The consequences have been disastrous: Big financial losses, high turnover and absenteeism, low productivity and innovation, poor customer service and deteriorating worker health (2).
The good news is that some companies are exploring radically new management styles to improve the situation (3). They realize that we need to move away from top-down command-and-control (4), rigid hierarchies and silo thinking that have dominated traditional management for over a century, towards a more participative and consultative approach, where considerations for workers assume a central place (5). The distant and authoritarian “boss” who inspires fear is no longer viable.
The manager-coach, a more supportive and caring figure, has emerged as a promising alternative.
“Coaching is about connecting with people, inspiring them to do their best and helping them to grow. It’s also about challenging people to come up with the answers they require on their own.” Ed Batista
Guiding and empowering employees rather than just telling them what to do, providing opportunities for growth, development and autonomy, is not only much more rewarding, but far more productive (Bungay Stainier, 2016; HBR Guide, 2014; Simpson, 2014; Whitmore, 2009).
“More and more top executives are expecting managers to coach their subordinates. In fact, one at Wells Fargo announced that he expects the bank’s managers to dedicate fully two-thirds of their time to coaching. What’s more, employee surveys we’ve conducted over the past decade show that subordinates want coaching” (7).
In their Project Oxygen, Google discovered that their employees ranked coaching on top of the most important competencies they want their managers to have. Their emotional intelligence, their involvement and personal relationships with their team, rather than their technical expertise, were their most appreciated strengths (8).
Nestlé is moving forward with coaching in a big way. As Séverine Jourdain, the Head of Coaching at Nestlé, put it: “Our ambition is to fully integrate coaching into our company mindset… and make coaching…the model of our future leadership style (4).”
Using coaching does not mean that managers should no longer direct and supervise their teams, but rather that their management style becomes more adapted to a given situation and responds better to the needs of their team members.
“There are managers who coach and managers who don’t. Leaders in the latter category are not necessarily bad managers, but they are neglecting an effective tool to develop talent.” Joseph R. Weintraub and James M. Hunt
A number of key ingredients distinguish the coaching function (7; 9; 10; 11; 12). Coaching managers:
–are accessible, approachable and supportive
–establish a caring, positive and personal relationship with each team member
–share and exchange information
–ask open-ended questions, actively listen to employees, empathize with the difficulties they face and respond to their needs
–provide regular, constructive feedback and encouragement
–are open to input from employees and learn from them
–express recognition for their teams’ efforts and contribution
–empower employees by focusing on their strengths and fostering autonomy
–build a sense of responsibility and accountability
–work in partnership with their teams to achieve the organization’s objectives…
And most of all, coaching, in order to be effective, requires mutual respect and trust.
As is true for other management functions, managers need to be trained and coached to become competent in coaching their team members (7; 9; 12).
“Leaders can learn to be more collaborative as opposed to always being directive. They can learn the skill of helping people to discover solutions rather than always first offering advice.” Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman
Coaching both managers and employees represents an investment, but research points to huge returns (3; 4; 6; 7; 9; 10; 12).
Seven of the most critical benefits of coaching are outlined below.
1. Productivity and Engagement
The managers’ rapport and the quality of their interactions with employees are among the most important factors affecting productivity and engagement. “A coaching culture is the practice that’s most highly correlated with business performance, employee engagement and overall retention (3)”.
Regularly dialoging on performance expectations and organizational goals and helping employees define objectives and priorities are critical success factors (13).
The managers’ ability to use employees’ strengths and offer systematic recognition and encouragement engenders involvement, commitment and the willingness to go the extra mile (13).
2. Well-Being and Job Satisfaction
Good working conditions and close relationships between managers and employees are associated with higher worker morale and lower rates of absenteeism, burn-out and bore-out (13).
A flourishing corporate culture, based on reciprocity between managers and employees – giving, sharing, openness – has an enormous impact on motivation and job satisfaction (13).
3. Attracting, Developing and Retaining Talents
The manager-coach contributes to talent development and retention, as well as to creating a favorable image and reputation of the organization.
Companies rated highly by their employees figure in the lists of the best places to work which in turn attracts talents and qualified workers.
4. Adaptation and Innovation
Coaching seeks to strengthen employees’ autonomy and independence, thereby preparing them to adapt to new challenges.
Becoming proactive and anticipating change will become more and more indispensible to survive in our highly competitive economy.
Actively participating in the search for improvements and innovations is now incumbent on all employees and has become a must for all organizations (14).
5. Growth and Development
A coaching culture focuses on unlocking the potential of workers at all levels, striving to stretch their roles and giving them new responsibilities.
This approach corresponds much more than the traditional authoritarian management style to the expectations and preferences of millennials who will soon represent the majority of workers.
Coaching of employees should not be limited to technical skills, but rather embrace a more comprehensive perspective, including personal and social skills, greater awareness and management of emotions, as well as improving interpersonal competencies (6).
“Recognize coaching for what it is: A fantastic opportunity for growth, development, self-insight, and career progression – and an endorsement that the company is willing to invest in you.” Ron Ashkenas
6. A More Positive Role for Managers
A personal, caring relationship with team members and helping them grow, constitutes a more rewarding role (9) and will help managers get away from the toxic and stressful boss image. They will become more of a guide to look up to, a resource, rather than someone to be feared.
As team members expand their competencies, managers will be able to delegate new projects to them, freeing time for themselves to assume more strategic tasks and develop their leadership skills.
Working closely with employees and getting regular feedback from them, enables managers to stay abreast of what is going on in their teams and organization and make adjustments and improvements before serious problems erupt.
7. More Success for Teams and Managers
The managers’ coaching skills significantly contribute to team building and collaboration. A well-functioning, cohesive team will achieve better business results which in turn will benefit the managers’ reputation and career progression.
“When new managers are promoted to supervisory positions, they often think their job is to direct or evaluate people. While directed management is important, it plays a smaller role than one might think. It is the coaching and development role of management that is the most valuable (3).”
Bringing it all together
“To get the best from your employees, you need to be more than a manager, you need to be coach.” Michael K. Simpson
We spend over a third of our lives at work. It is critical, therefore, to seek all possible paths to make our workspace as productive and fulfilling as possible. Managers at every level have a major responsibility to contribute to this goal and make it a reality.
In line with this vision, empirical evidence points to substantial benefits of coaching: More engagement and wellbeing, unlocking employees’ potentials, attracting and retaining talents, better adaptation to change and more innovation, and managers and employees working in partnership to achieve the organization’s objectives.
Key drivers of successful coaching include a caring and trusting relationship between manager and team members, open communication and active listening, regular feedback and recognition, as well as collaborating and learning from each other.
Using effective coaching skills enables managers to empower their teams by focusing on their strengths and enhancing their autonomy.
The manager-coach represents a positive role model. Managers are perceived as partners and supportive figures. Both employees and managers experience more success and benefit in their career progression.
Bungay Stainier, M. (2016), The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Box of Crayons Press.
Harvard Business Review (2014), HBR Guide to Coaching Employees, Harvard Business Review Press.
Simpson, M. (2014), Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams and Organizations, Grand Harbor Press.
Whitmore, J. (2009), Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose – The Priniciples and Practice of Coaching and Leadership, Nicolas Brealy Publishing.
Marcel Lucien Goldschmid, PhD, Director of MTC