Managers Who Coach Drive Change

one business woman helping another
Michael Bungay Stanier Photo
Founder/Senior Partner
Box of Crayons

3 minutes

When you make coaching part of your everyday work, you help employees learn and develop, increasing focus, resilience and impact.

Do you remember work in the year 2000? Email was still a blessing, and we hadn’t yet become attached to smartphones. We were connected, but not hyperconnected. We were busy, but not roll-out-of-bed-and-read-your-emails-while-brushing-your-teeth busy.

If my experience working with busy managers around the world has taught me anything, it’s that managers are stretched as thin as can be. They are overwhelmed and overcommitted, and constantly fighting against the clock.

Organizations are now, more than ever, under pressure to be more agile, to make faster decisions and seize opportunities before they pass them by.

What’s the best way to approach this challenge?

How to Get with It—and Fast

These days, companies need to be able to act quickly. And they can try to tackle this in a few ways. Because, at the end of the day, they want their people acting in the fastest, most efficient and effective ways possible, no matter the industry.

Often to help with this, external coaches are brought in to work with executives. Although this type of coaching has its benefits, it’s costly; it impacts only a handful of people; and it cannot be scaled. Seeing as they are external, these coaches are outside the company’s culture and therefore not fully aligned.

Still, coaching is the answer here—just not that kind of coaching.

Training Managers to Be More Coach-Like

Training managers and leaders to be more coach-like is a much more scalable, sustainable and robust approach to driving change and improving performance than hiring external coaches.

Why? For starters, they know their organization well—the employees, the culture, the good and the bad. Managers are with their employees on a daily basis. And, ultimately, what it takes to become more coach-like is asking a few more questions and offering a little less advice.

In 2000, Daniel Goleman, the psychologist and journalist who made the concept of emotional intelligence popular, wrote the article “Leadership That Gets Results” for Harvard Business Review. In it, Goleman outlines six key leadership styles. Coaching was one of them, and it was shown to have a “markedly positive” impact on performance, climate (culture) and the bottom line.

Great start there—but it turned out that it was the least-used leadership approach.

Coaching Is All about Conversations

“Many leaders told us they don’t have the time in this high-pressure economy for the slow and tedious work of teaching people and helping them grow,” Goleman wrote.

Boy, have things changed since 2000. And yet here we are, having the same conversation about lack of time.

The term “coaching” has become more commonplace, but coaching is still not happening all that often. Why not? Likely because managers don’t realize it doesn’t need to be its own formal event and take up time—that it can be as easy as having a daily conversation. All you need is a good set of questions to get you started and to learn to tame your inner advice monster, which wants to fix every problem (even if it’s the wrong problem).

When managers and leaders make coaching part of their everyday work, they help their employees learn and develop, and they increase focus, resilience and impact. They also minimize their own workload because, as their employees learn, those employees will become better at their jobs and less dependent on their managers.

Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

Michael Bungay Stanier is the senior partner at Box of Crayons, a company that teaches 10-minute coaching so that busy managers can build stronger teams and get better results. His most recent book, The Coaching Habit, has sold a quarter of a million copies. Along with David Creelman and Anna Tavis, Michael recently conducted and released a new piece of research, The Truth & Lies of Performance Management. Michael is a Rhodes Scholar and was recently recognized as the #3 Global Guru in coaching.

Vertex Management Development Program is a low-cost, research based, year-long program that can be customized to each manager’s assessed needs. Let us know if you’re interested.

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