Why Managers Should Focus on Coaching, Not Managing

April 16, 2013 - 7 minute read - Posted by

I have mentioned in one of my blogs how performance appraisal carries a negative connotation in workplaces. Just the term appraisal indicates that it is more evaluative than developmental. The traditional performance appraisal is very much related to progressive discipline and creates many problems for your organization. Many employees dread performance appraisal meetings because they are not aware of how their current performance aligns with the management’s expectations. At 7Geese, we want to assist companies to move towards more employee-oriented performance management, where the purpose is for managers to support and coach their employees to succeed. In this post, I will discuss the importance of coaching and why managers should focus on coaching rather than managing their reports.

According to Dr. Lois Frankel, a bestselling author and executive coach, the difference between a leader who gains commitment from employees and one who only gains compliance is coaching. The most effective leaders see themselves as being coaches and leaders rather than managers or supervisors. What has also changed in the Gen Y workforce is that the new generation of workers want to be challenged and recognized for their efforts. For them to be committed to your organization, they need to be led, not micromanaged. Deloitte looked at how Gen Y employees are very different from the previous iconic generations and found that Gen Y’ers are a “hidden powerhouse of employee potential”. This means that they are more eager to contribute and take on additional responsibility that will help them advance. Although competitive pay does influence their decisions to work for a company, they highly value meaningful development opportunities.

So, how does coaching come into play? Feedback and goal setting are the two main components of coaching; they provide a concrete roadmap on what employees are trying to achieve and how they can succeed. Despite wanting a challenge, employees want to be given the appropriate training and resources to be able to achieve what they set out for. Goal setting allows the employees to know what direction they are working towards – it doesn’t matter which path they decide to take — the purpose is for them to look at the bigger picture and be creative on the ways to reach the goal. At the same time, real-time and continuous feedback gives the employee an opportunity to improve and ask for support if needed. Think of yourself as a sports coach – you share your objective with your team, observe the players during games, and then provide feedback on how they can improve. For the next game, all of your players start the game knowing what to do differently. As a coach, there is no way you will wait for the end of the season to sit your players down and give feedback. The same applies to your organization. If you wait for the annual performance appraisal period, you and your employees are missing out on opportunities to improve.

The benefits of coaching seem to be very employee-oriented; however, looking at the bigger picture, your organization as a whole gains from having effective coaching sessions. Workplace Psychology, a website which covers areas of the workplace and workers from a scholarly perspective, offers some advantages of integrating coaching in your organization. I have elaborated their top three reasons:

  1. Overcome costly and time-consuming performance problems: many companies still rely on their annual performance to evaluate their employees’ performance. By integrating coaching in your organization, you can identify performance problems easier and quicker, and take the appropriate measures to overcome these hurdles such as re-aligning the employees’ objectives, or offering training/mentoring to help your employees succeed.
  2. Strengthen employees’ skills: Coaching allows employees to gain valuable skills and knowledge from their coach – whether it is you or a senior employee – which will eventually increase the productivity of your organization. Coaching also provides you with how the employees are performing; by following up with their progress, you may discover that they possess skills that you were not aware of. Therefore coaching helps you identify the competencies of your team and you may then take the initiative to strengthen these skills by encouraging them to take advanced classes or/and attend seminars.
  3. Improve retention: when employees are coached, they feel supported and encouraged by their manager and their organization. Coaching is a two-way communication process. You provide feedback to your employees and they are able to use this opportunity to also give feedback. Employees are more likely to stay in your organization if they feel that their voice is being heard by you and senior management. By integrating coaching, you are encouraging your managers and yourself to be more present among your employees. Coaching also allows you to identify employees who fit with your succession planning.

As explained above, focusing on coaching and supporting employees has great benefits for your organization and your employees. In my next blog, I will talk about the steps for an effective coaching session. In the meantime, I encourage you to move away from traditional top-down performance appraisals and shift towards a more employee-focused performance management process, coaching employees continuously throughout the year.

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