“Her department has a lot of turnover, but she’s our most experienced employee.”
I hear this a lot. And, I’m guilty of saying it myself. But with a shrinking workforce and a highly competitive talent market, we can’t afford to keep our heads in the sand.
Today’s leaders need to be more than workers who have earned enough tenure to be promoted to the next level. They must possess a kaleidoscope of soft skills, including critical thinking, interpersonal communication, innovation, and--perhaps one of the most crucial--the ability to coach.
Coaching others is a core component of being a good leader. It’s necessary to keep employees engaged, help them develop their careers, and guarantee strong outcomes for your organization’s bottom line. Simply said, if managers aren’t able to coach their teams well, they aren’t effective leaders.
In upcoming blog posts we’ll dive into the core benefits of coaching. For now, let’s take a look at what coaching is, and two warning signs that your leaders may need bolstering in this key area.
Coaching Vs. Mentoring: They’re Very Different Skills
When approached with the suggestion of coaching their workers, many leaders bristle against the idea. Busy with their own workloads, they picture themselves scheduling long coffee meetings, providing sage advice, and offering lots of “attaboy”s. Most likely, they are confusing coaching with mentoring.
Mentoring is a directive form of communication, which we’ll describe more below. There is a clear understanding that the mentor knows more than the mentee, and a top-down, teacher-to-student approach to relaying information.
Coaching, however, involves a robust exchange between parties. Like an athletic coach to a competitor, the coach serves as a trainer to help guide and shape the player’s skills to increase performance. As the relationship builds, both parties benefit as the hierarchy in knowledge and abilities begins to level up.
Once your leaders understand that coaching can actually save them time and effort, they may be more willing to partake. When this happens, however, you could discover that their methods may need honing.
Directive Style of Coaching: Too Much Telling
In the directive style of coaching the leader does all the talking, providing step-by-step instructions for what needs to be done. One of the many pitfalls of this method, however, is that the leader isn’t listening. She may be missing out on hidden concerns, or over-explaining a concept that the team member already understands. Additionally, this type of coaching style relays the message that the worker isn’t capable of figuring out a solution on his own. For some employees, this will prove to be demoralizing. Others may see it as permission to let their boss do all the heavy lifting.
Laissez-Faire Style of Coaching: Not Enough Involvement
The laissez-faire style of coaching is a hands-off approach, allowing team members to perform as they see fit as long as they get the job done. Although this style of coaching may be effective—even preferred--in extremely high-performing organizations, in most cases the lack of direction yields inconsistent results. As well, it could be a morale-buster for employees who are self-motivated: the lack of accountability may result in lopsided workload distribution.
It makes financial sense for your leaders to become effective coaches. Randstad RiseSmart’s 2022 Worklife Coaching Report highlights a study by the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and International Coaching Federation (ICF) stating that more than half of companies possessing a solid coaching culture are classified as “high-performing.”
Good coaching is a core competency of leadership, and creates an environment that fosters discernment, problem solving, and independence. The good news: coaching can be taught, and is guaranteed to be transformative to the individual as well as the organization.
If you've got an upper-level manager who is "terrific at their job" but not so great at leadership, book a discovery call today. We can help.