Dupe Lanre-Akinsiun is an Executive Career and Leadership Development Coach.
More and more, line managers in organizations are being asked to coach their direct reports. While this is good, a lot of organizations are missing out on the opportunity to create an enabling environment that allows a strong coaching culture to thrive.
Coaching is much more than a skill. It is an experience created by someone who is acting in the capacity of a coach for another individual who is being coached. Or as John Whitmore puts it: “Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
When an individual goes through a coaching process, it should unlock the individual’s potential in order to maximize their own performance. The question is how do you unlock potential you do not recognize? How many line managers can identify the potential of their employees? Rather than teaching line managers to become coaches, we need to teach them how to identify potentials in employees who sometimes do not even see the potentials in themselves! How? Leaders need to invest quality time in the people they lead by having good, interactive and engaging conversations.
Quality time will place a demand on a line manager’s communication skills. Communication, in this case, refers to the ability to ask probing questions and listen with an intention to understand so you can respond appropriately even if your response is to remain silent. Effective communication facilitates understanding. Organizations should create systems and tools that facilitate touch-points between managers and their team members. Regular check-ins give both parties the opportunity to learn more about the work they currently do and the work they can do in the future.
Here are a few tips for fostering a strong coaching culture:
1. Managers should not have too many direct reports. I recommend a maximum of nine immediate direct reports. If your line managers have too many direct reports, review your structure.
2. Managers should engage in regular one-on-ones to check the pulse of the employee, identify challenges and wins where necessary, confirm career interests/ambitions and provide support. The frequency of check-ins should be discussed and agreed upon. Build a culture that promotes intentional and productive engagement between line managers and direct reports — do not assume these conversations naturally happen. Provide tools for both parties to be able to have the confidence and competence to have these conversations.
3. Managers should learn to be present when having conversations with their direct reports. If you make the time to meet with your direct report, ensure you are focused on the conversation. Avoid distractions and ensure it is a time you can give your undivided attention.
4. Managers should develop a leader’s mindset. They should learn to build up their people so that they build the business. Policies and processes are great but people are your greatest asset. Deploy effective leadership development programs for your line managers so they are also effective leaders.
5. Managers should develop a curious mindset. To be able to unlock an individual’s potential, you need to be curious about what makes an individual tick. Asking great questions is key to achieving this. Desire to know what your direct report thinks of a task, a topic, an idea, a project, etc. Never assume all they will ever know is all you tell them.
6. Managers should know that coaching is not a solution to every problem. There are times you coach and times you don’t. The ability to know the difference is what makes the difference.
7. Managers should invest quality time in those they lead to help them learn more about their people. This will also help them identify opportunities to make an impact or influence the team positively. As a manager, you cannot afford to be too busy to spend time with the people you lead. Your greatest responsibility is to build people. Help your organization raise new leaders. This is the beauty of effective succession planning.
8. Managers should work on earning the trust of their team members over time and improving engagement. This will, in turn, lead to improved productivity.
9. Managers should seek to derive personal fulfillment from helping others unlock their potential and maximize their performance.
10. Managers should welcome team members to book slots on their calendars. Start today so so you can begin to have quality discussions and engagement in 2022.
Have a great and impactful year ahead!