More than Just a Boss: Using Coaching to Cultivate a Learning Culture

More than Just a Boss: Using Coaching to Cultivate a Learning Culture

This is the first of a three-part series presenting the 12 most important coaching abilities and skills required of today’s supervisors.

Part I:  Climate Change:  From Old-School Leadership to Coaching

To this point, a leadership coach has usually been an outside vendor who has received training in coaching methods and techniques.  We outside coaches are hired for many reasons including:

-Helping someone get better at something

-Helping one or more individuals improve their communication including conflict management

-Onboarding a new employee, including new leaders -Improving communication

-Improving leadership skills and abilities -Seamlessly transitioning into a new role

-Improving relationships with business associates

-Improving team functioning and performance

-Diminishing undesirable leadership traits

-Increasing strategic thinking

-Setting personal , team, or organizational goals

While coaching is a popular and vital approach because of the positive ROI and the speed at which “change” goals and objectives can be accomplished, tight budgets don’t always allow for an outside coach.  Furthermore, sometimes coaching needs to occur on the spot rather than waiting for the vendor to be contacted and scheduled.  But before we get to specific coaching skills, it is important to lay the foundation for why a coaching approach is necessary.  There are four reasons:

#1:  Employees Cite Their Immediate Supervisor as the Reason for Leaving

In a recent study by MSW Research, respondents reported on the essential role immediate supervisors play in their engagement.  Results indicate that an employee’s supervisor has a direct and determinate impact on the engagement level of the employee.  Overwhelmingly, employees who were dissatisfied attributed this lack of engagement to their relationship with their immediate supervisor.  The often quoted people don’t leave organizations, they leave their manager appears to be true.  In a 2006 Rowlands International Survey the perceptions that managers had of themselves was overwhelmingly disputed by their employees.  For example, 81% of surveyed managers say they welcome suggestions while only 43% of their employees agree; 88% of managers say they encourage teamwork while only 40% of their employees agree; and 76% of managers say they give positive feedback while only 28% of their employees agree.  These results highlight the need for supervisors and managers to examine their style in light of current employee expectations.

#2:  The Old Style Boss is No Longer Effective 

Like Tyrannosaurus Rex, old style bosses are a prehistoric relic.  Their power was based on sheer dominance and the threat of destruction, and everyone accepted it.  One’s title and role offered punch and employees followed orders post-haste.  T-Rex didn’t put up with much guff and employees capitulated by going along and getting along.  Flying under the radar was modus operandi and employees made sure they didn’t draw notice by screwing up or making waves by saying something stupid.  It was all pretty simple and it used to work.  Not anymore.  So if you believe your management repertoire mimics the old school approach, take heart.  This piece could be the kick-start in helping you craft a more effective approach for the changing personality of today’s workforce.

#3:  Knowledge Experts Know More Than You Do

Another fact of past organizational life lay in the focus on task and technical proficiency.  Any city employee who was at a lower rung on the ladder—but who was proficient—was placed in the queue for promotion.   Once promoted then, the newly appointed supervisor’s job was primarily one of repeating the cycle by teaching new employees how do what she/he used to do.  Promoted machinists taught new employees how to be proficient machinists, promoted welders taught new employees how to be proficient welders, and so on.  Promotions and rewards came about through teaching and acquiring task-specific expertise.    That too is changing because cities now seek and employ knowledge experts—employees who possess specific knowledge or expertise that their supervisors do not possess.

#4:  Rewards and Motivation Have Changed

The old style reward system that motivated people with money and longevity is no longer effective.  For the most part, people no longer expect to just make a living.  Using that well-worn pyramid we all know as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is easy to see that we have gone from an employee base with unmet safety needs (health, employment, money, and property), to fully met esteem needs (achievement, respect of others, respect by others, collaboration, inclusion) and even fairly well-met self-actualization needs (creativity, problem-solving, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, volunteerism, social-responsibility, and giving back to others).   What this means is that employees seek collaboration, inclusion, and a voice in decision-making.   And those at the highest levels of the pyramid seek a productive and achievement-oriented environment that provides creative challenges.

So there you have it!  In the next issue, I will discuss what coaching is, how it can be utilized by anyone with supervisory authority, and what groundwork you should consider when coaching one of your own employees.

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