Inbox: Meet your coach. Its your manager

Managing and coaching seem to be poles apart but effective managers are often great coaches, according to talent management consultancy Right Management. The firm sees growing number of organisations showing interest in coaching as tool to develop their workforce.
Principal consultant Nick Grage-Perry says the benefits of coaching for individuals are well known, and this new trend demonstrates greater awareness of the value it can offer to organisations.
“At basic level, coaching identifies an individual’s skills and motivations, and helps them use those to the best of their ability. Used properly, it can overhaul the entire culture of an organisation, as well as improving its bottom line.”
In the past, people tended to think of external consultants when it came to coaching. Grage-Perry says the interest is now in internal coaching, carried out by managers within the organisation.
“Employers are often wary of asking managers to coach staff because of perceived conflict between the roles,” he says.
“Managing is about optimising individual and organisational performance. While coaching can also be performance focused, an effective coaching approach considers the whole person, including interests and ambitions outside their role. For example, coach might bring you to the realisation that you’re better off in different role, or even in different organisation.”
Grage-Perry says growing evidence in New Zealand and overseas shows internal coaching can improve organisations across the board.
“There are case studies showing impressive gains in retention, motivation and engagement. As more organisations make internal coaching part of their culture and put their results out there, people realise the benefits outweigh the potential risks,” he says.
Grage-Perry adds that in tough economic environments, it can make particular sense to get managers to fulfil coaching roles.
“Demotivated staff can be costly, and avoiding the issue can lead to further problems down the track, such as employees with little loyalty to the company or declining interest in their job.”
So how does manager coach? What are the drawbacks? And where does managing stop and coaching begin?
“There certainly are pitfalls, and for internal coaching to work well, there are three things organisations need to keep in mind,” says Grage-Perry.
“First, like leadership, not everyone has the skills or desire to be coach. An unwilling or unskilled coach can easily cause more harm than good. Selecting the right individuals and ensuring they get adequate development is the most important step in realising the benefits of internal coaching.
“Next, trust and confidentiality are critical. Information can come out during coaching sessions that individuals wouldn’t want shared with anyone else in the organisation. People who know that their coach will have input into decisions about their pay or promotion are unlikely to be honest during the process.
“The ‘manager as coach’ has to be clear about what parts of the conversation are confidential, and has to earn the trust of the coachee.
“Finally, ask before you tell. Managing is often about giving advice or directions, whereas coaching is about helping people come up with their own answers or solutions. Ask open-ended questions and then listen. It’s easy for managers to slip back into an advising style of communication.” M

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