Coach ’em up

It’s how man­agers de­velop multi-skilled, com­mit­ted em­ploy­ees

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

IF you’re an or­ga­ni­za­tional leader look­ing out be­yond the im­me­di­ate hori­zon, what do you see? Do you see a strong pipe­line of em­ploy­ees ready to take over key po­si­tions in your or­ga­ni­za­tion? Are you ready to carry on if one of your key em­ploy­ees be­comes ill or dies? Or are you ready to ex­pand and grow with new ideas and in­no­va­tion?

No mat­ter what po­ten­tial crises or op­por­tu­ni­ties lie ahead, if there are ma­jor holes in your talent pipe­line, catas­tro­phe can show up any minute.

What do best-prac­tice or­ga­ni­za­tions do about talent man­age­ment? First, leading or­ga­ni­za­tions de­velop a wellde­fined process for re­cruit­ing and hir­ing their em­ploy­ees that in­cludes in­ten­sive as­sess­ment pro­cesses in ad­di­tion to a se­ries of in­ter­views. These as­sess­ments help so­lid­ify can­di­date abil­i­ties to lead, de­velop strong in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, build teams, man­age projects and fol­low through and fol­low up on as­signed work.

Sec­ondly, these or­ga­ni­za­tions cre­ate and im­ple­ment a talent de­vel­op­ment process that builds the skills and ex­per­tise of in­di­vid­u­als as they move through dif­fer­ent roles in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. They in­te­grate these talent man­age­ment ini­tia­tives in such a way that the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s cul­ture be­comes one of learn­ing, par­tic­i­pa­tion and en­gage­ment. When this com­mit­ment to talent man­age­ment is ev­i­dent, you will find strong loy­al­ties de­velop, re­sult­ing in long-term em­ployee re­ten­tion, thus help­ing to fill that all-im­por­tant talent pipe­line. How is all this ac­com­plished? Over the years, many or­ga­ni­za­tions es­tab­lished groups of high-per­form­ing em­ploy­ees and steered them through for­mal and in­for­mal learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. For in­stance, they sent these em­ploy­ees to in­ten­sive off-site ex­ec­u­tive pro­grams and/or fi­nan­cially sup­ported univer­sity de­grees. Pub­lic-ser­vice agencies, on the other hand, of­ten en­gaged in sec­ond­ment pro­grams where in­di­vid­u­als could work in an­other depart­ment for a time to learn new skills.

The chal­lenge with this type of ap­proach is that many highly tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als within the or­ga­ni­za­tion are missed. They might not have been highly vis­i­ble, hadn’t had the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop good in­ter­nal net­works and per­haps were not even part of the so-called know­nen­tity group. As a re­sult, much talent within the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­mains hid­den.

To­day, best-prac­tice or­ga­ni­za­tions are tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. In­stead of send­ing people to in­ten­sive ses­sions and mul­ti­ple con­fer­ences, they are fo­cus­ing on learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives that in­clude all their em­ploy­ees. This en­ables them to en­gage all em­ploy­ees as well as iden­tify and de­velop hid­den talent.

Two key strate­gies — in-house learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and per­sonal coach­ing by line man­agers — are prov­ing the most ef­fec­tive strate­gies for em­ployee de­vel­op­ment. In ad­di­tion, many of these strate­gies are be­ing sup­ple­mented by e-learn­ing ini­tia­tives as a means to en­sure em­ploy­ees clearly un­der­stand the con­nec­tion be­tween their train­ing and busi­ness pri­or­i­ties.

How­ever, this two-pronged ap­proach of in-house train­ing and coach­ing is a bit more com­plex than it seems. That’s be­cause cre­at­ing, de­vel­op­ing and de­liv­er­ing in-house train­ing on a wide va­ri­ety of lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment topics is the sim­plest part of the equa­tion. The other, more dif­fi­cult part is shift­ing the role of man­ager to that of a coach.

It’s of­ten been said em­ploy­ees don’t leave or­ga­ni­za­tions, they leave man­agers — that’s how pow­er­ful man­agers can be. There­fore, if man­agers can be­come ef­fec­tive coaches, they can boost em­ployee morale, de­velop in­di­vid­u­als, in­crease en­gage­ment and pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­tain the best of the best. On the other side of the coin, if a man­ager wishes to be suc­cess­ful and progress in their own ca­reer, they must make ev­ery ef­fort to de­velop ef­fec­tive coach­ing skills.

What are some of the key coach­ing skills a man­ager must learn? The fol­low­ing skill sets will pro­vide at least the bare min­i­mum re­quired for shift­ing the man­ager role to that of coach.

Ben­e­fits of coach­ing: Man­agers and em­ploy­ees in gen­eral need to un­der­stand coach­ing is no longer limited to re­me­di­at­ing a fail­ing em­ployee. It’s now a rec­og­nized devel­op­men­tal tool for all em­ploy­ees. Stud­ies have shown coach­ing im­proves em­ployee ef­fec­tive­ness, in­creases em­ployee en­gage­ment and leads to in­creased or­ga­ni­za­tional pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Coach­ing prin­ci­ples: Coach­ing is an in­di­vid­u­al­ized and ex­pe­ri­en­tial process that helps build em­ployee skills in gen­eral prob­lem-solv­ing and per­sonal lead­er­ship. It is based on a set of spe­cific val­ues, goals and prin­ci­ples that dif­fer from su­per­vi­sion. New coaches must learn these val­ues and prin­ci­ples.

Coach­ing is a process: Sim­i­lar to project man­age­ment, coach­ing in­cludes a needs as­sess­ment and plan­ning process. It re­quires an agree­ment with the em­ployee, set­ting goals, im­ple­ment­ing the coach­ing plan and mea­sur­ing re­sults.

Coach­ing re­quires trust: Coach­ing is a trust­ing, win­win part­ner­ship be­tween em­ployee and coach. There­fore, goals and ob­jec­tives must meet per­sonal and or­ga­ni­za­tional ob­jec­tives. Both par­ties need to en­gage in gen­uine, open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co-oper­a­tion. Man­agers need to avoid lec­tur­ing, but in­stead should lis­ten, en­cour­age and show faith in the em­ployee.

Coach­ing re­quires big-pic­ture think­ing: Gen­er­ally, man­agers who de­velop coach­ing ex­per­tise need to be vi­sion­ary, un­der­stand the big pic­ture and help em­ploy­ees un­der­stand where they fit into the big scheme. They need to un­der­stand or­ga­ni­za­tional dy­nam­ics and be able to help em­ploy­ees link and align their new learn­ing and ca­pac­i­ties to the over­all di­rec­tion and cul­ture of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Coach­ing skills are nu­mer­ous: Coach­ing skills re­quire much more dis­cus­sion, lis­ten­ing and anal­y­sis, the abil­ity to frame good ques­tions, to sum­ma­rize and pro­vide con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and feed­back. Good coaches have as­tute busi­ness acu­men, are aware of their body lan­guage and pay at­ten­tion to sig­nals from the em­ployee. Coaches need the skill to as­sist in­di­vid­u­als to be­come self-re­flec­tive and self-aware.

Coaches are good self-man­agers: Ef­fec­tive coaches are self-aware and know their strengths and weak­nesses. They are con­tin­u­ous learn­ers who are so­lu­tion-fo­cused and not afraid to ex­plore new ar­eas. Good coaches rec­og­nize their lim­i­ta­tions and know when new ex­per­tise must be in­volved in the coach­ing process.

Coach­ing within or­ga­ni­za­tions is a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non and I be­lieve it’s one of the most in­flu­en­tial hu­man-re­source trends to come along for some time. It’s a pow­er­ful tool with many ten­ta­cles that can lead to im­prove­ments in many ar­eas of an or­ga­ni­za­tion. Man­agers who are ef­fec­tive coaches are in­volved in devel­op­men­tal and per­for­mance im­prove­ment, ca­reer man­age­ment and life coach­ing, new em­ployee ori­en­ta­tion, build­ing ef­fec­tive in­ter­per­sonal and in­ter­de­part­men­tal team dy­nam­ics and suc­ces­sion plan­ning.

In my view, train­ing man­agers to be ef­fec­tive coaches within their or­ga­ni­za­tion is the best talent-man­age­ment strat­egy in quite a while. Af­ter all, it has been proven over and over that cre­at­ing a cul­ture where em­ploy­ees are en­gaged, in­spired and re­warded re­sults in high-per­for­mance or­ga­ni­za­tional suc­cess. Who wouldn’t want that for their or­ga­ni­za­tion?

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