Talent Development

Redefining the role of Manager

By Sarah AlexanderMay 31, 2016

Of the many hats that managers wear, most can be boiled down to three distinct roles: manager, evaluator, and coach.

In their paper, The Manager’s Role as Coach & Mentor, Charles Orth and his co-authors describe “manager” responsibilities as developing and communicating performance goals and expectations; “evaluator” responsibilities as assessing employee performance against previously developed goals and conducting periodic performance reviews; and “coaching” responsibilities as helping employees improve their capabilities and performance on a day-to-day basis and over the long term.

Historically, management culture has been based on the concept of controlling subordinates. Feedback has been disseminated from the top down, and in this culture, the roles of manager and evaluator have become deeply entrenched. “Coaching” has often taken a back seat, viewed as a technique or tool to develop specific management skills or motivate people.

What if we shifted traditional management on its head and redefined  management culture to be one that revolves around the core philosophies of coaching and partnership?

As leaders realize that their teams are missing commitment to excellent results and employee empowerment is necessary to compete in today’s market, organizations are re-shaping their management philosophies.

Why is coaching missing in management?

Coaching is undoubtedly gaining traction in the workplace. However, it is still missing as a foundation for interacting and relationship-building in most organizational cultures. In their paper, Coaching and the Art of Management, Roger Evered and James Selman proposed that one of the main reasons for this is that those who seek out a coach tend to be open to improvement, eager to learn from their mistakes, and willing to try a new approach in order to see better results. They’re not concerned with convincing the coach of how much they know or can do already.

This stands in stark contrast to the typical relationship between a manager and employees. Team members are often hiding or justifying mistakes and attempting to “look good” in front of their managers, as opposed to having an open dialogue where opportunities for improvement are openly discussed.

A new approach to coaching

What about creating a new context for managers, which fosters a genuine partnership between managers and employees so both can accomplish more than imaginable in a traditional management culture?

There is a demand for coaching in almost every high performance arena, and given the “war for talent,” there is no reason that coaching wouldn’t take on a central role in management.

In this context, experts Roger Evered and James Selman observe, “coaching should not be seen as a ‘new’ answer for managing, but rather as a reminder of what really counts in management, organization, and work. It does, however, offer something radically new for present-day management – a revision of our thinking about human organization and a fresh approach to breakthroughs in performance areas that have become stagnant or unproductive.”

Four Critical Coaching Skills

So, how can managers shift this culture? The following central skills emerge:

  1.  Observe. Monitor employees’ performance and progress against established goals and expectations. Observation can be visual or auditory – watching and listening to employees to identify skills gaps impeding their progress in order to take prompt action to help them address these areas.
  2.  Analyze. Identify opportunities for employees to expand their capabilities and determine when coaching is the action needed to help employees grow.
  3.  Communicate.  Ask employees the right questions the right way and listen actively. Understanding how to use open-ended, closed, and reflective question will enable managers to open a new dialogue between themselves and their team members.
  4.  Provide Feedback. If feedback for an employee  causes defensiveness, withdrawal, anger, and/or intimidation, that feedback is essentially useless. Managers must be able to provide feedback that is perceived as help by being specific, descriptive, well-timed, and explicitly directed towards behaviors that can be changed.
Sarah Alexander

Sarah Alexander

Author & Contributor

About the Author

Sarah is an elite triathlete and independent strategy consultant with an MBA from Chicago Booth. She is passionate about empowering others to achieve excellence.

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