From Boss to Coach: How to Coach Employees for Success

By Sean Gordon

A good manager can be hard to come by. If you took a random survey of several people, asking what they thought of their management teams at their companies, more than likely you’ll get a resoundingly negative response. There’s just something about The Man that boils the blood of the average American worker. Why is that? A Globoforce survey says that 93% of managers need training on how to coach employees, which seems like a ridiculously high number.

But really think about it: Does your management team truly know how to coach results out of your team members?

More than likely, no. Be honest with yourself. It’s hard to face that reality, but if we’re going to lower that number, we’ve got to take a look in the mirror. First off, let’s break down what a manager is actually doing these days because the role has changed drastically over time. A good stereotypical explanation of what a manager does would probably entail some sort of cracking of a whip, lording of power over their subordinates and cackling wildly from their ivory perch at all of the terrible decisions they continue to make.

Ok, fine… That might be a little over-exaggerated. But this isn’t exactly far from public perception of a general management position. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. Trading your sovereign rule with an iron fist to something a little more modern might prove a useful tactic for your business, and your employees may even listen to what you have to say. A little bit of coaching goes a long way these days.

Why is coaching a great management style?

Think of your favorite sports movie. Obviously, you’ve picked Rocky. At the end of Rocky, Rocky Balboa fights Apollo Creed, a boxer who is stronger, faster, and more experienced than he is. Rocky loses that fight, but he goes the distance with Apollo because he has Mickey in his corner. Mickey is more than a manager, he’s a coach. Mickey makes Rocky a great fighter because he’s always challenging him to be a better fight; always expecting Rocky to leave it all in the ring. As a management team, this is the way we need to approach our interactions with our team members. If we could coach good performances out of a department that hasn’t been meeting their goals, would we ever go back to another management style?

The hardest part is making the move from “boss” to “coach.” The first thing to remember is that it all starts with encouragement. If an employee is clearly drained and exhausted, a little bit of encouragement might be the fire that could ignite them back into action. In addition to encouragement, consider humbling yourself and opening a forum for employees to discuss concerns with the company. There might be something you’re missing in the day-to-day operation of your company, and a little feedback from your employees could end up saving you money.

Make yourself available to not only provide leadership but also support. As a manager, you should be well-versed in every aspect of how your company works, which means that sometimes you’ll have to be willing to do some of the more menial work. Never ask anyone to perform a task that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. You might also consider how you offer feedback for an individual’s performance. People are much more receptive to feedback that is constructive and challenging in nature. Start with a positive note, followed by something that can be improved and how you might go about implementing such a change. By offering solutions, your team will realize that their personal development is important to you, and it should be.

Your employees have to know that they are vital to the function of your company. Employees who are continually supported and encouraged by a coaching manager are much more likely to produce greater results for you and your company. There’s always a way to make your team better, but improvements stick when they start at the top.

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