From manager to coach
In today’s rapidly changing world, where learning is the new loyalty, it’s time for managers to ditch the traditional performance management systems of the past in favour of regular coaching conversations that empower their people to find their own way forward. This sounds easy in theory but is actually hard to achieve in practice. As a manager, it’s all too easy to get stuck in command and control mode and confuse one-to-one management meetings where you “brief” the other person with coaching conversations that help the other person work out what they can do differently. It takes a real shift in mindset to transition from manager to coach and see the potential in others but one that will ultimately reap the rewards of a more engaged and motivated team.
How to develop a coaching mindset:
1. Make coaching a priority
As a manager, you have competing demands on your time and it can be tempting to prioritise pressing deadlines rather than focusing on the long game and developing your people. You need to shift your mindset and make it your priority to inspire and motivate your people to be the best that they can be. Take the time to identify those people on your team who appear stuck and arrange one-to-one coaching sessions where the focus is on creating a “safe” environment that helps the other person find a new way forward.
2. Look for the best in people
This means focusing on the positives and believing that everyone can grow and develop with the right support and encouragement. In general, people will rise to your level of expectations. But if you pigeon-hole someone as stuck in their ways or only prepared to do the minimum, chances are they will continue down this road. Whereas if you believe that everyone can change their behaviour and improve their performance, you will look for opportunities to help them make this a reality.
3. Shift the focus from ‘me’ to ‘them’
A coach understands that they need to empower their team, not micro-manage them, for as Galileo said, “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” As a manager, this means shifting your mindset from commanding and controlling to empowering and encouraging. You need to be objective and open to accepting that the other person’s view of reality may be different from your own and respond accordingly. It is not about deciding what you think is the best course of action, it’s about helping them think for themselves.
4. Understand what makes you tick
You need to recognise and manage your own emotions in order to understand and adapt to those of the people you coach. So be brave, hold up a mirror and give yourself a full appraisal – the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s only by knowing your strengths and areas for development that you can understand the impact you have on others. The secret to developing a confident coaching mindset is accepting who you are and what you stand for and communicating this in an authentic manner. You need to be true to the real you – otherwise, you will lack credibility as a coach.
5. Silence your inner gremlin
We’re often our own worst enemies – doubting our coaching ability and talking ourselves down before we’ve even begun the coaching conversation. So, the next time you hear your inner gremlin – that negative voice inside your head – shouting in your ear, remember to turn the volume down by focusing instead on what’s great about you, the work you do and your relationship with your team. By reminding yourself of your key strengths and achievements, you will reap the rewards of increased coaching confidence.
6. Move out of your comfort zone
It is only by pushing your limits and moving into your stretch zone that you will learn and develop as a coach. So, face your fears and write a list of your main concerns and worries – e.g. “I’m not a professional coach” and then think of a counter-argument. Visualize what success looks like – whether it’s someone you are coaching being promoted or learning a new skill. By picturing what good looks like, you are more likely to develop a coaching mindset that allows you to perform at your best.
7. Don’t be a perfectionist
Setting exceptionally high coaching standards can ultimately lead to disappointment and demotivation. So, give yourself permission to make mistakes. Remember, a coach doesn’t need to know all the answers, they just need to try and ask the right questions. Remind yourself that good is good enough and try not to judge yourself more harshly than you judge others.
Finally, as a coach, you will need to practise what you preach – so demonstrate how much you value feedback by being brave and asking for it in return. Feedback will help you identify any blind spots or areas for development. It can also boost your confidence and help accelerate your transition from manager to coach.
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Nicole Soames is a highly qualified coach and emotional intelligence practitioner. In 2009 Nicole founded Diadem, a leading commercial skills training and coaching company. She has recently launched Diadem Qualified offering Coaching and Mentoring Qualifications accredited by the Institute of Learning and Development (ILM) that fuse real world experience with tried and tested theory and industry best practice. Nicole is also the best-selling author of The Coaching Book, The Negotiation Book, The Influence Book and The Presenting Book.