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Be a Coach, Not a Boss

Be a Coach Not a Boss

A good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him. My advice: Don’t worry about yourself. Take care of those who work for you and you’ll float to greatness on their achievements.

~H.S.M. Burns

Managing people in the future is going to require more skills for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the world is getting more and more complicated, and secondly—perhaps more importantly—the younger generations just will not tolerate what I call the “boss mentality.”

What I mean by the “boss mentality” is when a boss or manager gives orders and expects the staff to do what they say without ever questioning. It is almost like the military, where orders must be followed with blind obedience.

This may be necessary in the military, but it just is not effective when dealing with younger generations in the workplace. Millennials, in particular, rebel against this authoritative rule.

Great managers today are using the coaching model more and more as a way to be more effective with their staff. When taking this approach, the goal is to encourage staff to solve problems themselves rather than follow orders blindly.

For example, suppose you have an employee who has been coming in late the last two weeks. A “boss” would warn them that there will be more consequences if the behavior continues. Basically, you are trying to motivate with fear, which is not typically very effective because it causes people to close down.

Alternatively, a “coach” dealing with this same behavior would work with the employee to help them figure out what the real problem is. Then, you would work with them to find a solution.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Be a Better Boss

When coaching a staff member, listening to what they say without interrupting is so important. You can initiate conversation by asking questions like, “How are things going?” and “Are you having any challenges?” These questions may help them zero in on the problem without you telling them, which is exactly how coaching is supposed to work.

The hardest part is uncovering the real problem that is causing the undesired behavior. In the example of the tardy employee, the real problem is not that he or she is late. The real problem to be solved is whatever issue is keeping them from being able to make it to work on time.

Once you know what that is, solutions are normally easy to come up with. For example, if the cause of the tardiness is that child care does not arrive on time, a solution could be allowing the employee to have a more flexible schedule.

To help your employees define their own problems, you can ask any of the following questions:

  1. What would we have to remove in order for you come in on time?
  2. What are some of the biggest barriers keeping you from arriving here in a timely fashion?
  3. In a perfect world, what would we need to do to make your life easier?

The point here is getting them talking about what the real problem is and not focusing on the fact that they are late. If you can do that, you stand a good chance they will be able to figure out a solution.

Coaching mandates you enable your employees to solve their own problems. Every time they are successful, it gives them more confidence to solve other problems themselves. Just one of the many benefits of empowering your staff to solve their own problems is that you will have much more time to work uninterrupted on the things you need to accomplish.

Now go out and consider using a coaching style of management with your staff.

You can do this!

Published: October 2, 2015

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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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