According to one survey, HR leaders expect managers to spend 36 percent of their time developing employees. And how much time managers actually get to spend on this priority? Around 9 percent. The gap between perception vs. reality rivals that of the epic skills gap all organizations are facing. But when you can’t add more hours to the day, what are managers supposed to do to help develop their teams?
For starters, they can become better coaches.
Frequent coaching convos (when done well) can drive serious benefits, including higher engagement, increased productivity, improved team function. The list goes on and on.
Yet, a recent study by HR.com and InsideOut Development found that only 15 percent of employees believe their managers are effective coaches.
With so much room for improvement, here are four steps to help you shift to a coaching culture:
1) All aboard!: Get senior leadership to buy in
Getting the coaching ball rolling doesn’t have to be a challenge—but it will require buy-in from the top brass. Plead your case with this one-two-punch:
• Provide success stories and stats that support how companies that coach are companies that win. One Bersin study found that empowering managers with coaching skills can boost performance by 130 percent! That stat alone should be more than enough to convince senior leaders to embrace a coaching culture.
• Create and present an action plan for how you will get the coaching ball rolling. Expert tip: start with your managers.
2) Apply a quick(ish) fix: Invest in training managers to be coaches
Thankfully, coaching is a skill that can be learned and honed in a short time frame. And after the training is completed, all future manger-employee convos have the power to be leaner and meaner (shorter and more productive).
A study by Gartner found that of all the types of managers, “Connectors” were the most effective They know where they can add value, and when to call in reinforcements for specialized coaching or development needs. Since Connectors are three times more likely to have high-performing direct reports than other manager types, this managing style should be developed far and wide within your organization. Of course, knowing when to step up and when to step aside is a skill that will require some help from coaching pros.
3) Develop mad skills: Tap into the proficiencies that drive awesomeness
Put managers in the position to win as leaders AND coaches by developing must-have skills they can tap into daily, including:
• Active listening - the waiting-your-turn-to-talk struggle is real for some managers. Teach them to replace that nasty habit with active listening, which requires them to eliminate distractions and resist the urge to interrupt.
• Questioning - Socrates was onto something back in the day. His teaching style was to ask questions rather than provide answers. Train managers to frame questions that put employees in the hot seat rather than taking orders. Hudson Institute of Coaching suggests that managers conduct an “Ask More, Tell Less Audit, where they keep tabs on their “question-to-statement ratio” during 1:1s, then reflect on how to improve with a convo post-mortem.
• Giving feedback - When less than half of HR managers feel their managers are great at providing feedback, something’s gotta give. Equip managers with the skills to provide ongoing feedback, including uncomfortable conversations where realignment is needed. In addition to giving feedback, managers should also ask for input on their performance to build trust and respect.
• Assisting with goal setting - modern employees want to know where their work is headed, but also that they had a hand in company success. Develop managers in the art of goal-setting, but also how to get employees to co-author goals. They’re 3.6 times more likely to be engaged if they take part in setting their own metrics.
• Showing empathy - as renowned author and speaker Brené Brown outlines in this video, empathy is less about the response and more about the connection. Teach managers how to suspend judgment, take the employee’s perspective and mirror emotions. Think how powerful this connection can be in strengthening those vulnerable, yet valuable employee-manager relationships!
• Allowing the employee to find the answer - without proper coaching techniques in place, managers may err on the side of micromanagement. Train micromanagers how to build trust and reframe their thoughts on failure. When employees know they’re on the hook to find the solution and have the freedom to try something new, they’ll be more likely to swing for the fences.
• Identifying and promoting employee strengths - tools like StrengthsFinder or skill assessments can give managers a glimpse at what their direct reports do best. Help them discover additional techniques to empower employees to do their best work.
• Providing structure - by setting good habits like regular check-ins and collaborative agendas, managers provide consistency and transparency that sets the stage for every conversation to be a constructive one.
4) Don’t leave them hanging: Empower managers with tools that facilitate better convos
Time-strapped managers have zero room in their calendars to learn a complicated new performance management tool. Fortunately, there are solutions available that can integrate with how coaching conversations are supposed to run. Help your managers set the stage for more effective 1:1s with tools that:
• Enable real-time goal tracking
• Provide enough structure for repeatable success
• Foster collaboration and ongoing dialogue
• Simplify documenting notes and next steps
• Promote work status and career development discussions
Shifting to a coaching culture will require a commitment to ongoing development from the top down. The good news is, from the employees who receive it (here’s to millennials sticking around longer, yeah!) to the managers who master it, the value of coaching is something every employee can agree on—unlike which Spotify playlist to listen to today.
For more insights to engage and develop your modern workforce, download our e-book, "The Future of Work: 10 Essentials for Winning Employee Development."