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Why Your Managers are not Coaching the Employees (and How to Help Them)

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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The difference between managers who manage and managers who coach can be subtle. 

The manager who is solely focused on managing delivers compliance. The manager who coaches, on the other hand, gets commitment. It is a commitment that drives people, influences performance, and elevates organizational outcomes.

Managers who coach capably inspire their teams to do their best to reach their goals. Elevated personal accountability, greater interest, ownership, and engagement become the by-products of this managerial approach.

If coaching is such an effective managerial strategy, why is it that managers don’t coach their teams?

Why are managers not coaching their teams?

It is established that being a good coach is essential to becoming a good manager. However, most managers are not coaching their teams simply because they do not know how to coach.

Coaching is an art as it is a science. However, most managers ‘think’ that they are coaching their employees when all they are doing is offering advice. Coaching is a collaborative relationship where the coach helps the learner identify perfect solutions to navigate individual challenges. It is all about exploration, creative thinking, and identifying actions that bring people closer to their goals.

Managers shy away from coaching because of a few reasons:

The perception that coaching is time-consuming 

Research reveals that 70% of HR executives believe that managers should get more involved in coaching employees compared with three years ago. 

But Gartner shows that managers only spend 9% of their time on developing their direct reportees. The most common reason cited is a lack of time to engage in coaching conversations.

Most managers view coaching as an exercise that is a time-consuming formal event. Given that they are already juggling multiple things, asking them to do one more thing or making a change causes defensive walls to go up.

Managers genuinely believe that they are constantly running against time. Coaching then becomes an additional activity. Most managers feel that they will need to carve out an hour a day to coach their team members. Who has the time for that?

Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, they are always in a hurry, and are already late for an important date!

The solution:

Coaching, when done effectively, does not take much time. Coaching is both an art and a science, which once mastered can be used in all conversations. Coaching is not like adding water to an already full glass. Instead, it is about adding a flavor packet to it to enhance it.

Once managers learn the art and science of coaching, they can turn everyday conversations into coachable moments!

Lacking experience

They view coaching as an additional task that needs specialized skills. They feel that acquiring these skills is hard and time-consuming. (Yes, the time factor plays in here as well.)

However, these are all beliefs that are rooted in ‘feelings’ and not in ‘fact’. Learning how to coach is nothing more than identifying the best way to have an effective conversation

This is a skill that can be used to drive impactful everyday interactions with not only team members but customers as well!

The solution:

Organizations need to help managers see the ‘value’ in learning how to coach effectively. They also need to invest in powerful coaching programs that help managers learn the art and science of coaching in a contextual, comfortable, and effective manner.

Coaching helps accrue crucial power skills like non-judgment and empathy. It is a tool that helps people elevate their listening skills and identify not only the explicit truth but the implied truth as well. 

Coaching teaches managers to ask powerful questions that compel thought and trigger creativity. In today’s world, these skills drive positive team dynamics and also help an individual develop influence and enable better collaboration by leveraging impactful communication.

Helping managers see the benefits they get from coaching, its transformational benefits, and giving them flexible coaching programs to choose from alleviates this challenge.  

Taming the advice ogre

Most managers think that they have mastered the art of asking questions. However, if you look closely, you notice that they are simply disguising advice in the form of questions! 

Many manager conversations use the phraseology “do you think you could…” or “what about doing …” or “have you thought of doing…”. 

These statements are nothing more than advice masked with a question mark.

People who are eager to offer advice also lack keen deep listening skills. They think they are listening actively. However, their mind could be full of the noise of strategy that is prompting them to look for the opportunity to interrupt with their advice.

The solution

Managers have to learn the art of restraint when it comes to giving advice. 

Coaching will help managers learn the difference between advice-giving and effective questioning. Quite simply, a coach’s job is not to ‘tell’ the person what to do but rather to help that person come up with a solution. Their job is to promote thought and analysis and build influence but without exerting their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and values on the individual.

This brings us to active listening. Active listening is more than making eye contact and nodding in agreement. While these are ways to make the person feel heard they are superficial markers. Active listening means shutting down the mind and being completely present in the moment. 

The ‘self’ takes the backseat here and the mind is completely invested in listening to the individual. There is no strategy involved to steer the conversation and no desire to interrupt with advice.

Organizations need managers to develop deep listening skills, and tricks to quieten the noise in their heads. Most managers struggle with listening and asking them to mindfully observe how quickly they are triggered to offer advice or are ready to provide answers is a good starting point to develop this skill.

Releasing control

Managers have to drive responsibility and accountability and for that, they try to be in control with all the answers at all times. What this does is take complete ownership from the individual and pass it on to the manager. When managers offer advice, they are the ones in control of the conversation. They are in the lead.

If giving advice was a workable strategy, then people wouldn’t struggle to adopt good habits. Change in itself is hard and people are naturally resistant to change. This becomes harder when change is enforced. It definitely doesn’t promote employee dialogue or evoke trust. 

Managers consider advice giving as coaching and then wonder why their coaching strategy is not working!

The solution

When they can hold back and give space to team members to think, evaluate options, and come up with multiple ideas (even wrong ones) on their own, the people become accountable to find solutions.

Managers need to learn how to release control and exercise self-restraint when they are triggered to take control and offer advice. Managers, instead, need to master the art of asking the question, paraphrasing statements, and offering feedback in a data-backed, non-judgmental format.

In Conclusion

Finally, managers need to know that they do not need to be “great” coaches. Starting as an ‘adequate’ coach is also enough to drive transformational results. Organizations make far more headway with managers coaching if they set the bar at adequacy since managers do not feel overwhelmed. Instead, they are encouraged to try coaching ‘because’ the organization does not focus on excellence. It is all about upping the conversation game, learning to offer a little less advice, and increasing curiosity a little bit more.

Leverage our AI-powered coaching platform to help your managers develop the missing skills that will help them transition into manager-coaches and have thriving, high-performing teams.

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