The Manager as Coach – a New Paradigm

Business HandshakeReflections on Management and Coaching

Coaching for a manager is enlightening and extremely productive. Whether you have received an education in management or just learned through trial and error, taking the next step in your career is completely achievable through coaching. Since managing people is not “black and white,” coaching will help you find the balance in the grey areas and bring awareness to you that accountability is your friend.

This blog is not meant as an advertisement for coaching, though I definitely endorse it. This blog post is meant to offer other managers some of the tools and practices I learned through coaching with the intention of giving you coaching benefits without necessarily hiring a coach yourself.

Set your goal. So, where do you begin? You have to close your eyes, open your mind, and use every one of your senses to capture your goals and desired outcomes. What are the current characteristics of your management style and productivity? What does it look like when you bring that up a notch or several notches? Documenting those will give you the plan. Once documented, you can move toward results you desire. Hold yourself accountable to do what you say you will do as a coach would do. This is very important or you will disappoint yourself.

Learning what tools are available. For example, what do you do, physically, when you are listening to someone speak? I learned that I physically cross the fingers on both hands and prop them under my chin. I realized that this “tool” keeps me from talking and helps me focus on listening. It was very enlightening to now be aware of that physical act. I do it when I really need to listen to an employee.

Use curious questions to obtain information. As a manager, this tool will help you obtain more information than you can imagine. Your employees will give you a lot more insight when they feel you are interested in what they are saying. You must clear your mind of all prejudgment and ask curious questions as if you know nothing about a particular subject. You want the speaker (employee) to tell you everything they know.

I often catch myself thinking about what I want to say next which will distract from the message I need to hear. My coach assisted me in finding a new tool. I found an imaginary “pause” button on the roof of my mouth. Now I push that button with my tongue to remind myself to continue listening and learning. When the speaker is finished, I continue holding the pause button, reminding myself to “think” before I speak. This helps me to develop the next curious question I will need to obtain additional information from the speaker. Only then, after obtaining every ounce of information, can I make the best decision on any issue.

Coaching taught me understanding. Understanding is not the same as agreeing. Understanding is knowing why an employee views situations differently than I view them. Since we all have traveled a different and unique road in life, understanding is the description of someone else’s road. As a manager, understanding will answer many “why” questions that you ask yourself about your employees’ behaviors. When you understand the behaviors, you will have a clearer path in dealing with difficult situations. You will be able to gain trust and motivate your people.

Last, but not least, learn CONSCIOUS trust. Trust is not black and white, as we all sometimes see it. We can specifically choose the areas to trust or not to trust. I had a particular challenge with an employee whom I had labeled untrustworthy. I documented the areas that I did trust this particular person; then documented the areas I did not trust this person. This tool is now my most used tool. I simply do not “go into” the areas of mistrust but continue to build additional trust in the areas where I do trust this person.

Coaching has made me the best manager I can be. When my insecurities pop up, awareness of the tools that work quickly return to keep me grounded and doing my best.

by Susan McManus, Office Administrator and Client Advocate of the Arnold Law Firm.  Susan has been employed with the Arnold Law Firm since 1986, starting out as the firm’s receptionist.  In 1991, she accepted a position as Clay Arnold’s legal assistant until 2002 when she became the firm’s full time administrator.