Stop Managing and Start Coaching to Engage Employees and Activate Performance

By Jay Forte

If I asked your employees to describe you as a manager, what would they say?

I recently asked a team of front line employees at a large IT company to describe their manager, and most of their responses were less than supportive. Words like “boss,” “distant,” “intimidating,” “disconnected” and “challenging” were the most frequent responses.

I also asked the same group to describe a coach. The most frequent responses included “encouraging,” “connected,” “interested,” “supportive” and “committed.

What a difference.

Compare the two lists. If the words with negative connotations are how most people think of their managers, it raises significant questions about the effectiveness of these managers to activate employee engagement and inspire exceptional performance.

So, what can managers do to be more successful in connecting, engaging, empowering and activating employee performance?

Shift from managing to coaching.

Here are four areas where managers can start to shift to a coaching mindset to inspire and engage greater employee performance.

1. Connect with employees

Two of the most powerful coaching connection skills are acknowledgement and validation. Acknowledgement refers to taking the time to focus on an employee when they communicate, ensuring you hear and understand what they say, think and feel. Validation allows them to have their feelings and thoughts, and shows you understand and respect their perspective. The value in this, other than treating your people like people, is that the more employees feel heard, the more they share. Acknowledging and validating creates rapport with employees so you can then do what coaches do best – ask empowering questions.

2. Engaging employees

It has been noted that managers tell significantly more than they ask. In fact, the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report published by the Gallup Organization shares that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged in the workplace. Basically, these employees do just enough to not get fired. Much of the reason for this average performance is that employees are not routinely asked to contribute or share their perspectives.

As a result, more of the communication you have with employees should be in the form of questions. By asking questions, you actively involve your employees, activate their thinking, get them to use their talents and greatest abilities, and encourage them to make commitments and own their work.

3. Helping employees find solutions

Once you get your employees thinking by engaging them through questions, help them learn to solve more creatively by guiding them to imagine and brainstorm. Help them invent several options to each challenge or situation instead of proposing only one idea or waiting for your solution. By encouraging employees to imagine new solutions, you help them grow, feel valuable, feel heard and become part of the solution.

4. Guiding employees to achieve

The goal of shifting to coaching from managing is to activate greater employee achievement and performance. Connecting, engaging and solving produce a more committed and present employee, which drives greater ideas and a better working relationship. Coach your employees to achieve.

So, what really is the difference between managing and coaching? It is the approach. Managers tell – they push and pull for results. Coaches engage – they use tools to help employees discover and develop their strengths to see their value, think larger, contribute more and own their performance.

Shift from managing to coaching and see the change in you, and you will see the change in them.

Contact Jay for his summary of the Gallup Organization’s State of the American Workplace Report.


Consider reading Are You Ruled by Worry, Fear and Uncertainty?

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The full article originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, February 2017.

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