The Coaching Manager is the Key to a Successful Workplace Recovery

Some of your employees may still be working from home. Some may be back on-site, full or part-time. This unusual workforce mix creates a challenge for most workplaces and managers: how do you manage a hybrid team that still provides a dynamic employee experience and activates employee engagement?

At the center of this unusual moment is the Coaching Manager. Managers and coaching managers both focus on getting things done, but how they get it done makes all the difference.

Conventional managers focus on results and tasks instead of on the person completing them. This disengages your people and misses out on their expanded ideas, contribution and loyalty.

Coaching Managers (also known as Workplace Coaches) focus on relationships as the means to amplify self-belief, abilities and confidence as the means to performance. This builds a sustainable rapport and connection with their people to be able to gather information about what they may be dealing with as it relates to COVID-19. This information is critical to improve the quality of management’s response.

Relationships done well inspire your people to respond, perform and stay. Relationships done poorly encourage your people to use their time to search out new employment opportunities with organizations that celebrate, care about and support their people.

Here are three things coaching managers do well that activate performance and retention:

1. They build trust. As a certified coach, I know I can’t make any progress with a client if I have not first created an environment of trust. I do this by taking the time to get to know the other person, listen generously, support caringly and keep information confidential. Coaches understand people as people – what matters to them, what they struggle with, what success is for them. They listen to what is meant, not just what is said. They remember important details. They ask powerful questions. They care openly. This level of understanding and interest encourages a trusting relationship. Trust facilitates communication.

2. They personalize the contact. Coaches use a variety of skills and tools to understand each person as a thinking, caring and feeling person, who, when helped to feel valuable and important for who they are, respond by bringing their best to what they do. Expressing interest in the lives of your people is critical, particularly at this moment when so much of their days may be spent in anxiety or worry. Knowing what each person is dealing with creates the ability to better decide how to help them deal with it. They want you to know their name, their current situation, their worries and challenges, their strengths and abilities. They want to know you care and are available. Seeing your people as the means to results instead of people dealing with a pandemic will alienate them and send them looking for an organization with managers who think and act like coaches.

3. They guide and support instead of direct and control. One of the ways to encourage self-esteem, confidence and a greater sense of contribution is to help employees own their solutions and performance. Guiding and supporting encourages employees to tap into and use their abilities which activates their self-belief. Directing and controlling limits the employee’s thinking as they only see their ability to perform a task, not to own it or improve it. At this moment, we all need help feeling important, having purpose and making a difference. These feelings counterbalance the challenging negative feelings brought on by the pandemic.

Coach your people to encourage their connection to value, purpose and contribution. Coach them to help them feel heard and respected. Address these and you help employees feel safe and important in their workplace.

Your best talent wants to feel heard, valued, important, supported and cared for. Who wouldn’t when so much of the world seems out of balance? By doing this in the workplace, you not only help your employees stay connected, but you help them see that they are resilient and strong enough to be successful at home and at work – even during a pandemic. Coach them to keep them.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right For Your Business

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How to Move Forward When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going

As a language major in college, I spent part of my junior year in Europe. A semester in Florence was followed by the summer in Paris. The period between the two programs gave me the opportunity to roam through Europe with a backpack to see places I had only heard about.

Sounds exciting, right? Not for me. I’m a planner, so I frequently found myself frozen about where to go because I didn’t have a clear direction.

So, my fellow planners, raise your hand if you love knowing where you are headed so you can create and implement a plan. Needless to say, my hand is up high.

Now raise your hand if jumping in feet first and figuring things out on the fly works for you.

Good for you. And quite frankly, this is where we are at the moment. We are in a world where our old definition of normal is gone and we don’t quite know how a new definition will look.

So, how do you navigate in a world without a clear direction? Consider these three ideas.

1. Get a solid footing. It is difficult to move forward when your world is still moving. You still have people you need to communicate with and continue to communicate to. Ensure you have a crisis team and that they are clear of their role in getting you through the crisis. This includes ensuring your people are safe, your financing and aid are figured out, your expenses are under control and your balance sheet is managed. Ensure proper and timely communication with customers, suppliers and stakeholders. Get stable. Then, catch your breath.

2. Gather information. Then, set up your plan-ahead team. This is different from your crisis team because their focus is on information-gathering. Stop and notice what about your organization worked well and didn’t work well before and during the crisis. Don’t judge it; just notice it. Things that worked well can give you an idea of what to lead with in the new normal. Things that didn’t work well can be improved because any situation, including crises, provides opportunities.

Don’t limit your information-gathering to your organization. Stop and notice what is going on around you because of the crisis, as well. How are consumers acting? How are people communicating? What do people need, want or choose most? What challenges became clear during the crisis that won’t go away without attention? What opportunities did the crisis create for you, your people and your business? Take inventory. Now you know what is actually true versus what you believe to be true.

3. Create future scenarios. Since we don’t know where we are headed, flexibility and adaptability will be your best allies. Start first by building or imagining several possible future scenarios, based on the information your plan-ahead team gathered about your organization, the workplace, the world and trends. You can’t wait until everything becomes clear; the plan-ahead team needs to envision a future through the clouds and fog of the current moment. This ensures the organization starts thinking and planning in several different directions to be able to respond when the fog clears. The worst thing an organization can do at this moment is sit back and wait to see what will happen.

Consider, also, that the organizations that act nimbly and responsively will set themselves apart as the visionaries when things settle. Having thought about the direction things may go can accelerate a response and help you become a shaper of what the new normal becomes. How could your organization step up and lead in this period of confusion, in a way that is responsive and successful?

So, how do you move forward when you don’t know where you are going? Get on solid ground. Understand what is going on. Build scenarios of where things could go. Then stay close to information as things change to be able to add new scenarios or modify the ones you have until you start to develop some clarity about what the future looks like.

This is how I navigated my time in Europe. At the start of each day, I took a breath to stay calm, I took inventory of my resources (i.e. cash, time), then I created options for the day. Though my plan for the day was to visit Milan, bumping into a friend who was on his way to Madrid allowed me to be flexible and respond as my world changed. Madrid became my new destination, and I knew I had the time and the resources to make it happen.

Seems like this approach could serve us well at the moment.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Define Your Edges

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How Your Disengaged Employees Are Impacting Your Customers

Your employees are either building or eroding your brand. Think about their daily interactions with any of your customers. Are they encouraging customers to come back and bring their friends? Or do their actions send customers running and complaining to anyone who will listen?

Either way your brand is affected.

We know that to activate customer loyalty, the organization (and its employees) not only needs to know what customers need and to provide it all the time (this is what drives satisfaction), but to then also choose to do some extras. Ken Blanchard calls it the “+1” in his book Raving Fans. Emeril Lagasse calls it “Bam!” I call it your “Standout!”

Getting it right is great, but doing something more for customers is required to move from satisfaction to loyalty. Both need to happen, every day, all the time.

Here’s the hard question: are your employees delivering this type of customer service to every customer all the time?

Consider this: the Gallup organization shares that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged. This means that nearly 70% of employees do just enough not to get fired, or sometimes do even less.

What does this mean for you? They’re doing just enough with your customers.

Disengaged employees sometimes get it right for your customers. Sometimes. That means that sometimes customers will be satisfied. But satisfied and loyal are two very different things. Disengaged employees will rarely, if ever, consider doing the extras to move a customer to loyal.

Why should you care? Because in our world of intense competition, organizations must know, manage and provide exceptional customer experience in order to grow and succeed. The greater your employee disengagement, the greater the likelihood your customers are receiving average service, which could leave you struggling to achieve your performance goals.

So how can you identify your disengaged employees and start making changes? It starts with greater awareness. Pay attention and notice their performance, effort and response. And ask questions.

Employee surveys are great when used with intention; same with customer satisfaction surveys. But don’t administer them without an action plan in place. These surveys can provide you with valuable information you need to help you make intentional changes to make your workplace better for your employees. And when this is done successfully, it can help deliver a better, more consistent customer service to drive toward loyal customers.

Take Action
There are two critical “experiences” to constantly watch and improve: the employee experience and the customer experience. The employee experience (degree of engagement) drives the customer experience (degree of loyalty). What are you doing on a daily basis to understand where employee engagement levels are and what can improve them?

Remember that employee engagement has the greatest impact on your ability to create a brand that is associated with delivering consistent and exceptional service. This is what ultimately creates a level of customer loyalty where they happily refer you to their friends.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Do Average. Make it an Experience

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This article originally appeared on Vistage’s Talent Strategies Network on August 27, 2019:

Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

By Jay Forte

You have some amazing and remarkable employees who do great things in your workplace. And then you have some employees who do just enough not to get fired.

Sure, these employees show up, but they don’t have the energy, drive and commitment to do the important things in the workplace that advances performance and success. Is it you or is it them?

It is likely a little of both.

The Gallup Organization regularly cites statistics on the engagement levels of employees in the workplace. And alarmingly, nearly 70% of employees are in some form of disengagement. This disengagement happens for many reasons but the most significant are the lack of job alignment and meaningful relationships with managers. Both need to work in concert.

Let me explain.

Alignment is the process of knowing the success attributes of any role and using those attributes to wisely source, interview and hire someone who fits that role. This also applies to knowing and using the success attributes of any role when developing or promoting employees. It is critical for someone to have the abilities needed to be successful in a role.

Alignment, however, cannot stand on its own. You also need a strong, effective and professional working relationship.

In a 2015 study by Peter Massingham and Leona Tam titled, The Relationship Between Human Capital, Value Creation and Employee Reward, the researchers state, “Employee capability may or may not generate value. It is only when individuals are motivated to use their knowledge that it creates organizational benefit, otherwise it is an idle resource.”

Though you may (and must) hire wisely, the job alignment combined with the quality of the relationship the employee has with his or her manager ultimately dictates success. When we feel inspired by those we work for because they make the time for us, value us, develop us and treat us like we matter, we volunteer our best abilities and deliver them with greater energy and effort in the workplace. The result? Greater productivity and performance.

When we don’t make the effort to build the manager-employee relationship, we encourage our employees to move to the sidelines, to do just enough to get by, instead of really contributing. Though they may have what it takes to be great in their roles (they have the abilities), they still need the inspiration, encouragement and interest by their manager to move these abilities from idle to full speed.

Your employees choose how they show up to the moments of their days. Do they do just enough? Or do they fully engage, using their greatest abilities to invent, challenge and improve everything they encounter?

This choice is inspired by how you manage. Are you bringing a healthy combination of alignment and relationships to your workplace?

Take Action

Learn how to be a mindful and inspiring manager. Our Executive Coaching guides you through foundational tools to help leaders and managers better connect with their employees and deliver greater results. Contact us for more information.


Consider reading Stop Managing and Start Coaching

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High Disengagement Rates = Challenge and Opportunity

By Jay Forte

The Gallup Organization’s 2017 The State of the American Workplace reported that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged at work.

What does that mean? Let’s break it down.

Disengagement, as defined by the Gallup Organization, means “employees who are checked-out and put neither energy or drive in their work. They get through the day by doing what they need to stay employed.”

Think about your team. Know anyone who fits this bill?

Though the thought of 70% of the workforce being disengaged is alarming – combined with the additional statistic from Gallup that nearly 51% of employees are searching for new jobs or watching for new opportunities – there is a silver lining: if most of the workplace is disengaged and is looking for a new opportunity, then most of the people you meet are open to change.

Knowing that so many people are disengaged in their work and are ready for a better fit opportunity, what is your current process to build a robust talent pipeline?

Though you do have opportunity to hire new talent, you must first understand and address your own disengagement issues. Unless these are addressed, you may lose some of your good talent to other organizations, or create a high turnover rate among new employees.

So where do you start? Some ways you can address disengagement issues include:

  • Aligning employees to roles where their talents and strengths are needed. This helps them feel competent and capable in their work. How does your hiring process focus on role alignment and job fit?
  • Creating an employee-focused workplace culture that values, develops and supports employees. How intentional and successful is your employee experience?
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to learn and grow, enabling development in their strengths area(s) and encouraging them to own their performance / have accountability for the direction of their career rather than becoming complacent. What is the quality of your feedback and focus on development?
  • Training managers to act like coaches. In this redefined role, managers work to build relationships with employees, set and manage performance expectations, host performance conversations and work to develop employees’ skills. What is your commitment to shift from managing to workplace coaching?

It’s not too late to create a New Year’s resolution for your company. Empower your people to watch for and connect with talented people who may be disengaged or disconnected from their work or employers. Train your employees to be talent scouts. And be aware of your engagement and disengagement statistics. Make a concerted effort to understand why they are what they are. Be committed to cleaning up your house before you bring new people in.

Most of your world is looking for a better opportunity. Could that be at your organization?


Consider reading Succeeding at Difficult Conversations

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A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn in May 2017.

What the IMAX Teaches Us About Being Present

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

I took a break from writing recently to see the new 3D movie Thor: Ragnarok at our local IMAX cinema.

The best way I can describe seeing a movie at the IMAX is that is a truly different type of movie experience. With a significantly larger screen and a fully integrated sound system that creates sound from every part of the theatre, you are completely pulled into the movie. And that’s only further enhanced when you’re watching a movie in 3D.

Those who know me may be surprised to hear I saw a movie – at the IMAX, no less. Truth is, I just can’t sit still that long. But I didn’t move for the full 2+ hours of that movie. I didn’t think about work, life’s challenges or opportunities, or what was due tomorrow. I didn’t feel the need to eat, chat or check my phone.

The IMAX knows how to make you very present, to focus only on the event in front of you and nothing else.

There are three big lessons we can learn from the IMAX experience to help us be more tuned in and present in our encounters with the people and events in our lives.

1. IMAX provides focus. At the IMAX, the screen quite literally fills your view. You’re forced to focus on the screen as a result of amazingly clear visuals that make you notice things about people and places a smaller screen with less clarity just can’t provide. As a result, you gather exponentially more information in each moment that keeps you more connected to the screen and the content.

What would it take for you to focus this way on someone or something to learn the most about them/it?

2. IMAX eliminates distractions. The screen is large and bright, and the rest of the theatre is dark. The sound and music are loud so the noises of the people around you are diminished or deleted. This compounded effect forces you to watch what they want you to watch, to tune in to the action of the moment.

What would it take to not be interrupted by distractions when you interact with someone or do something?

3. IMAX uses many senses. The sounds and sights are all-consuming. You don’t disconnect because the senses work together to keep you connected; this is done both exceedingly well and on purpose.

What would it take to concentrate all of your senses on someone or something to give your full attention?

The IMAX experience teaches us to focus, eliminate distractions and use more of our senses to be fully engaged, to get the full experience. Think of the impact this kind of awareness could have in your life, relationships and situations.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. To be more present, how can you control distractions when you are interacting with another?
  2. To be more present, how can you give a person or an event your attention?
  3. To be more present, how can you manage your emotions and feelings to stay attentive and connected?

Need help getting present? Consider talking with a coach to develop your personal mindfulness practices.


Consider reading Moving in Autopilot.

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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.

The Lousy Manager (and how to avoid becoming one)

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

How did you learn to be a manager? And how do you know when your management style helps create engaged employees vs. driving them away?

According to the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report by the Gallup Organization, employee disengagement is at nearly 70%. And approximately 50% of employees who leave their jobs leave because of their manager. High disengagement is due in part to poor employee-manager relationships, a critical relationship that drives organizational performance.

Having spent years working with managers and leaders, I see some repetitive management styles, some productive, many unproductive.

Productive management styles encourage employees to discover, develop and use their strengths, own their work, think critically, support others, add value and make a difference. Through productive management, employees become more engaged, activating greater performance and retention.

Unproductive management styles don’t support a focus on strengths, accountability or independent thinking.

Here are some of the most frequent unproductive management styles I’ve seen over the years:

  1. Helicopter (or training wheel) manager – You constantly hover over your employees and get involved in every decision, choice and direction. You assist them on everything because you don’t trust them and their decisions, or you feel great pressure to ensure results.
  2. Fairytale manager – You only see the good in your employees. You are not realistic about their abilities, interests, behaviors or performance.
  3. Google manager – You have the answer for everything. You never let your employees discover, learn or try things on their own.
  4. Cinderella manager – You allow yourself to be treated like the hired help. You constantly do your employees’ work for them instead of encouraging employees to take responsibility and own their work and performance.
  5. Tiffany parent – You give incentives and bonuses to everyone without a specific connection to performance, effort or commitment. Your employees have little or no concept of incentives or value.
  6. Thunderstorm manager – You always find some fault with your employees. You are the constant negative voice reminding them what is wrong, not good, or is disappointing about them; your focus is on what’s wrong not on what’s right.
  7. Drill Sergeant manager – You bark orders, demand, confront and challenge. Your employees fear you and are reluctant to share ideas with you.
  8. Pageant manager – You constantly make everything a competition or a comparison, always talking about winners and losers and comparing your employees to each other. You use words like worst, best, better, nicer, smarter or better.
  9. Secret agent manager – You are always checking up on your employees, whether it’s their social media activity, their emails or even if they’re just at their desks. You are convinced they are always ready do something they shouldn’t, or show up and do less than is expected.
  10. Parrot manager – You constantly repeat what the latest management sources say as your way of managing, whether meaningful or not to your employees and your environment. You quote experts but don’t use their wisdom to affect your own behavior. You talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

These styles take away confidence from your employees, hindering performance.

Some of the productive management styles I’ve seen over the years include:

  1. Improv manager – You show up, accept what is going on and use what you know in the moment to choose the best response for the situation and employee. You don’t use managing scripts or apply a one-size-fits-all approach. You are tuned in to the details of your people, performance and opportunities.
  2. Coaching manager – You regularly use questions to get your employees thinking and owning their choices, decisions and directions. You ask more than tell and listen carefully to the responses. You help your employees discover, create and own their solutions; you get to know each of your employees in a way that helps you guide and support them in their current and long-term success. You treat them personally, care about them and make time for them.
  3. Zen manager – You are tuned in. You know yourself and manage your emotions, giving you the ability to more easily separate your employee from his or her actions to address specific behaviors.
  4. Professor manager – You encourage your employees to constantly learn. You introduce them to new ideas and opportunities, and help them value self-development, learning and expanding their skills. You applaud and support them in expanding their thinking and raising their performance.

Just like your employees choose how they show up to their jobs, you choose how to show up as a manager.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. Where do you see yourself in these management styles? Are any of these your “go-to” management style?
  2. Is your style effective or ineffective?
  3. Take a moment to tune in to your work environment. How does your management style impact your employees? Are they happy and engaged? Or doing just enough to not get fired?
  4. Are there changes you can make to inspire greater engagement from your employees?

Think you may benefit from a coaching session? Contact Jay Forte for a complimentary 15-minute introductory discussion to determine if coaching is right for you.

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

How to Deliver Employee Feedback That Gets Heard

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

Most managers think their role is to fix, to watch for areas where their employees miss the mark and correct that behavior. Though this is certainly a component of being a manager, the more critical and meaningful responsibilities of a manager are to guide, support, develop and coach employees into significant or greater performance. If your communication is primarily critical or corrective – instead of supporting, encouraging and empowering – you risk disengaging your employees. They’ll just tune you out.

So how can you get your employees to hear you, regardless of whether you’re sharing supportive or corrective feedback?

Here are my top 3 tips on how to deliver feedback in an intentional manner to ensure employees hear you.

  1. Be present. You can’t offer feedback – supportive or corrective – if you have no idea what’s going on. Most of us only notice things when they go really wrong, which means we’re clearly missing the things that go right – prime opportunities to provide supportive feedback or applause. Tune in. Pay attention. You can’t guide, support and coach without the facts.
  2. Make feedback only about behaviors. Feedback should only be information about how someone acts or acted, not who someone is. You may be upset about the actions of your employee, but that doesn’t make them bad, horrible or awful. Reconnecting to, activating and developing employees’ core strengths is the purpose of powerful supportive or corrective feedback. Venting is unproductive.
  3. Deliver feedback in a way the other person will understand. Feedback has two parts: content and delivery. Be sure both of these align to who is receiving the feedback. Technical explanations to someone non-technical or raising your voice to someone who is timid and shy will guarantee you won’t be heard. Choose what to say and be intentional in how you say it.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. What type of feedback do you typically provide to your employees?
  2. In what ways can you change your approach to providing feedback to ensure your content and delivery is appropriate for the employee you’re speaking with?
  3. How will you inspire and engage employees with well-delivered feedback?


Consider reading Succeeding at Difficult Conversations

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This is a modified version of the full article, which originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, December 2015.

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