Managers are out

Last year, one of my clients, a Fortune 500 company, asked me to help turn 10 of its mangers into coaches.

Why? Because a manager tells people what to do and how to do it, while a coach asks questions and helps employees learn how to problem-solve their way to success. My client understood that in today’s work environment, managing by control is not practical and does not lead to the continuous improvement of superior performance.

The key to superior performance is coaching your people.

Managing is still appropriate for certain issues such as dealing with discipline, adhering to polices and procedures or instructing on simple or structured tasks. As a business coach, however, I see the impact coaching has on people’s performance.

The transition from manager to coach is a mindset shift. Take, for instance, one of my client’s sales managers-turning-coach, Judy. She was having a difficult time dealing with John, an internal sales person, who was very aggressive and defensive.

In her coaching sessions with him, John would end up taking charge. A few weeks ago, in one of Judy’s coaching sessions with me, I explored this situation by asking her some questions. Questions, after all, are a coach’s best friend.

“What does John remind you of?” I asked.

“A grizzly bear,” Judy responded.

“What would you do if you were trying to deal with a grizzly bear?” I questioned.

“Give him food and run in the other direction,” she said.

After a few more minutes of questioning, Judy uncovered her plan. Whenever John would start to take control of the session — whenever the bear attacked — she would respond by acknowledging or thanking him for his input — throwing him food — and asking questions.

These tools helped her redirect the conversation back to the meeting agenda — run in the other direction — and the specific outcomes they wanted to achieve.

I spoke with Judy this week. Guess what? She just had her best session ever with John. By thinking of the grizzly bear metaphor, she was able to keep John on track and get the meeting done in record time.

Now what if I had managed Judy instead and told her what to do? Would she have had such a quick result? I doubt it. Judy told me she needed the metaphor she uncovered through our coaching session.

Not only did it help her stay focused, it actually made her session with John more fun. Compare that to her prior meetings where she was feeling anxious and uncomfortable with John’s controlling nature.

That’s the beauty of coaching. It can make a good employee better or help someone develop skills to increase performance — all on his or her own.

Patrick J. Donadio is a national business coach and professional speaker based in Columbus. He can be reached at 488-9164 or [email protected]