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Managing change: Coach them, don't boss them

Consultant believes managers can achieve better results by acting 'coach-like' with their employees   

We think these principles apply also to raising Children - HELLO! TAI TAI

When Susanne Biro coaches people on how to enhance their job performance, she poses this challenge: "What would happen if you really took your foot off the brake?"

Rather than judging, or telling them what to do, Ms. Biro asks them to do their own analysis of what's holding them back, and what they need to do to achieve their full potential.

Often, however, managers assume that coaching involves focusing on the shortcomings of employees, or directing them on how to improve, says Ms. Biro, a Vancouver-based management consultant and co-author of a new book on coaching.

"As a coach, it is imperative that you see your role not as a judge of others' performance, but, rather, as an advocate for their potential," she and co-author Gregg Thompson write in Unleashed! Expecting Greatness and Other Secrets of Coaching for Exceptional Performance, which is aimed at teaching managers to be effective coaches.

But it's not easy, says Ms. Biro, director of coaching at Bluepoint Leadership Development Inc. "As a leader, there are times when I am going to need to direct and advise ... this is part of what I need to do as a leader."

However, the manager who acts "coach-like" in his or her day-to-day dealings with employees will get a more enthusiastic buy-in - even in situations where there is no time to debate the merits of an executive decision - than the autocratic manager who is always issuing orders, Ms. Biro argues.

Executive recruiters and leadership development experts say coaching skills are an essential quality that they look for in candidates for promotion.

"If you're looking at CEO talent, that capacity is really pretty central, along with results orientation and strategic orientation," says executive recruiter Tom Long, a Toronto-based partner with Egon Zehnder International.

Vaughan Campbell, director of organizational leadership and development research at the Conference Board of Canada, says employees expect and deserve the opportunity to develop to their full potential.

Managers who spend most of their time telling staff what to do - and not enough time asking what support they need from management to build on their strengths - will lose credibility, and staff, in the long run, he says.

Employees will bolt, not for the extra $2,000 a year, but because "the boss is an idiot," Mr. Campbell says.

The best managers are able to balance their employees' needs for coaching with their organizations' needs for results, adds Asaf Zohar, an associate professor of business administration at Trent University.

"Good managers are always able to manage the long term versus the short term, the personal holistic development versus the immediate need for short-term results: The client wants it now, the competitor is jumping on it now," he says.

Coaching is not a skill that can be easily taught, but rather one that has to be honed and developed on the job, he says.

Managers who take business school courses to improve their leadership skills might well "get it" in the classroom, Prof. Zohar says. "But then they show up at the office and, with that first deadline, that all that goes out the window."

Ms. Biro says managers who have developed a capacity to coach have an easier time achieving results because their employees have been given the tools to perform better.


Here are some coaching questions for people to reflect on:

When you are at your best, what are you doing?

What would happen if you used all of your natural talents?

Are you currently doing your best work?

What distractions are influencing you now?

What one thing impedes your performance?

What would happen if you really took your foot off the brake?

How can you expand your world of work?

What is the most exciting outcome you can imagine?

What one personal change will result in the biggest benefit?

If you had unlimited resources, what would you do in your job?

What additional resources would be most helpful?

What thoughts and habits no longer serve you well?

What new skills will provide the biggest personal payoff?

What actions do you need to take, but are avoiding?

What specific outcomes are you expecting?

What will be different this time?

What do you need to do so you will have no regrets?

Which difficult conversation needs to happen?

What short-term breakthroughs are necessary?

What do you need from others?

What sacrifices are you prepared to make?

Do you trust yourself to follow through?

What will you do when you encounter unexpected obstacles?

How will you ensure that the changes are enduring?

Source: Unleashed! Expecting Greatness and Other Secrets of Coaching for Exceptional Performance

- by Virginia Galt   GLOBE & MAIL   2007 September 15


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