Why Providing Business Coaching is Hard for Many Managers
Many managers will find it hard to be provide business coaching to their employees, particularly if they are doing it without having any previous training or obtaining a business coaching qualification such as the ILM Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring. One of the most important abilities that an effective business coach needs to have is the ability to encourage the person receiving the coaching to come up with their own ideas and evaluate the merits of each largely by themselves.
Why Do Many Managers Find it Hard to Provide Business Coaching to Employees?
This is where many managers struggle and find it tough to be a business coach. Most will have become so accustomed over the years to being in charge and issuing orders that they will find it exceptionally difficult to sit back and let a person come up with suggestions and evaluate them largely by themselves without constantly interjecting and offering their own opinion.
A high percentage of managers will be extroverts with strong wills and good leadership skills who will be used to talking and making decisions, so sitting back and listening as an employee makes suggestions for decisions is not likely to come easy to them.
Even if they start with good intentions and manage to do it for a while, sooner or later they will begin to exert their own ideas and authority over the employee, often without actually realising it. Soon enough the session will end up with the person sitting there largely in silence with the manager talking at them rather than with them.
How Managers and External Business Coaches Can Work Together
Investing in Employee Training and Development
Business coaching and training is ultimately an investment in the development of your staff. Whilst some such as health and safety training may be a legal requirement to comply with relevant legislation, spending money on other forms of training will be undertaken mainly to develop the skills of staff members. This may be done either to increase their ability from an already acceptable level, or because their current efforts are simply falling short of the manager or owner's requirements for the business.
Monitoring Progress Without Interfering
So when management fork out the money required for business coaching courses or one-to-one sessions, they will normally want to keep a keen eye on their employee's progress and what they are learning from the time spent with the business coach. Rather than being nosy or spying on what is happening, they will want to ensure that the business coach - who will often be external to the company - is focusing on the skills and areas which the manager wants their employee to improve in, otherwise the coaching may not provide the desired return on investment that the manager was hoping for.
However, it is important that the manager does not interfere too much or demand to sit in on the sessions. One of the main advantages of utilising the services of a business coach who is external to the organisation is the fact that their impartiality will allow the employee to talk openly and candidly about the issues which are holding them back in the workplace. Often this may even be something the manager is doing, and the worker may be unwilling to talk about this if the manager is sat right there in the room with them!
A Manager Needs to Work with the Business Coach
So whilst managers should not be so involved with the coaching that they take over or stifle open discussion, they can still work with the external business coach to ensure that the sessions are proceeding along certain lines by discussing them with the coach. The coach should not go into specific details insofar as there will need to be an element of confidentiality between the coach and the employee, but there can be a discussion regarding the direction and objectives of the coaching sessions.
Management and Executives
Business Coaching Can Help to Identify What is Holding Up a Task
Employees who have a problem or issue in the workplace will go to their line manager or supervisor as a first port of call to try and get it resolved. This can either be an operational issue which is impacting upon their physical ability or capability to do a particular task(s), or it can one which is negatively affecting their morale and motivation in the workplace so much so that they are not working to their maximum potential. Engaging in business coaching sessions with them can help to determine these issues.
Issues Need to be Resolved Quickly
Either of these cases has an adverse impact upon the company as a whole, either with regards to its financial performance (e.g. loss of sales) or in the services provided such as customer service. This means that it is in every manager's interests, whether they are a first line manager or a senior executive, to put the issue right.
Line Managers May Need to Seek Higher Approval
Therefore if the line manager cannot use their existing authority or resources to amend the situation, it is important that rather than simply dismissing it that they go so the senior management and executives to try and get them either to fix it directly or empower the manger to do it. Middle managers and senior management need to work together so that between them they can improve processes and remove the constraints which limit the potential for output or quality. Not only can this lead to increased profits, but also improve the company's reputation and brand image at the same time too.
Manager Input on External Business Coaching Providers
Management Input Towards External Business Coaching
A particularly hot topic of debate revolves around the level of input that managers should have on the sessions provided by external business coaching and training providers who are brought in to train the staff members of the manager's particular department or company.
From the manager's point of view, they will more than likely wish to have a significant input into what is being trained or the activities of the session. This is because utilising the services of an outside training company or business coaching provider usually requires a significant amount of investment, and so the manager will hope to ensure that the session is entirely relevant for their employees and that the information being imparted is targeted for their particular requirements. In other words, they will want to know that their budget is being used to good effect.
An External Coach Will Often Want Some Input From The Manager...
A business coach or external trainer will in all likelihood actually like or even require some input regarding what the manager wishes their employees to get out of the training session and what particular areas and issues they should be targeting. However too much 'interference' can be a detrimental issue, as described in the paragraph below.
...But Not Too Much
Whilst the majority of external trainers and coaches will be glad of receiving guidance regarding which areas and topics to train and focus on, they will have their own ways of doing things which, if they are in a position to be a trainer or coach as a profession, are likely to be effective at achieving the objectives. If a manager is too controlling and tries to dictate the entire plan of the session, it will not allow the coach/trainer to run it in the format which they know to be successful at achieving results.
Finding The Right Balance
So whilst managerial input into the make-up of the session is not only desired but sometimes essential for the creation of an effective course or programme, too much can hamper the ability of the external coach or trainer to run the session in their own way. As they are the professional, sometimes it may be better for a manager or supervisor to take a step back and let them run the session as they see fit, whilst providing only a few broad guidelines for the desired outcomes.
Can a Person Receive Coaching from an External Business Coach and a Manager?
Who Should Provide the Business Coaching?
When an employee of a company is to receive business coaching it will usually come from one of two places; either from their particular line manager or from an external business coach who can provide a level of impartiality and objectiveness to the discussions. But can a person receive coaching from an external business coach and a manager at the same time?
Complementing or Contradicting?
This will depend on what exactly is meant by the phrase 'at the same time'. It is a bad idea for a manager and an external business coach to perform a coaching session as a double act in the room at the same time, and in fact virtually every external business coach will strongly discourage this. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, one of the main advantages that an external business coach has is their impartiality and objectivity in their discussions with the employee. This person may be unwilling to openly discuss sensitive issues with the business coach if their manager is sat in the room, particularly if the manager is part of the problem!
But if 'at the same time' means in between sessions with the external coach then the manager can provide additional coaching and mentoring to the employee. Often the business coach will only come at intervals with a certain amount of time in between each visit. During this time the manager can provide additional support, and if they work with the external business coach they can help to ensure that the worker is on track to achieving any goals and targets set by the external coach in the previous session(s).
Business Coaching Within a Hierarchical Management Structure
An organisation which has a hierarchical management structure will have an established chain of command, down which commands and communication will flow. This management structure is based around tight control and respect for the authority of managers, with little room for employee empowerment or initiative.
Finding the Right Balance in the Management Structure
As one of the main elements of successful business coaching for managers is to establish working relationships and engage with them to try and overcome issues which are making them unhappy or demotivated, this style of management is not very conducive for business coaching and mentoring. The managers and leaders in this style of organisation are likely to be of the opinion that there commands must either be followed, or the person should find another job.
Some control is important however, and the best managers need to find the right balance between too much control and too little. Generally speaking, whilst most employees dislike being watched and their work inspected all the time, they also don't like to be completely left on their own to their own devices, as they either feel like their work is not important if nobody wants to see it, or that they may as well start up their own business if they are doing things their way anyway!
But a hierarchical management structure is not totally destructive for business coaching. Just because managers are authoritative does not necessarily mean that there is no room whatsoever for improving motivation through empowerment or allowing some degree of employee participation in decision making processes. It is unlikely that the manager will have the answer to every problem or know exactly what to do every single time. However highly they value their position and ability, there will be times when they need to rely on others for answers, ideas or to produce work over and above the norm, and it will be these times when they will wish they had invested in business coaching for their employees.
How Business Coaching Can Help Managers Adapt
Who Provides Support to Managers?
Despite managers being responsible for guiding the business through changes and times of trouble, they are only human and will often find themselves experiencing emotions such as fear, uncertainty, doubt, and reluctance to change or adapt to altering circumstances. Whilst they may have responsibilities for providing assistance and instruction for those employees under their authority, there will be times when the managers themselves require assistance and support adapting to change.
This is where business coaching and executive coaching comes into play, by providing this reinforcement and encouragement.
Coaching Sessions Combined with Training and/or Other Developmental Resources
There exists a number of training courses and management books about managing change which will give managers useful information and techniques regarding how to manage and adapt to changing situations and circumstances.
For truly effective support though, sessions with an experienced business coach will provide far greater benefits for the individual. These can be provided in conjunction with training courses or change management books, in order to provide the manager with as much useful information as possible, but it is always advisable to make use of coaching sessions as a minimum requirement for those who are having a serious problem adjusting to change or wish to get the maximum assistance for dealing with the situation.
Taking Your First Steps in Business Coaching
It is often extremely useful to discuss your particular feelings and requirements with a business coach during a brief introductory chat, which will allow you to receive a far greater understanding regarding how business coaching can help and what it can do for you in terms of overcoming metaphorical barriers and fears, whether these are related to change or to other factors. If this is something that you would be interested in, please call us on 0844 800 3295 or send us an online contact form and we can arrange it for you.
Alternatively, if you would like to become a business coach yourself to help others overcome their fear of change, why not check out our ILM Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring page which will provide you with an accredited coaching qualification and give you the tools to help you provide effective coaching for others.
Business Coaching and Gaining Managerial Experience
We have already seen in coaching articles related to management training and development such as "A Manager Does Not Have to Do All of The Training Themselves" how business coaching sessions with an experienced business coach can be delivered in conjunction with the individual attending relevant management training courses like a first line management course which actually teaches them necessary information about how to perform the new role.
Exchanges and Temporary Moves for Managerial Experience
The article "Business Coaching and Training for a New Manager" also describes how exchanges and temporary moves can be actioned which give the new manager the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in charge and have the responsibility of a managerial role.
The problem with this is that whilst it may give a person a taster of what a potential new managerial position will be like and allow their superiors to assess how well they cope with the demands and pressures of the situation, it does rather throw them in at the deep end.
Along with being stressful for them, it can also cause disruption and problems for the company. As they cannot be placed in a simulator or dummy department, the team of people they will be temporarily taking charge of will be a "live" one in terms of providing a crucial function for the organisation and the achievement of its objectives (if they didn't then they wouldn't be employed in the first place). This means that placing a brand new, inexperienced individual at the helm could in the worst case scenario result in that team/department breaking down in terms of completing its work on time, which can lead to reduced production levels, lower revenue, increased costs, poor customer service and other negative consequences. Just as a trainee in any industry needs to practice in "live situations" in order to gain experience and improve their abilities, there is still that unsettling time at the beginning whilst they learn their craft on actual paying customers!
Shadowing and Buddying - A Better Option?
Rather than throwing a new manager straight into a real managerial position, however temporary in duration it may be, it will often be a far better option for them to be involved in shadowing and learning from an experienced existing manager as they perform the role instead of having to go straight in to having all of this responsibility upon their shoulders straight away.
Allowing the individual to take part in events such as sitting in on management meetings, viewing documents only meant for managers to see, explaining decisions which have been taken to the new manager etc can all provide tremendous benefits and learning material for them without risking them making decisions on their own which could negatively affect the performance levels of an actual team or department.
Don't Forget Business Coaching
Of course, whether the individual is attending management training courses, shadowing an existing manger, put in temporary charge of a team/department, or a combination of some or all of the above, they should still be provided with business coaching in order to assist them with the transition, change and step-up to a managerial position and the associated responsibilities that come with it.
This will make their adaptation run far more smoothly and help them overcome issues far more quickly than they would if they were largely left to their own devices and to figure things out for themselves with no support in place.
Sometimes Managers Need to Say No to Development and Advancement
Employees Can Take the Initiative for Their Own Development
In the article "Career Development, Business Coaching and Training" we see how employees themselves need to take ownership of their own development insofar as not waiting around and relying totally on managers to provide them with training or business coaching to advance their skills and knowledge.
The Objectives of the Business Need to Come First
Conversely, it is also important that managers do not feel obligated to try and reward everybody or give in to their employee's every wish. It will often not be practical or possible for every worker to be given the exact job role or opportunities for self-development that they desire without detracting and negatively affecting the quality of work and level of output necessary for the actual successful functioning of the business.
Sometimes employees may focus so much on their own individual desires for promotion and advancement that they forget about the needs of the business in terms of the requirement to make a profit and bring in enough revenue to cover the costs and expenses such as staff salaries. It may simply not be possible at the present moment for the manager to take a person away from their workplace duties in order to provide them with business coaching or allow them to attend a classroom-based training course.
Promote Staff Only When Necessary
When it comes to promotion the manager needs to only promote a person on merit and when the business case calls for it. If they promote everybody who complains loudly when there is no need for that promotion (e.g. making everybody a manager), it can lead to problems from factors such as increased wage bills (a person promoted to a managerial position will expect a higher salary) or so many managers giving orders that it not only creates confusion, but also nobody left to actually do the tasks rather than giving instructions to others!
Importance of Managers Making Phone Calls
Managers Need to Avoid Distancing Themselves From Employees
To develop a rapport with employees, not to mention getting a better understanding of exactly what happens in the workplace, a manager needs to regularly take the time to step out of their office and get amongst their employees to discuss both work and non work related topics.
But what about those workers who are not based in the same place of work as the manager such as salespeople or those who work mainly from home? In this case, it is still vitally important for the manager to communicate with these workers, perhaps even more so than with those based at the same location as themselves, as they do not have the same opportunity to talk with the manager. It is all too easy for an externally-based employee to not work as hard as they should or go off at a tangent to what they should be doing because they are not supervised as closely as those located in the same building as the manager.
An Open Door Policy... But By Phone for Distant Employees
To combat this, managers need to ensure that any open door policy they may have for workers in the same building extends to those not in the same location by way of making use of the telephone. Having regular phone calls with these workers will help to develop the same rapport and air of approachability as is the intended goal with employees in the building. Again, by having both work and non work related discussions, managers will be able to determine the characteristics of the individuals and what makes them tick, which is extremely important when it comes to business coaching.
Business Coaching is Easier When a Manager is Respected
Unlike managers who rely on their position to command authority, there are other managers who gain the respect and commitment of their employees by demonstrating particular traits such as honesty, dedication and leading by example. These managers often aim to exert influence over those they are responsible not through fear or demanding compliance "or else", but by making people want to do their best for them. They are the generals who eat with their troops before battle and ride at the front of the charge, as opposed to those who stand on a hill issuing commands and threatening death to anyone who retreats.
As well as aiming to establish working relationships with their employees, these managers are usually much more willing to delegate and empower subordinates to take responsibility for certain tasks. Whilst they will still expect good results, and will provide guidance and control when necessary, the vast majority of workers will respond to this trust by trying to do their very best for a manager they respect and who demonstrates that they believe in them by delegating important work.
In these types of management environment, business coaching is much more effective as it greatly assists and speeds up the process of worker commitment and empowerment. These workers are likely to have higher morale and dedication, which makes them less likely to seek alternative employment. They may also be willing to accept lower salaries than they could get at competing firms if the working environment is much better where they are currently, helping to keep the salary costs of the business down.
By attending business coaching courses a manager can gain a greater understanding as to how to use their personality traits and managerial skills to empower and increase commitment from those for whom they have responsibility. In today's world of much greater labour force mobility and willingness to change jobs, workers are less likely to stay in a job working for someone they don't like and don't feel values them. Not only will this increase employment costs, but the company risks losing its best talent to its competitors.