A new model of managing is emerging in the workplace, in which the focus is shifting from direct instruction to a role that is more concerned with support and guidance. Coaches do not simply tell employees what to do, but rather help direct them towards answers and contribute to their professional development above completing the job at hand. The emergence of this role is partly down to the increased use of various digital channels to facilitate remote working, as well as the arrival of an increasingly digitally-literate generation entering the workforce; employees today are accustomed to making instant connections and receiving instant feedback.

Managers who want to increase employee engagement and cultivate an environment of employee resourcefulness and autonomy in 2021 should look to evolve their current ‘instructive’ approach towards one more focused on coaching employees. However, in order to implement effective coaching, managers first need to understand the principles of being a good coach, and why they work.

Listen to your employees

Listening is the crucial and foundational building block of coaching. As both employees and managers have grown more accustomed to communicating through digital channels in 2020, listening has become more important than ever. But the thing to remember when coaching is that listening is a two-way street. By listening to what employees want, avenues will begin to open up towards offering employees the number one thing they say would inspire them to produce great work: recognition.

When employees feel like their ideas and feelings are being acknowledged by their superiors, productivity improves, loyalty is enhanced, and an atmosphere of collaboration is promoted. Encouraging an ethos amongst employees centred on collaboration is one of the primary aims for any coach.

Ongoing feedback inspires intrinsic motivation among employees

Traditional models of providing feedback are becoming less effective as the tendency grows for employees to crave the instant feedback facilitated by technology as well as an ability to automatically make a direct connection between this feedback and the work they’re doing. For this reason, coaching needs to be ongoing so that feedback is given on a regular basis.

However, it is extremely important to differentiate here between regular coaching and micromanagement. Micromanagement increases when managers become impatient with pointing employees towards self-discovery and revert to handing out direct instructions, dictating what, how, and when things need to be done. Under this management style, employees will learn to always ask before they act and micromanagement becomes a feedback loop, where employees cannot progress on their own. This means that as micromanagement increases, collaboration deteriorates and employee engagement goes down. Instead, through consistent coaching and encouragement, employees can be given the intrinsic motivation to make the unconscious conscious and thus begin to do things for themselves.

McKinsey found that when employees discovered greater intrinsic motivation, 32 percent were more committed to their work and 46 percent were more satisfied with their jobs. This behavioural change towards self-direction – where employees discover blind spots and opportunities for themselves – should be the mission objective for any coach and, again, requires the opposite of telling employees what to do.

To ensure employees have a clear path to developing their autonomy, coaches need to ensure they are fostering a safe atmosphere in which employees feel able to bring new ideas without judgement, criticism or retribution. Creating this sense of a safe space gives employees the confidence they need to try new things and to learn from their mistakes if and when things do go wrong. The ultimate goal here is to find a route out of the feedback loop that micromanagement can cause. In this way, employees are invited to innovate, which can then lead on to innovation across the company as a whole.

Using feedback to inform coaching

Feedback makes us better, and there are other, supplementary types of feedback that are necessary in coaching apart from direct employee feedback. In order to ensure that the customer remains at the heart of what you do, it’s a good idea to incorporate customer feedback into the coaching of employees. What improves the customer’s experience will undoubtedly help you to define how employees can improve in their roles.

Peer feedback is also a useful component of successful coaching. An employee’s peers have a unique and valuable insight into their performance, as they see that person work from a completely different angle, and can provide feedback on their work on a day-to-day basis. As well as giving employees opportunities to learn from each other, this helps to provide team leaders with a much more holistic view of an employee’s work. While it’s not the only angle to consider when looking to coach employees, it can deliver a much clearer picture of an employee’s place in a team or organisation, as well as contribute to other employees’ feelings of being heard and their opinions valued.

Coaching leads to inspiration

By implementing the principles of good coaching business leaders can foster a culture change, evolving their organisations into a place where employees feel inspired. In this environment employees will be encouraged to act on their own initiative without second guessing themselves or asking for help. By bringing together all forms of experience management, such as customer and peer feedback, into the coaching process and making it available at multiple levels, it becomes possible to facilitate improvements across the entire company, simply by altering perceptions of ‘good management’ and becoming coaches.

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