Coaching staff doesn't require expensive consultants

It can be done by clued-up managers, commentators say

Plenty of money is made by experts who offer coaching advice to managers, but according Susan Cramm, president of Valuedance, an executive coaching firm in the US, there’s no reason why managers can’t get on and coach their staff without that specialist help.

Writing on CIO.com, Cramm says coaching is not a specialist skill that takes years to perfect and that it doesn't take too much time. She compares it to being a parent — you help others to see their talents.

“To encourage growth, coaches establish clear standards, define stretch goals, and celebrate accomplishments.”

She adds that coaches also use increased authority and delegation to encourage “creativity, initiative and risk taking”.

Cramm cautions that not everyone has what it takes to be a successful coach — some people are too narcissistic to put energy on establishing a proper relationship, for example. For coaches, the ability to empathise with others is crucial.

She says while a task-oriented leader will delegate based on the organisation’s needs and will follow up to make sure the work is completed, a coaching leader also ensures people know what they should learn and follows up to make sure the learning has happened.

The first thing a manager needs to do before coaching staff is to get their trust and that requires understanding their values, motivators and personality, she says.

“This information can be gathered in a couple of hours. You can also get a sense of a person’s skills and abilities through delegating and observing.”

Finding out what motivates staff is important, says executive coach Angela Spaxman in her Manager as Coach newsletter. She argues that while people will do a certain amount for reward, managers get the most out of their staff when they make the most of what motivates them.

“No matter how much you pay people, they will only engage themselves fully when they are delighted by their work and excited about their results,” Spaxman says.

She lists a number of motivation categories and says most people will have at least one type of motivation in each. The first is “achievement”, because most people are motivated by results. People motivated by achievement will appreciate seeing results and feeling the control they have over them.

Another category is “actions”, where people are motivated to do certain things such as persuading people (regardless of the result) or making social connections.

“What do you love to do, just for the sake of it? What do your staff members do when they have complete choice? How can you align your staff's natural tendencies with their role at work?”

A third category is “personal needs”, such as the need for security, belonging or recognition. “When our needs are met, we don't feel excited and inspired, we just feel satisfied. But when are needs are not met, we often show ourselves at our worst.”

Finally she mentions the “contributions” category, where people want to make meaningful contributions.

“They may want to save the earth, help people or express other artistic, intellectual or social values.”

Cramm says the “big thing” your company does can be very motivating, as long as it is clear to staff what it is.

In her article on TechRepublic, Toni Bowers says coaches don't focus on the details of how things should be done, but instead have a broader vision.

“The coach’s role is to help the individual develop the habits he or she needs to be more successful at communicating, planning, organising and contributing to the goals of the business,” she writes.

She says learning to coach is not hard, but does take time, particularly to get over things like ingrained habits and wanting to be seen as an expert in all situations.

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