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Manager: Great Fixer or Great Coach

Ever wonder why more managers don't use coaching skills [Do Coaching Skills Benefit Managers] to grow their people? While quite a few have had some sort of coach training, much too often coaching conversations are the exception, and not the rule.

The Fixer

What happened for you after you returned to the office following coach training? For the majority of managers, reverting back to the old way of doing things - instructing, advice-giving, and explaining instead of asking questions to encourage people to think things through – didn’t take very long. And do you know why? Because most managers are great problem-fixers instead of coaches. We think that when an employee presents us with a problem, particularly if it’s one that we think we can solve, we jump in and try to do just that. But in doing so, we rob our employees of the opportunity to grow, to think through, and generate a solution of their own. And guess what, you might just miss the opportunity to entertain an idea generated by your employee that’s actually better than the one you came up with.

Oh, I know, we have good intentions, but the manager-fixer creates numerous problems:

  1. Quick fixes don’t teach people to think for themselves. When managers explain what needs to be done, some learning may occur, but it isn’t necessarily retained. Employee engagement is minimal. 
  2. When work is challenging, employees will look to their managers for a quick and easy fix. They’re denied any sense of ownership or autonomy. When people aren’t fully engaged or empowered, their job satisfaction significantly decreases. 
  3. This leads to a third problem: Managers who fix problems encourage dependency, thereby creating additional work for themselves. Being the hero who comes to the rescue may boost your ego, but you’ll become increasingly overwhelmed with work and ultimately create a bottleneck.

The Coach

Believe it or not, at most companies, coaching isn’t part of what managers are formally expected to do, it’s more of a collateral duty. Research however, has made it pretty clear that employees and job candidates alike value learning and career development above most other aspects of a job. Still, many managers don’t see it as an important part of their role. ~ Monique Valcour, “You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach” (Harvard Business Review, July 2014).

Why? Because they believe they lack the necessary time for coaching conversations. Can you see that coaching opens the door to opportunity? Seventy percent of an employee’s learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training. If line managers are unsupportive or uninvolved, employee growth, engagement and retention are stunted. Good coaching will ignite a conversation that stimulates your employee’s thinking, and hopefully lead to growth.

What happens where you work? Are managers there to fix things or to coach? I'd love to hear your experiences. I can be reached at Simply Lead Coaching and on LinkedIn.

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