Reality in Organisations

In my meetings with new customers over the last 18 months, launching Mobile Practice, I have learned much about the challenges and fears of executives who manage field based teams. Some of the feedback I expected and some surprised me. One consistent theme that runs through all my encounters, is the role of the managerial coach. Managers are expected to take on the role of performance coach.

When to be directive with your team, and when to be participative?

First allow me to start with some research findings, I will then share my own personal experience so far.

What the research says....

More than 80% of organizations use a coach approach to management or leadership and most plan to expand its use (Human Capital Institute & International Coach Federation, 2016).

Despite the widespread endorsements of employee coaching as an important managerial activity, managers vary in their willingness to coach their employees. Although good coaching is basic to managerial productivity, most organizations have difficulty getting their managers to be effective coaches. (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 2002)

Photo by Mimi Thian / Unsplash

Coaching effectiveness is usually constrained by the lack of an organizational environment that supports coaching oriented behaviors; time pressure that managers feel they do not have time for regularly engaging in coaching oriented behaviors. (Whitmore 2003)

Where theory meets reality.

I have had the pleasure of meeting customers large and small, from commercial to educational sectors. When we ask how customers coach their field teams today, this generates an engaged conversation. Like the research states, organisations are looking to the first line managers to take on the role of manager coach.

When we present how Mobile Practice works, customers understand  the potential relevancy. What has surprised me if the next statement. Typically senior executives will share their concern in the ability of their managers to leverage a coaching tool that enables them to observe performance and provide coaching performance feedback. These concerns are expressed either from the personal point of view from the Sales Director or L&D Director, or it is the feedback that they have from their managers.

This is an issue that we had not expected. We envisoned a tool that managers could leverage to complement their in-field observations when visiting each team member. We did indeed meet customers who felt their managers had the maturity required to coach their teams effectively using a tool like Mobile Practuce. But we also met with customers who were concerned about potentially exposing their managers.

I am not sure why we should be surpised, research says .....

Supervisors often are reluctant to openly communicate or provide guidance because they do not have the time or they lack confidence when put in the position of “playing God” . This is especially true when they do not have the skills or resources needed for coaching. [Wexley & Latham, 2001]

So we are faced with the reality that Mobile Practice may sometimes expose a delicate issue. As a consequence we re-thought the problem, and have worked with professional coachs to develop a managerial coaching workshop to equip the managers with the toolkit to manage and coach their teams. There is an obvious conflict between a pure independent coach approach  which hold the coachee interest at the centre of the conversation. A manager coach's responsibilty is to the company and team objective, so the coachee or manager's team member's interest must play second fiddle. So the challenge how can you square the circle of a Managerial Coach? where the managers directs and leads the team member, and the Coach who listens and asks pertinent questions to show the coachee the way.

Photo by Lucas Gallone / Unsplash

The second reaction we encounter from executives is when we speak about the opportunity for executives to observe the interaction and coaching performed by the first line managers. On a number of occasions we have unearthed a potential sensitive cultural issue, senior executives either feel uncomfortable observing and coaching managers, or they feel it inappropriate.

Taken from the Sky Lift at the WI State Fair, August 2017
Photo by Tom Barrett / Unsplash

Curiously this has presented shadow coaching business opportunities, as customers prefer to engage external resources to coach the coaches. This demonstrates a cultural sensitivity between the first line manager and the executives that is not observed between the manager and their team members.

Whilst we did not envisage the services of manager-coach training workshops and shadow coaching, we recognise the reality of the needs of our customers and are delighted to adapt in order to deliver value.

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