Coaching as a management style

CB_8a2015-04-24-(2) Cristina Bianchi is a Training Box Co-operation Partner, Managing Director of Enhance Training and Development and co-author with Maureen Steele of Coaching for Innovation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). We are delighted to have Cristina’s views on coaching as a management style.

What is coaching and how does it relate to management? The International Coach Federation defines coaching is as follows: “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

In my experience as coach, I have come to the conclusion that a distinction must be made between delivering coaching as a consultant or using coaching as a communication style in the daily interactions with our employees. As a consultant, I define coaching as the process of accompanying an individual in the search for answers around an issue or a goal which is perceived by that individual as being worth clarifying, and/or pursuing. This is achieved by the coach mainly through questioning, active listening, and challenging assumptions. Occasionally and when appropriate, the coach proposes alternative routes as to how to tackle that issue, which the person being coached (the coachee) might decide to pursue or not.

What are the implications if the coach is also the manager?

Among the different possible approaches managers might decide to use in their daily interactions with their team members, coaching is the approach of choice when the managers’ goal is to further develop their people so they become more self-reliant, autonomous, and self-confident. For the manager this means:

Stepping out of his/her propositional role and soliciting the team member’s input and ideas on how to tackle the issue at hands.

Having the ability to ask the right questions, listen attentively to the answers being given by the team member and challenge his/her assumptions.

Encouraging the team member to use his/her knowledge, experience, skills, and intuition to come up with the answers.

However, the whole process also implies the ability and courage of the manager to evaluate and accept the possible consequences of letting the team member make his/her own mistakes whenever possible so that the learning can be enhanced. Due to the fact that the manager’s performance depends on the performance of his/her team members, the coaching process will have to include a mutually agreed ‘checking system’ whereby the team member is given the feedback and support he/she needs from the manager in order to tackle the issue, and the manager receives regular progress updates from the team member.

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