For traditional managers, the future looks bleak. However, for those who want to coach and develop people, your time has arrived! Just as a business has to meet its customers’ needs, managers must meet the needs of their employees.

Many of today’s managers believe that meeting the needs of their employees means that they have to have all of the answers, solve all the problems, and “tell” others how to implement their solutions. Managers often present their set of assessments, telling employees what they believe, followed by what they want employees to do. Later, managers check in to be sure the job was done correctly, and then tell people how to improve or change to meet their standards or those of the business.

In Dr. Canton’s article (page 1) he challenged people on the organizational level to be on the leading edge. I agree that “the future is now” for managers, and only the great managers will survive – those who know how to ask powerful questions and coach their staff, allowing everyone see their own successes, challenges, opportunities, and even the need for change. Coaching and asking the right questions are the tools that future managers will need to help employees create and implement their own solutions. Managers will engage employees in real conversations that value employees&#8217 experiences and points of view. They will access experiences from inside and outside of the workplace, regarding employees as “whole people” and tapping into their passions, knowledge, and experience. If managers can do this well, in return they will receive the most valued contribution any employee can make – their discretionary effort.

Working with staff in this manner requires real coaching skills and the ability to ask powerful questions! Let&#8217s look at two short performance-based dialogues between a manager and an employee.

Yesterday’s Manager:

Manager: Jacob, your performance hasn’t been up to par, and you’ve been taking way too long to get your work done. You didn’t meet the goals set out for you, and you’ve been coming in late and leaving early. Do you understand what I’m talking about?

Jacob: I understand.

M: I need to see some improvement in your performance or we’re going to have a more serious conversation. I also expect you to adhere to our normal work hours. Do you have any questions?

J: No, no questions. I’ll do better. Thank you.

M: Thanks. I know you will.

The Manager of the Future:

Manager: Jacob, do you have some time to talk?

Jacob: Yes, I have about a half-hour right now.

M: Good! I’m interested in hearing how things are
going with you.

J: Fine – I mean, I’m a bit stressed because of the new system we’ve implemented. I’m not used to the new technology, and it’s taking me twice as long to get my
work done.

M: What else?

J: Well, my dad has been really sick, so I’ve had to juggle work with being his primary caregiver.

M: I’m sorry to hear about your dad. It sounds like you have a lot going on right now. How have these challenges affected you?

J: Oh boy! I know that my work performance has suffered, and that’s been weighing on me. I’m also preoccupied with my dad. It’s been hard enough to get to work on time, let alone master the new system.

M: Would it help if we spent the rest of our time together brainstorming some ways to address your performance concerns and the time needed to care for your dad?

J: Ah! That would be great!

Which dialogue would you rather participate in?
Which dialogue will yield the best results, build trust,
and ultimately garner Jacob’s discretionary effort?

When I discussed this approach with Mark Blankenship, Vice President, Human Resources at Jack in the Box, he brought up the impact of this kind of leadership on organizational performance as well as growing talent. He said, &#8220If I told you that good leadership and coaching behaviors led to increased engagement, and the correlation between employee engagement and discretionary effort was .72 you might say, ‘Okay – that’s nice.’ If I then told you that the correlation between discretionary effort and sales was .65, you might say, “interesting”, But what would you say if I told you that if Jack in the Box could move the bottom quartile restaurants as measured on employee engagement to the second quartile, sales would improve by 18% and turnover would go down by 25%? This is exactly the difference in performance achieved by leaders who ask rather than tell, who engage rather than push away, and who see their job as building individual capability instead of managing tasks.”

So for both developing talent and leading an organization to new heights, it comes down to a few simple rules – engage each employee as a whole person, ask powerful questions, and coach your employees to success.

January 23, 2011


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