06 aug Most Managers Think of Themselves as Coaches
As a manager, do you think of yourself as a leader or as a coach? Do you, for instance, feel it’s important that your staff see you as an expert or do you prefer to create an egalitarian environment? Are you the person who solves problems or helps your staff come up with their own solutions? Are you more comfortable being directive or collaborative?
Results of a survey we’ve been conducting indicate a stronger desire to display coaching attributes than we were expecting.
Our assessment consists of 30 items we have tested and correlated to the most important attributes associated either with strong, top-down leadership or excellent coaches. (If you have not yet, we encourage you to take the assessment now, so that you can compare your scores with the those we present below.)
More than 2,000 readers responded to the survey. The results represent a global audience with 60% of respondents from the U.S., 10% from Europe, 9% from Asia, 6% from Canada, 2% from Central/South America, 2% from Africa, and 11% who did not identify their location. Respondents represent a fairly even mix of all levels in the organization: 20% executive management, 23% senior management, 27% middle management, and 30% supervisors or individual contributors.
You can compare your scores to others in the chart below here, which displays ranges of scores we’ve so far collected for the three different attributes. A negative score indicates a preference strong, direct leadership, managing through applying your expertise and through giving advice and clear direction. A positive score indicates a greater desire to act as a coach. Generally speaking, we have found through our research and our experience, excellent coaches would rather help others discover an answer for themselves than give advice. They prefer to act collaboratively rather than tell people what to do. And they prefer to act as an equal rather than as an expert. And as we analyzed the data, we were surprised (and frankly, pleased) to see that three-quarters of scores were positive, indicating that the vast majority preferred to manage through coaching.
Years ago, Joe recalls sitting through an introduction by the CEO of a Fortune 50 company that had grown dramatically by acquisition. In his presentation, he said, “The reason we bought all these different companies was that we felt like they would be worth more together than they would running as separate entities. The only way we get that value is through your efforts to collaborate and work together.” Most of the CEOs across the world have given that same speech. Apparently, people are hearing the message.
Well, perhaps. What we’ve tracked here are people’s desire to act in a particular way, not what they actually do. We imagine many readers are saying to themselves, “My boss does not seem that interested in letting me discover my own solutions.” Or many could be musing, “It’s true that sometimes we desire an open, collaborative conversation only to find ourselves barking out directions and orders.” That can happen, but there’s a world of difference between organizations in which people fall short of a collaborative ideal and those that don’t subscribe to it at all.
As we looked further into the results, we found those in top management positions to have the strongest desire to be more collaborative and help others find their own solutions; supervisors ranked the lowest. That jibes with our own experience, in which we find supervisors often believe that they are expected to give advice, give orders, and assure that orders are executed. But, remarkably, even this group prefers coaching to directive leadership to some degree.
We find these results so heartening because, frankly, we’ve seen supervisors and managers who were really good at getting results by giving lots of direction and advice and staying on top of all the details. A really effective autocratic leader can be efficient and quick about getting things done. But something suffers in the process. People wait for orders. They stop taking initiative. Their level of engagement declines slowly—and often rapidly—as time progresses. It can be easy in the effort to get the job done to lose sight of the long-term goal of helping people get better at getting the job done. The enormous value of coaching is what it does to develop people and create an ever more engaged and empowered team of employees.
From: Harvard Business Review / Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman