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Coaching: A Manager’s Best Tool

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Your job, as a manager, is to coordinate people and resources to get work done. Important parts of that are:

  • getting the most from your people
  • getting things done ever-more effectively and efficiently
  • developing your team’s capacity and capabilities
  • motivating people to work at their best

and so on…

One management skill has emerged as the solution to all of this. It does not stand alone, but over the last thirty years we have learned its power to enhance individual and organisational performance. That skill is coaching.

Coaching is not new

The best managers, leaders, and teachers have been doing coaching for years – hundreds and thousands of years. What is new, is that the process and techniques have been studied, systematised and turned into a thousand books, articles and training courses. This means that coaching is no longer the preserve of the few who figure it out for themselves and have a natural talent: anyone can learn it, practise it and master the skills.

At its best, coaching is a valuable conversation that lets one person figure out what they need to do to get the results they need.

The Principles of Coaching

The core principle of coaching is respect for the person you are coaching. As a coach, you need to assume that the other person can find the solution to the challenge they are working on, whether it is a workplace problem, improving under-performance, or preparing themselves for a promotion.

To support this, the fundamental skills are

Questioning – asking good questions that increase the other person’s awareness of their situation and help them perceive things in a new way

Listening – so that you can ask questions founded on exactly what they say

Patience – giving time for the other person to work out solutions for themselves

Trust – recognising that they will make mistakes, but that is a valuable part of learning

As a manager, you need to balance opportunities to learn (sometimes by making mistakes) with the need to manage risk. But the thing that surprises most new coaches is how often the coaching process finds a good solution first time – and often a better solution than the coach themself would have thought of.

The Process of Coaching

There are a lot of methodologies for coaching – many of them proprietary. Most of them offer an acronym to help remember the areas for questioning and exploration. These are:

Coaching Process

One acronym is, in some ways, the obvious one: COACH

The COACH Coaching Process

Further Reading

Coaching is one of the most discussed topics on the Pocketblog. You may also like the following Pocketblogs:

An Infinite Number of Coaching Acronyms
So you can see how different models follow the process above – and find the acronym you like best.

Keep it SIMPLE
A look at the Solution Focus approach to coaching.

Who is getting in your way?
The ideas of Timothy Gallwey who many regard as the originator of modern coaching as used in the business and management world.

Let’s sort out poor performance, Part 2: Turnaround
An example of how coaching fits into the pragmatic world of management.

The Awesome Power of Mentoring
Mentoring is often discussed in the same sentence as coaching. Find out what it is and how it can work for you, as a new manager.

Questions, Questions, Questions
…is about the art of – questions!

and

Listening
is about listening

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Setting Good Goals

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Goal setting is such a fundamental part of management, that we sometimes forget what it is for.  It has become embedded into formal processes that can distance us from what we are doing and turn good management practices into form-filling, box-ticking routines; devoid of any real meaning or purpose.

So let’s be explicit about what goal setting is for

We set goals for others so that they will know when they have achieved what we want.  We set goals for ourselves, for the same reason.  Goal setting is therefore about:

  • Giving a clear direction and reason for work
  • Giving an equally clear indication of when to stop
  • Being explicit about what triggers the reward – which may only need to be a thank-you
  • Setting a standard of achievement, on the route to mastery
  • Motivating people to achieve what is needed

SMART Goals

There are a lot of formulations of SMART goals – most typically:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

All of these are designed to remind users that good goals are explicit about what is expected, balance challenge with realism, are rooted in what is important, and have a time-scale attached.

What, Why, When, What if?

Good goals need to answer these four questions:

  1. What do you expect of me; precisely?  I need to know what you want in enough detail to be able to meet your expectations.
  2. Why are you asking it of me?  Without a sense of valuable purpose, I shan’t be motivated.
  3. When do you need it by?  So that I can schedule the work into my diary and assign it the right priority.
  4. What if things don’t go according to plan?  What resources can I draw upon, what help will you offer, what compromises are appropriate and what are not acceptable, what authority do I have to make decisions?

The key, however, to good goals is that they must be agreed between you, the manager, and the person for whom you are setting the goals.  The best way to get the commitment you need is to express the goals clearly, put them in writing and then to look your colleague in the eye, and ask: ‘do you accept this goal?’

When goal-setting becomes a formal process it loses its power.  Make good goal-setting an everyday routine – part of your day-to-day management of your team and of each individual.  Formal, annual or quarterly goal setting will then feel easy – it will set the strategic context for your day-to-day management.

Further Reading

The Performance Conversations Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

Performance Management Pocketbook

Feedback Pocketbook

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Positive Organisational Scholarship

Positive Organisational Scholarship

Positive Organisational ScholarshipThe easiest way to understand Positive Organisational Scholarship is to think of it as the systematic study of Positive Psychology, at the level of an organisation. And, if you need a primer on Positive Psychology, take a look at our article.

A lot of the formal descriptions of Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS) use dry academic language. Put simply, it’s the study of what makes members of an organisation perform at their best levels, by focusing on what they do well.

Continue reading Positive Organisational Scholarship

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Solution Focus: The Future Beats the Past

Solution Focus: The Future Beats the Past

Solution Focus: The Future Beats the PastYou can focus on the problems you have. Or you can focus on the solutions. As big ideas go, they don’t get much simpler than solution focus. It’s simply a binary choice to focus on the future, rather than the past.

Solution focus has its origins in Solution Focused Brief Therapy. But therapy isn’t what we specialize in here at Management Pocketbooks. So, instead, we’ll turn our attention to what managers can learn from the ideas, and put to use in solution-focused problem solving and coaching.

Continue reading Solution Focus: The Future Beats the Past

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Management By Objectives: Delegating Outcomes

Management by Objectives

Management by ObjectivesPeter Drucker is the originator of Management by Objectives. It’s a Big Idea that, in various forms, still dominates much of the corporate world.

It’s not sophisticated, nor very clever. It is the simplicity and directness that makes Management by Objectives a powerful tool for any manager. However, as a corporate culture, it may have passed its sell-by date.

So, let’s see what Management by Objectives is, how it works, and what its strengths and weaknesses are, in today’s world.

Continue reading Management By Objectives: Delegating Outcomes

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Hierarchy of Needs: Motivation Stack

Hierarchy of Needs

Hierarchy of NeedsAbraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the world’s best-known management and psychology models. And the internet does not need another detailed article about it.

But, the hierarchy of needs is a Big Idea. In fact, it’s a Big Idea structured around another Big Idea, with a third Big Idea built in, all of which sit on top of an important point.

The truth is that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs well and truly earns its fame among management models. This is despite a welter of critiques and failings, and a series of later and more rigorously researched theories and models.

So, this article is going to take a rather different view of the hierarchy of needs. But one that will be instructive, nonetheless. Here, I want to break apart the Big Ideas buried in Maslow’smost enduring work.

Continue reading Hierarchy of Needs: Motivation Stack

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Big Five Personality Traits

Big Five Personality Traits

Big Five Personality TraitsThe quest to understand human personalities has been going on for 3,000 years, or more. The Big Five Personality Traits are just the latest in a long line of models that take us towards that understanding.

And, it would be as absurd to think that the Big Five Personality Traits will be the last word on the matter as it would have been to stick with the four humours. But perhaps what the centuries of scientific development, and acres of statistical analysis, can assure us of is that we are honing that understanding.

How like the Big Five our 22nd Century model will be, we cannot know. But, for now, the best representation we have, of the fundamentals of human psychology, are the big Five Personality Traits. So, what are they?

Continue reading Big Five Personality Traits

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Key Performance Indicators: KPIs

Key Performance Indicators - KPIs

Key Performance Indicators - KPIsKey Performance Indicators – or KPIs – stem from an insight that is most often attributed to Peter Drucker, in his 1954 book titled, ‘The Practice of Management’:

‘What gets measured gets managed’

That attribution may be contested, but the central assertion seems pretty sound. If your organisation measures performance against a specific metric, then its managers feel an incentive to manage their parts of the business, so that they perform well against that metric. KPIs are nothing more nor less than the key – or most valuable – metrics.

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360 Degree Feedback: What Everyone Thinks of You

360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree FeedbackOrganisational life revolves around performance monitoring and measuring. Often it’s a single person who will assess your performance. But what if they had access to the observations of all sorts of people who work with you in different ways? That’s the big idea that 360 Degree Feedback represents.

The idea and practice of 360 degree feedback has been through rises and falls since it first appeared in the 1950s. And it really took off in the 1990s. But it is as important today as it’s ever been. So, let’s examine 360 degree feedback from a number of angles.

Continue reading 360 Degree Feedback: What Everyone Thinks of You

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The Wisdom of Teams: Outperforming Individuals

The Wisdom of Teams

The Wisdom of TeamsThe Wisdom of Teams is a true classic among Twentieth Century business books. Based on detailed interviews with 47 teams across the US, it uncovers the wisdom of what teams can achieve, and how they can perform at their best.

The authors of The Wisdom of Teams acknowledge that what they discovered is both obvious, in that we recognise the truths straight away, and subtle, in that making sense of them in the real world can be hard. They rank their findings as both common sense and uncommon sense. And all this is as it should be. Teams are people. And people working together can be messy and hard to characterise.

So, while the book has been criticised for its obviousness, and also for being too long and sharing too many long stories, this is its nature. Real team stories show not just the obvious truths, but the subtle complexities too. Perhaps the biggest idea of the Wisdom of Teams is that there is no one Big Idea, but many smaller big ideas.

Continue reading The Wisdom of Teams: Outperforming Individuals

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