Magazine excerpt: The human touch

Greg Harris on how to stop managing, start coaching – and motivate your employees.

After my company grew out of the small closet it started in, we set up headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska with employees stationed across the country. However, as with many small businesses, we were concerned our rapid growth could lead to gaps in our communication, triggering employee uncertainty, distrust and, ultimately, disengagement.

Every day, we do our best to focus on our own culture – how we can improve it and what our employees need to be the best version of themselves. In 2012, we surveyed our employees and found they disagreed with two crucial communication statements:

  • My immediate supervisor regularly gives me constructive feedback on my job performance.
  • There is open and honest communication between employees and managers.

Like many of our clients, we were having issues connecting the dots between employee engagement and employee performance. We knew our data would only be helpful if we acted immediately and aggressively. So, we set up a coaching strategy to address employees’ concerns. Here’s what happened when our managers stopped managing and started coaching.

Goals and expectations can only be reached through the proper amount of training and development.

Two-way conversations happen frequently

Most managers feel the extreme pressure from company leaders to get their jobs done. They know what the bottom line is, which means they also know when employees are far from reaching their goals. Feeling this heavy weight causes managers to tell employees how to do their jobs and complete daily tasks. But how does this really benefit employees?

Coaches handle situations like these a bit differently. Even though the desired end result is the same – an employee must understand how to effectively do their job – coaching employees allows two-way conversations that give managers and employees better insight into the issue and how to solve it.

In order to start the process, our managers began meeting with employees one-on-one on a monthly basis (we called them GOOD lunches – Goals, Obstacles, Opportunities and Decisions). Together, they discuss employee career and project goals, obstacles that get in the way of their work or hinder performance, opportunities for growth and advancement, and action steps to take before the next one-on-one meeting.

This allows employees to express exactly what issues or concerns they’re having at work and have the problem immediately assessed. Managers also save time by addressing issues head-on. Meeting with employees frequently gives them the opportunity to discuss both positive and negative feedback to help employees move forward constructively.

Priorities change from tasks to goals

The word ‘task’ sounds so tedious. It reminds me of something I push through just to throw a tick next to it, so I can move on to the next mundane task.

However, ‘goals’, even though they’re not always easy to accomplish, give me a sense of empowerment. When I hear that term, I feel motivated to propel forward, do my best, and advance to the next level.

Managers know the importance of finishing tasks and getting them completed before the due date. Clients, customers and other departments in the company depend on the finalisation of these tasks to move on with next steps.

While coaches also understand the moving parts of the business, they know it’s not about ticking tasks off lists.

Instead, it’s about making goals, hitting or exceeding expectations and feeling pride in those accomplishments. But goals and expectations can only be reached through the proper amount of training and development.

Focusing on immediate supervisors regularly providing constructive feedback on job performance makes teams aware of going beyond daily tasks. Once managers understand that employees want to hear feedback, even when it’s negative, they’ll be able to offer it more openly.

With a manager-to-employee coaching strategy, employees gain the tools and training needed to reach their goals. Managers found helping employees grow to reach their goals gives them the power to achieve their full potential with the company. 


To read the full article go to pages 18-21.

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