Keep it simple: Manage less, coach more.

According to the Harvard Business Review, over-management costs the US economy around $3 trillion.

November 04, 2021 · null min readPeople Management

According to the Harvard Business Review, over-management costs the US economy around $3 trillion. As companies grow, they inherently become more complex, which leads to excessively bureaucratic structures. These create redundancies, slow down processes across functions, and prevent employees from realizing their true potential.

The fundamental reason for over-management is that legacy systems haven’t moved with the times. The traditional management method is a top-down approach that places the manager several pedestals above employees. This rigid “thou-shall-always-report-to-me-no-questions-asked” style is the exact opposite of what today’s employees want.

About 96 percent of employees feel that being empathetic is crucial to retention. Disengaged employees cost businesses around $550 billion a year. Today’s workforce wants the organization to be interested in their professional and personal development. The way to do that is by being a coach and not merely a manager or boss.

What exactly is coaching?

Despite organizations investing billions to train their managers to become effective coaches, there’s still unclarity about the nature of the job. Some believe the role is more like that of a therapist. Then there are some who believe that a coach’s primary responsibility is to teach.

However they might define it, managers have certain misconceptions about being a coach that affects how they approach it. Team leaders and bosses see it as a transactional and tentative process. So, coaching is only necessary when there is a problem. In other words, if and when an employee states that they have challenges that would need their manager’s assistance.

Some managers resist coaching because they believe it will take up too much of their time. Others confuse it with independent and personalized executive coaching. These misconceptions have ensured that coaching is effective neither for employees nor for the organization.

Coaching can be defined as empowering an employee to fulfill their professional and personal potential and creating a social climate conducive for that. It’s not a quick-fix solution to remedy problems but a long-term process of practical and functional steps that get organically ingrained in the system.

Coaching is the antidote to over-management and unlocks the inherent potential of employees to benefit both individual and organizational performance. If done well, it will increase employee engagement, productivity, and talent retention. To do so, managers would need to follow these three steps:

Be interested

The fundamental premise of coaching is that it should be seen from the employee’s perspective. This means that management structures will have to let go of their legacy command-and-control systems. The key here is to talk less and listen more.

As a manager, you should be genuinely interested in your employees not as subordinates but as human beings. What do they need? What are their dreams and challenges?

Coaching shouldn’t be a one-off annual event. It should be a regular exercise conducted through in-depth conversations initiated by managers. The emphasis should be on how leaders can understand and support employees.

Demonstrate support through casual conversations

Genuine feedback doesn’t come through surveys or forms. Formal assessments are a sign of over-management. Meaningful feedback will only come through casual and natural conversations. These will reveal what motivates employees and what stands in their way.

Managers should use conversations that put employees at ease. Instead of boardroom talk, what’s needed are coffee break talks. There will be a natural flow to these conversations without the rigid barriers of designations and titles.

That will make it authentic and reveal the biggest concerns of employees. Gallup has identified five conversations for managers to know more about the areas that affect development, performance, and engagement.

Focus on engagement, strengths, and performance

Just because you’re empathetic, considerate, and supportive doesn’t mean that you should forget the employee’s standards of performance. After all, coaching is about bringing out the best in the employee that will benefit both them and the organization.

Managers should communicate what they expect from their employees, set targets, and hold people accountable. The focus should be to guide them toward fulfilling their potential. To make it truly effective, managers should also customize their approach to suit the employee’s strengths and weaknesses.

The process shouldn’t be punitive but uplifting. Ultimately, coaches should focus on creating an engaging environment that excites, inspires, and energizes employees to perform at their best.

How can leaders help their managers?

Managers follow their leaders. So, leaders should provide the necessary resources and training to enable managers to become great coaches. To begin with, leaders can take these three actions:

1. Coach managers

The first thing leaders should do is to coach their managers. This shouldn’t be purely transactional at the one end or theoretical at the other end. It should be empathetic and supportive, with well-defined action plans.

When the initiative comes from the top, the process will soon become part of the organizational culture. That will make it seem authentic and credible.

2. Redefine the job expectations of managers

Over-management is the enemy of empowerment. It’s a leader’s fundamental responsibility to simplify tasks. When managers can optimize their functions, they will be able to make conversations with their employees a priority.

Leaders should find and ruthlessly eliminate administrative chores to free up the time of managers. This would call for a redefinition of the manager’s responsibilities and key performance areas. After that, leaders should support their managers with all the necessary resources to coach the employees.

3. Provide managers development experiences

Coaching should be the natural response of managers. For that, their development experiences should be backed by science. An objective approach will increase their confidence and help them roll out functional and effective tactics.

When managers know that what they do will deliver demonstrable results, they will be more inclined to do it proactively and consistently.

In short

Great managers are great coaches. They get rid of over-management and simplify processes to empower their employees and create an engaging and productive culture. Such workplace cultures would also find it easy to acquire and retain the best of talent.

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