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How to Coach Your Boss

I am amazed at how many managers and supervisors in leadership programs I facilitate say they “don’t really know how to coach.” We know coaching works. In a survey from the International Coach Federation and Human Capital Institute, 51 percent of respondents from organizations with what they believed were strong coaching cultures reported revenue above that of their industry peer group, and 62 percent of employees in those organizations rated themselves as highly engaged.

Years ago, as a young salesperson, I reported to a manager who never coached me and never worked with me, ever. How can someone be a sales manager if they don’t coach or develop their team? As former Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli once said, “I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential.”

If you are a key executive or owner of a company, you need to ask yourself a critical question: Are your leaders coaching their direct reports? If you want results and maximum impact, then one of your most important responsibilities has to be coaching the coaches, and here are some suggestions for doing just that.

Hold Them Accountable
Let your managers know that you expect them to coach every direct report on a regular and consistent basis. To me, the biggest asset you have is the undeveloped potential of your team members. The leader coach needs to develop that potential to the fullest extent. Hold them accountable by asking for a monthly coaching report, and make that activity part of their annual performance review.

Train Them
I find that, unfortunately, most leaders are not organically good at coaching, because talking about tough topics can lead to conflict with the person they’re coaching. Even qualified leaders often don’t know how to handle it, because they haven’t received coaching in their own career and seen it modeled. Training is essential for developing the competence and confidence to be an effective coach.

Change Their Mindset
When I was a vice president in corporate America and asked people to meet with me, they always thought they were in trouble. Why? Because the only conversation they had with leaders in the past was disciplinary. I believe there are two different kinds of coaching: corrective and developmental. An example of corrective coaching is a discussion to modify an unproductive behavior, like being late to work too often. Developmental coaching is talking about someone’s career goals and how to develop the skills, knowledge or expertise to help them get there. The reality is the leaders need to be having more developmental coaching conversations. That change of mindset can increase sales, increase productivity and boost morale.

Reward and Incentivize
The reality is humans do what they are rewarded for doing. Put together a leader’s compensation package or provide a bonus for their role as a coach. Far too often, we reward managers for meeting business objectives, but don’t set or reward coaching objectives. Create a “coach of the year” award for one manager each year, and generally compliment leaders for coaching and developing team members.

The bottom line is, if you want success and growth, you have to coach the coaches.

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