Research Paper By Frank Owiredu-Yeboa
(Business Coach, GHANA)
Leaders and Managers in an organization have the responsibility to lead and manage their people and other resources to achieve a specific target. In most profit-making organizations, the target is mostly an increase or maximization of profit.
Leaders/ Managers are assessed/ appraised on how well they can achieve their targets. Achieving the targets will mainly depend on the effectiveness of their leadership or management style.
Many scholars have various definitions of Management and the role of Managers. A few examples are;
‘as knowing exactly what you want men to do, and then seeing that they do it in the best and cheapest way’” – Taylor, 1911,p.7
‘it is a multi-purpose organ that manages a business and manages managers and manages workers and work” – Drucker 1954,p.17
“is the art of getting things done through and with people in a formally organized group”. – Koontz 1961,p186
“as the process of planning, organizing, directing and controlling organizational resources (human, financial, physical and informational) in pursuit of organizational goals” – Dunham & Pierce 1989, p.6
Levels of Management
Most organizations have 3 levels of management.
Top Level Management
These are often called the C-Suite Leaders/ managers. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Finance Officer (CFO), etc. They are responsible for the strategic direction of the organization and are mostly not involved in the day-to-day activities of the company.
This level of Managers reports to the Top-level Managers and is responsible for units within a functional area of an organization. They are responsible for the junior Managers.
Junior / Lower Level management
This is the beginning of the managerial role. They report to the middle managers and are responsible for non-managers and other staff in the organization. Typically, they are responsible for the staff that is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the organization e.g., meeting and solving customer issues, filling an order, first level of complaint management, etc.
This research paper will focus on the junior / lower-level management, usually called the operational level, and how they incorporate coaching as part of their management style or tool.
Leadership and Management styles
There are seven common leadership/ management styles.
The autocratic style is sometimes referred to as the Coercive style. Autocratic Leaders impose their ideas onto their direct reports. The phrase most illustrative of this style is “Do as I say.” It comes from the belief that the staff he/she is working with may not know or understand what is at stake and the leader makes all the decisions.
Bottom of Form
This is usually exhibited by leaders with strong and confident personalities. The phrase most illustrative of this style is “Follow me.” They have the vision and sets the agenda for their team to follow.
This is usually exhibited by a hands-on leader who has gotten through the ranks and is very familiar with the task at hand. Their illustrative phrase is usually “Do as I do”.
Democratic leaders are more likely to ask, “What do you think?” They share information with employees about anything that affects their work. They also seek employees’ opinions before making a final decision.
This is exhibited by leaders who believe employees have a lot of latent talents that need to be tapped. When applying a coaching leadership style, you tend to have a “Have you considered this” approach to solving problems.
With this style, “People come first.” In all their dealings they want their staff to be emotionally satisfied and balanced and then they expect them to give their best.
Coaching as a management style at the operational level
According to the International Coach Federation (ICF), coaching is defined as a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
A partnership with clients involves people of ‘equal status’. Hence in a coaching relationship at the corporate operational level, the leader/ manager must form an ‘equal relationship ‘with the staff and create the necessary safe environment where they (Manager Coach/Subordinate coachee) can engage together without anyone feeling superior or inferior.
This poses a challenge as the staff/ direct report knows he reports to the Manager/ supervisor. It may also be that in employing other leadership styles, the manager/ supervisor has made it abundantly clear who the boss is. Changing that impression in the mind of the direct report simply because the manager/ supervisor is employing the coaching style in one situation will be difficult to achieve.
A thought-provoking and creative process… mean deeply thinking about the subject at hand and finding reasons and clarity about it. It is a creative process because solutions/ideas/ insights that are gotten from the process are original. How far will the manager/ supervisor be willing to allow for the direct report to come up with his/her solutions? How much time remains to the next cycle of performance review for the manager to allow the direct report the space to experiment with new thoughts and insights? What if their thoughts and insights are not aligned to that of the organization? These are but a few issues that may impact the thought-provoking and creative process.
Inspires them to maximize their … potential. Within the partnership, creative and thought-provoking environment, solutions are developed by the direct report which inspires them to achieve greatness. The solutions were not handed down by their leaders. The solutions came from their own pool of resources and talents that they never anticipated exited within themselves. When this is achieved, direct reports take ownership of their solutions, and the success rate is higher than when it is handed over to them.
The Leader/ Manager employing the coaching style uses specific skills such as active listening, asking powerful questions to explore areas the staff has never thought about, giving the staff space to reflect, challenging the staff to look deep within themselves, etc.
Leadership freak, an online blog defines coaching – as a management style – enables managers to solve problems, enhance engagement, fuel performance and increase enjoyment in ways that connect with today’s workforce.
The blog goes further to enumerate some challenges in applying coaching as a management style at the operational level.
Time Pressure and deadline
The time cycle/ deadline at the operational level is quite short. The process of coaching as a style requires the coach manager to give time and space to the coachee. In some cases, management may not have the luxury of time to wait for the coachee and then use another style that will give immediate results albeit, at the expense of the development of the coachee.
Honesty and Candor when Coaches control Opportunity, salary, and advancement
Managers are responsible for performance target setting and appraisal of their direct reports. This is a great opportunity to incorporate a coaching style in the process. The processes require honesty and candor in appraising and giving feedback. How the manager coach does this can affect the trust climate in the coaching space. Does the coachee feel the manager is being frank or has some biases? Issues like promotions and pay raises naturally have the potential to create mistrust in any coaching relationship especially when there are several direct reports, but few have to be chosen.
Goals that are set by Top management, not the coachee.
Many of the objectives setting and performance contracting are done with specific defined goals and outcomes. These are then imposed on the coachee who is expected to achieve them within the time span. This is mostly in conflict with the process of coaching. The manager/ supervisor will have to skew the conversation to fit the outcome that has already been imposed. Such situations make it difficult to achieve ownership and buy-in from the coachee staff.
Coaching managers know how to do the coachee’s job.
In a typical organizational setting, supervisors and first-level managers are taken from the pool of staff doing well at the operational level. It, therefore, goes without saying that such supervisors/managers are skilled in what they are supposed to be managing or leading their reports to achieve. The nature of coaching is not to provide solutions for the coachees but to allow the coachee to come up with his own ideas on how to solve the challenge. In such a situation, the manager coachee may find it difficult to restrain him/herself from giving suggestions and may compromise the coaching process.
Lack of training
In many organizations, quality training is focused on the top. Lower level management and other staff are given some training but not adequate to let them understand the concept of coaching. Many organizations have a few hours and days of coaching training and although they will call themselves, they lack the skill of a beginner coach in the professional sense. This limits their understanding of the process and the benefit that can be derived from it. On the other hand, they may have been introduced or exposed to another style of leadership/ management and may by default use that.
Reflections on the way forward
Embedding Coaching Style as a Culture.
Culture is defined as ‘the way we do things within society. One of the most difficult things to change is the culture of a people or group. A bad culture that is retrogressive will thus affect the fortunes of the organization and a good positive culture will also contribute to the benefit of the organization.
Embedding a coaching style of leadership in an organization will ensure that it becomes part of the DNA or fabric of the organization. Every Leader/ Manager/ Supervisor etc. by default will be practicing a coaching style consciously or unconsciously. Once it becomes an entrenched culture, the organization then will reap the benefits.
Focus on Long term gains.
Coaching, by its nature, needs time for the effects to manifest. Many CEOs and leaders of organizations may not have the patience to ‘wait’ for the results of coaching. Comparing to sports clubs, many of the successful clubs have had coaches for the long term and having space and time to develop the team. Shareholders and market players by their nature assess management by the short-term results. Repeated poor results may lead to the exit of the executives before the positive effects of implementing coaching become visible. Once the executives are assured of time, they will then consider implementing such long-term strategies and styles.
Training all levels of leaders.
Most often, the organization focuses on the training and development of senior-level management. Lower-level management is restricted to a few training programs in a year. These are even targeted at a very specific course that can give immediate outcomes affecting the bottom line. Giving lower-level leaders adequate training on coaching ensures that they practice the same in managing their staff. As they rise in the company, they will continue to use such skills and their direct reports who may have been promoted to replace them will also employ the coaching style and they have been exposed to by their leaders. A coaching culture will then have developed.
Assessment of Leadership styles to ensure the use of coaching style.
Many of our assessments incorporate organization is on the results and not the process. A new means of assessment must be developed to ensure the process is measured and not the results. This will afford the organization to link the dominant style employed by the Leaders/ Manager to the results obtained. This is what Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Coveydescribe in ‘The 4 Discipline of Execution, 4DX’ as the lead measures. In their book, they made a case that it is rather important to measure the factors that will lead (Lead measure) to the results other than the output (lag factors). In this specific case, a measure such as How many coaching conversations were held within a period will lead to better outcomes than how many complaints did, we receive? By having frequent coaching conversations, it is expected that customer complaints will reduce. It, therefore, makes sense to look at what will create a desirable outcome.
There are various styles of leadership. Many management gurus recommend not sticking to one style but rather adopt a style depending on the situation. The coaching style is recommended when management wants to develop long-term capacities and competencies among staff because of its approach.
Icf-cf.com. 2021. ICF-CF – What is Coaching. [online] Available at: <https://www.icf-cf.com/What-is-Coaching> [Accessed 10 February 2021].
Leadership Freak. 2021. 13 Challenges All Coaching-Managers Face. [online] Available at: <https://leadershipfreak.blog/2015/07/01/13-challenges-all-coaching-managers-face/> [Accessed 10 February 2021].
McChesney, C., Covey, S. and Huling, J., n.d. Summary of The 4 disciplines of execution.