A Research Paper created by Sairam Jayaraman
(Executive Coaching, INDIA)
Coaching for Upline Management
Recently I had the opportunity to coach a front line manager to become an upline manager. There were confusions in the mind of the client as to how to perform and succeed in the new role. Questions such as:
- How to manage front line managers? Should I be managing tasks, deliverable or morale?
- How do I take responsibility for the functional results of the organization without individually managing the technical folks?
- How do I measure the performance of my manager? Since some of my managers have strong personalities and are very successful with the clients and their teams; how do I manage their performance for continuous improvement?
The opportunity was welcome for me since it came with some classic problems in coaching a person to become a manager of manager. It all started with an initial warm up meeting that I had with the client. I opened the meeting by talking about coaching and my role as a coach and helped the client understand the difference from mentoring. I should have managed to build sufficient trust with the client since the moment I explained to the client that the success of the coaching depended more on how much the client can draw from within and will like him to open up to me about his inner beliefs and value systems; the client started a torrent of thoughts on his life till now. The thoughts ranged from his child hood, the joint family system and as to how his Father had become a victim of greediness of his brothers and how the family went from being a well to do family to a desperate family to areas such as how his belief systems and values have been shaped based the circumstances that the family went through. The discussions helped me and the client to have a firm baseline understanding of his beliefs and value systems such as:
- I’m the owner of my destiny. I cannot hold anybody else accountable for that.
- Does not matter what work I do; I will bring my energy and commitment and not usually worried about what others will think about the type of job I do.
- I usually do not come to judgment about people. Every body should have their own justification for what they do and why they do.
- When life hands you a lemon; Make a lemonade out of it.
- Financial earnings is secondary; earning trust and responsibility is primary
- Be a case of low maintenance always.
We ended the initial meeting, doubling our resolve to work with each other more. I asked the client to perform a standard leadership assessment using the linked in site of Korn Ferry and asked them to understand the definitions of leadership competencies in his organization.
We started our next meeting in another fifteen days. It was a warm summer afternoon and we both huddled after a rather busy morning. I opened up the meeting with a warm question to the client as to what he will like to do during the next sixty minutes. The client replied that he will like to review and discuss the leadership assessment and understand what it means to his role as an up line manager. We both took a look at his leadership assessment and quickly figured the following:
- He is a task oriented leader
- Hands on
- Less communicative
- Avoids conflicts
With a high level understanding of his leadership attributes, we started examining as to how these qualities have helped the client in his front line manager role. Questions such as the following helped.
- Pick one or two of the specific attributes above and help me understand as to how it has helped you in your earlier role as a front line manager?
- Which of these attributes have a strong appeal to you? Help me understand those situations?
- Were there any situations where you felt that you had more of some attributes and less of some attributes and help me understand those situations?
The discussions helped us to associate the findings of the survey with the client thinks and feels about himself. At the end of it, we identified 2 attributes that the client need to sustain in his new role and 2 attributes that they need to work to get better.