Human communication

What is the difference between a manager and a coach?

The continued disruption of the pandemic has resulted in the departure of 38 million workers in 2021. With many roles now remote or hybrid and tech talent especially in short supply, organizations need to look at leadership from a different perspective.

People who quit their jobs often do so because of bad managers. Therefore, to retain employees, organizations need to rethink what management, leadership and coaching mean. A coach provides the support and guidance that helps individuals realize their potential. And since human connection is lacking in many workplaces today, this is essential for every business.

6 Steps for IT Managers to Embrace a Coaching Culture

The traditional line manager structure is all about authority: they focus on a specific outcome, directing and telling employees what to do. A coach, on the other hand, inspires and directs. A sign of a good coach is their ability to motivate employees, regardless of industry or role. Coaches set a positive example by partnering, growing and focusing on the long term.

[ Also read: The new CEO: Chief Empathy Officer. ]

A coach listens, guides and continually provides constructive feedback that helps the individual grow and develop. Embracing a coaching culture builds trust and facilitates employee change and growth. When you invest time in supporting an individual’s professional growth, the reward is increased engagement and production.

As an IT manager, how can you move from management to coaching? Here are six steps that will help drive transformation:

1. Get to know your employees well

A good coach understands an individual’s skills and abilities and helps them identify areas that need development. Training and practice are essential for individuals to broaden and strengthen their skills. Implementing training programs to help employees learn new skills is a wise investment.

2. Guide their career path

A coach guides team members on their career path. Never underestimate the value of cultural fit, especially with today’s hiring challenges. When you have an employee who fits the culture of the company, help them grow. Ask them to clarify their ambitions by asking them what they see as their next step. Schedule regular meetings to exclusively talk about their career path and be sure to give your employees feedback to help them progress.

[ Read also: 3 strategies to build employee development programs ]

3. Build trust through transparency

Cultures that don’t allow employees to speak up when something is wrong are toxic. Lack of communication leads to employee disengagement and turnover. Everyone should be able to ask direct questions to understand what works and what doesn’t, and this should be done outside of one-on-one meetings.

Create a culture that recognizes employees who speak up and encourages accountability.

Use platforms such as employee surveys or team meetings to create forums for open and honest communication. In these discussions, questions should not be anonymous – remember that you want to create a culture that recognizes employees who speak up and encourages accountability.

4. Foster a growth mindset

Rather than focusing on the end result, ask questions that focus on the process. Be curious and create an environment where everyone can comfortably learn and explore. It is also important not to share your own opinion. This will help individual contributors hone their critical thinking skills and prepare them to make better decisions while needing less guidance in the future.

5. Accept mistakes

It is essential to create a culture that sees mistakes as learning opportunities rather than something to be punished. If you don’t allow employees to share their mistakes, it doesn’t mean they don’t make them, it just means they hide them. As an effective coach, you also need to be open about your own mistakes and how you came out of them.

Encourage people to share their mistakes in meetings so that everyone learns from the problem. By documenting what went wrong, your team can avoid tripping over the same rock twice.

6. Two is better than one

In my company, we took the coaching culture a step further: each employee has two coaches. This allows employees to follow work-related topics with a coach while deepening conversations about their career path with each other. The second coach usually comes from a different department and serves as a mentor, bringing a diversity of thoughts and opinions.

Having two coaches located in different countries helps employees become global citizens and builds empathy for diverse cultures and mindsets. As globalization intensifies, these skills are important both professionally and personally.

A coach-centric culture is essential for tech employees who can choose their employers. Offering extras like kombucha on taps and ping-pong tables to combat retention doesn’t address the root of the problem: the need to create human connections by inspiring and collaborating with employees.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]