Workshop: Get together on coaching goals

Coaching can get great results; just make sure the boundaries are set first.

Ever wished your manager would focus on exploring an issue in the round or working with you to find the answers to a situation? Perhaps you are fortunate and have a manager who uses these skills. If so, you probably feel empowered in your work, have developed well in your role and achieved success in reaching your work-related goals.

In previous columns I have referred to the need to adopt a range of management styles. This approach is a coaching one and can be an important style to have in the mix.

Managers who coach believe in the abilities of those they work with, have a medium-to-long-term view of what can be achieved and like to involve those they manage in setting the strategy and goals for the team.

Coaching is a technique used to guide colleagues and teams to achieve successful results and to help others strengthen specific knowledge and skills. Its short-term goal is to help someone accomplish a task or solve a problem. The long-term goal is for people to develop and become more self-reliant.

The style can be cooperative: a co-creating style based on someone's needs, with lots of commun- ication and shared thinking focused on defined objectives. Or it can be casual, mainly a listening role with no objectives, or attention to motivating the individual being listened to.

The cooperative style is the most productive in the workplace, but the most challenging for a manager to achieve in combination with the management role. The manager will invest time and effort in getting to know people and making relationships. He or she will also work to remove obstacles to the effective performance of others and spend time talking to people and keeping them receptive to ideas about the future. This style requires both the coach and the coached to be aware of boundary setting. It may be a difficult style to combine with others, especially where there are felt to be performance issues on either part.

Be aware that coaching can veer into authoritarianism, in which being focused on the goal usually involves telling people things rather than working them out together.

- Elaine Willis is a consultant.

Management Advice

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