A long time ago in an organization far, far, away…
Let me introduce Sam and Gene. They are both managers in a Business Development Agency. They each run teams of advisors whose job it is to interact with the business community offering advice and guidance and, where appropriate, grant funding for business development projects.
Actually none of that is true; I made it up. Same and Gene are fictional, but their characteristics are an amalgam of many managers I have known. I think you’ll recognize them too. They could work in any organization; large or small, private or public; profit making or not. Their problems are with the people side of their work and this is what we shall concern ourselves with too. Same and Gene are male but that too is irrelevant to the tale and certainly does not explain the mixed fortunes they enjoy. We’ll also say that they are of a similar age, background and level of educational achievement.
Let’s start with Gene. It is Gene’s opinion that success is a result of a strong management style. He likes to give clear, precise instructions to his team so that nobody is uncertain about what is required. A highly competitive man in all aspects, Gene likes to win and encourages his team to be similarly motivated. He has a low tolerance for mistakes so his team tends to check and recheck all work. This takes time and makes output poor but accuracy is good and the tellings off are fewer. In the short term Gene gets results, but throughout his career he has been frustrated by the tendency for results to tail off and worsen over time. He feels his teams become complacent and lazy too quickly and that he has to drive them harder and harder just to maintain standards.
Sam is also convinced that success is a result of a strong management style. He likes to engage with the members of his team as much as he can and finds that when he asks questions and gets his people thinking, they seem to take more ownership for problems and approach their work with more enthusiasm and innovation. When errors occur Sam likes to make sure that lessons are learned and the same mistakes never occur twice in his team. Sam’s reputation is as a long game player. His senior managers know they have to be patient but Sam gets spectacular results in the end. For his part Sam is frustrated that results are so long in coming and wishes there was a way to speed things up.
There was no talk of coaching in Sam and Gene’s day, but it was undoubtedly a feature a Sam’s style and a missing component of Gene’s. Whilst they each enjoyed success it was Sam who prevailed over the long term. With an even better understanding of coaching, Sam could have accelerated his results and Gene – if he added coaching to his skill set – could have used his obvious strengths to even greater effect, and over the longer term.
This is a precursor to my various articles – some you’ll find on line already, others are still in my head – about coaching. I won’t pretend that coaching offers you a silver bullet to slay all your people problems or that coaching is a panacea to solve all work place ills. I want to offer straightforward, practical, proven tactics for using coaching to get results through people; which in the end is the essence of management in my view.
So whether you’re a Gene or a Sam or somewhere on the spectrum between the two, I hope this article stimulates your thinking and encourages you to do further research. You will soon become a manager who coaches and thus a manager who is successful.