What's the difference between a manager and a coach?

In today's challenging hiring environment, leaders need to rethink how they manage their teams. Consider this advice to create a coach-driven culture
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The ongoing disruption from the pandemic has resulted in a staggering 38 million workers quitting in 2021. With many roles now remote or hybrid and technology talent particularly scarce, organizations need to look at leadership through a different lens.

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

6 steps for IT leaders to adopt a coaching culture

The traditional line manager structure is about authority: It focuses on a specific outcome, directing and telling employees what to do. In contrast, a coach inspires and leads. A sign of a great coach is their ability to motivate employees irrespective of the industry or role. Coaches set a positive example through partnering, developing, and concentrating 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. Adopting a coaching culture builds confidence and makes it easy for employees to change and evolve. When you invest time supporting an individual’s professional growth, the reward comes in increased commitment and output.

As an IT leader, how can you shift from managing to coaching? Here are six steps that will help foster the 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 vital for individuals to expand and strengthen their skill set. Putting training programs in place to help employees acquire new skills is a wise investment.

2. Guide their career journey

A coach guides team members through their career paths. Never underestimate the value of culture fit, particularly with the current hiring challenges. When you have an employee who fits the company culture, help them grow. Ask them to clarify their ambitions by asking what they see as their next step. Schedule regular meetings to talk exclusively about their career path, and make sure you give your employees feedback to help them advance.

[ 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 drives employee disengagement and turnover. Everyone should be able to ask direct questions to understand what is and isn’t working, and this needs to happen outside of one-on-one meetings.

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

Use platforms like 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’s also important to hold back on sharing your own opinion. This will help individual contributors sharpen their critical thinking skills and prepare them to make better decisions while needing less guidance in the future.

5. Embrace mistakes

It’s vital to create a culture that views mistakes as learning opportunities rather than something to punish. If you don’t allow employees to share their mistakes, it doesn’t mean they are not making them – it just means they are hiding them. As an effective coach, you should also be open about your own mistakes and how you grew from them.

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

6. Two is better than one

At my company we’ve taken the coaching culture a step further: Every employee has two coaches. This allows employees to follow up on work-related topics with one coach while deepening conversations about their career paths with the other. The second coach usually comes from a different department and serves as a mentor, bringing a diversity of thought and opinions.

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

A coach-driven culture is essential for technology employees who can pick and choose their employers. Offering extras like kombucha on tap and ping pong tables to address retention fails to 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. ]

Karim Zuhri serves as General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of Cascade, a strategy execution platform helping organizations across the globe turn visions into reality, from building the world’s fastest Formula 1 car to rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine. Karim is passionate about helping organizations scale up and grow into unicorns or dragons.