Planning for the new year – Part 3 (Managers as player-coaches)

In the first and second articles in this series, we walked through Guidepost statements, and how to talk to your employees. This post tackles managers as player-coaches — a key element to make sure you are ready for the new year.

Historically, service and operations managers were tasked with making sure the trains were on track and on time. If the global pandemic taught us anything, it is that the existing tracks are being shredded and we need to figure out where and how to lay new tracks.

Unfortunately, we have not yet given managers the freedom to operate in this new world—and it costs us a lot more than we realize. Customers hate the rigid rules that constrain our support teams in the name of efficiency. Employees hate the measures that demonstrate just their adherence to process, not their ability to work around the nuances. And managers have one hand tied behind their back by their inability to use judgment to resolve customer issues or help employees grow.

The Great Resignation

Today, more than ever, unhappy employees are walking away from less-than-satisfactory work environments. This is causing the “Great Resignation,” and is straining what had already been a problematic, pre-pandemic labor shortage. And guess what? The majority who leave their jobs name poor management as the reason for their resignation: Managers cause a 70% variance in employee engagement, and 1 in 2 employees leaves their job due to poor management. As you plan for the year ahead, how will you improve employee engagement and retention?

Managers are key to their team’s success, but only when they approach their teams as player-coaches rather than enforcers. The enforcer manages employees by adherence to activities-based measures, and when a worker falls short, the manager judges and possibly penalizes them. This discourages the worker and often results in the employee leaving for greener pastures. The cycle starts all over again with the next employee, often ending with a similar result. Talk about being stuck in a break-fix cycle!

Managers as player-coaches

Over the years, as Klever Insight has worked with a wide range of companies, spanning thousands of employees, we discovered one commonality. The companies whose leadership spent as much time looking at employee engagement measures as they did customer engagement measures—and walked the talk by coaching teams rather than controlling them—experienced greater success than those who treated employees like unruly schoolchildren. Their leaders understood the difference between monitoring an individual’s performance and coaching a team, the latter resulting in a cumulative positive impact where “all of us are better than any one of us.”

When they let teams self-govern and self-heal, with managers who offered guidance, guidelines, guardrails, and constructive feedback, they brought out the best in team members. Based on the guidepost statement we recently discussed, a good manager should communicate guidelines and guardrails to teams to help them make good decisions. Guidelines express how managers envision the team completing a project, while guardrails make workers aware of the hiccups they may face and how to handle them. This kind of direction and feedback helps team members understand their role in the bigger picture and inspires them to do their best, so they don’t let down their teammates.

Ask ‘What’ and ‘Why’

Rather than grading employees, managers should be guiding them. Ask ‘why’. Ask ‘what can we do to make it easier for you to do the right thing for the customer and your colleagues’? When a manager sees areas that need improvement, the right move is to offer guidance and feedback to help employees work smarter, more efficiently, and more joyfully as part of their team. It is much more motivating to improve your individual performance when you are being evaluated as a team contributor rather than as a single producer. Training managers to adopt this new manager-coach mindset should be at the top of the to-do list in the new year.

And yes, we do have a workshop and a companion self-paced learning offering. Reach out if interested.

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