The manager coach

“Manager coach”, does this expression mean anything to you?

More than just a fad, this concept describes one of the new directions of the manager’s role: the ability to develop the talents of one’s teams.

In a constantly changing environment, managers have to face up to new responsibilities and find innovative solutions to problems, while doing their utmost to achieve the objectives set. With this in mind, they need to deploy all their inner resources to succeed in their mission.

So, is becoming a “manager-coach” the ideal solution to the growing complexity of professional and managerial situations?

Coach and manager, two contradictory terms?
Coaching first appeared in the United States (in the 70s) in the world of sport, before developing in companies to help managers increase their capacities and improve their performance. Today, the term “coaching” is used in all areas, and has penetrated all sectors of activity, from the world of sport to the world of business and private life.

The role of the professional coach is to support a person or a team with the aim of optimising their potential. Their aim is not so much to solve a problem as to facilitate personal development with a view to advancement.

In his book Les managers porteurs de sens (1992), Vincent Lenhardt defines coaching as “the accompaniment of a person or a team. […] . The attitude that coaching implies is the common attitude of the manager or consultant who considers the person or team being coached both in terms of their current functioning, but even more so in terms of their potential in the process of being realised. This approach includes a philosophy, an attitude, behaviours, skills and procedures”

The role of the manager is, in particular, to unite his team around a common project; to coordinate, direct, motivate and evaluate his colleagues so that the objective is achieved.

The role of manager-coach seems to be an ideal to be achieved, but there seems to be a gap between this ideal and the facts. In reality, it seems difficult for a manager to reconcile the role of line manager with that of coach, as the two roles are too different.

It is therefore natural to see coaching as a way of enriching the manager’s resources and improving his situational intelligence (the ability to understand contexts and people in order to act productively and beneficially) as well as his emotional and relational skills.

However, there is a problem: you can’t be both judge and jury!

Because managers are involved in a project in the same way as their colleagues, they don’t have the benefit of the perspective that a coach needs.

According to Olivier Devillard (Coacher, 2005), it would be a mistake to try and combine the roles of coach and team captain in a single person, because it is precisely the coach’s position as an outsider that guarantees his added value. It enables them to approach certain aspects of the person in their professional life or to consider the manager-team as a whole from a systemic perspective. What employee would be able to freely express his personal thoughts to the person who has hierarchical power over him? This confusion of roles is illusory, not to say questionable.

Coaching as a management style
While it is complicated for managers to adopt this dual role, it is possible (and even recommended) to use coaching as a management tool.

In other words, in addition to their business expertise and know-how, managers can incorporate their interpersonal skills into their management style, through :

  • Listening to and recognising others
  • Developing self-knowledge and challenging oneself
  • Creating a relationship of mutual trust
  • Respecting your own values and those of others
  • The practice of congruence
  • Constructive and benevolent feedback
  • Mastering effective and appropriate communication
  • Anticipating and managing conflict
  • Being part of an ongoing development process
  • And last but not least, the ability to ask an employee about his or her solutions to a problem, rather than assuming the role of expert.

The manager coach – a few simple guidelines
When all is said and done, we can say that the manager coach is no longer an expert, but rather a manager who questions his employees and helps them to develop :

  • autonomy commensurate with their skills
  • their ability to think on their feet and find solutions to problems
  • their self-confidence and potential for innovation, so that they can be a force for change

to initiate a process of individual and collective empowerment within the company.

Test your management skills and identify ways of developing this attitude if you feel you need to

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