The 3 Questions You Can Use to Go From Manager to Visionary Coach

In the past decade, the role of a manager has evolved rapidly. A managerial role, once reserved for those with specialized knowledge in a field or industry, is now demanding expertise in human development. While some managers adapt to this demand skillfully, others stagnate, wondering how best to manage a diverse, likely remote workforce.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, released in early 2017, revealed an area of opportunity for managers: coaching.

A vast majority of employees — 91% — say the last time they switched jobs, they left their current employer to do so. Think about that. Nearly every person who wanted a new opportunity left their company to find it — costing the company in lost productivity and onboarding expenses, among others.

What does that say about our jobs, about our managers, about our ability to foster growth in individuals and teams? Perhaps this is strong evidence that many people leaders are failing to present a compelling vision for the future.

Help Employees See a Future With Your Company

In the modern American workforce, employees want a coach, not a boss. They want a manager who cares about them and their talents and finds ways to integrate those talents into their work. Someone who guides their movement through an organization by providing growth and development opportunities that maximize their strengths — not someone who just takes them up a ladder that they may not want to climb.

By adopting the role of a coach, managers learn the aspirations and motivations of their staff — and enjoy the rewards of having well-managed team members who are engaged and energized at work.

Do you maximize the strengths of your employees to gain efficiency, produce better results, increase engagement and reduce turnover? How do you inspire staff who are uninterested in a traditional, hierarchical career path? How are you recognizing the contributions of top achievers through more than vertical career movement? Do you help your employees understand how their work contributes to the success of their team and company?

As coaches, managers must intentionally work to inspire hope in their employees. They need to communicate and demonstrate a compelling vision of the future, one that reflects an understanding of the current and long-term needs of employees.

Creating a Vision for Your Team

Managers, to ensure you’re presenting a clear, motivating vision to your team members, answer a few questions about specific employees:

1) Do I know what kind of future my employee wants?

Too often, we place assumptions on our staff. We think we know what they want. We think we know the career trajectory they aspire to pursue. Managers, we need to ask more and assume less. Prioritize employee meetings and ask questions to understand individual needs within the workplace.

2) What does a great day at work look like for this employee?

To reach a compelling tomorrow, we need to get better at understanding talent today. A favorite coaching question of mine is: Tell me about your best day at work. When answering this question, employees usually discuss moments of challenge and of overcoming hurdles. They do not describe an average day when they completed what their manager expected of them and then went home. Knowing the difference between a good day and a best day could help you set an employee up for success and engagement during future projects and assignments.

3) Are there opportunities to connect the strengths of this employee with current projects or goals?

As a manager, you need to connect the needs of your employee with the vision of the company. If employees continually tell you about their goals and aspirations but you do nothing to connect them with related opportunities, what motivation do they have to continue where they feel stuck and unfulfilled?

People want to learn and grow, and rather than pinning them to their current expectations, you can help them imagine future opportunities. That may mean identifying opportunities on different teams within the organization. Or, it could mean finding work that reflects their strengths more obviously, or tapping into their natural talents through investment of skills, knowledge or practice.

As you work to retain your top performers, intentionally utilize future-oriented coaching. Think about how you can create a vision of the future at your company for each of your employees. How you can become not just a manager, but a coach — and not just a hopeful leader, but a leader of hope.

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