Are Your Managers Equipped to Be Coaches?

Unfortunately, only about one in four employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback to them — or that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.

Many managers struggle in this area. They aren’t equipped to have individualized, motivating, coaching conversations with their employees.

This has serious implications for companies, as managers have the greatest impact on driving performance and engagement within their teams.

Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement.

So, how can you help your managers walk that fine line?
Start by empowering them to see themselves as coaches. Help them take ownership of each employee’s performance. Then, equip them with these three things to lead better conversations

Personalized CliftonStrengths insights. Discover how each team member thinks and behaves, and what motivates them to do better in their work.
Proven advice for engaging employees. Know and measure what employees need to be successful, and how to talk about it with their teams.
Accountability and action planning tools. Employees who strongly agree that their manager holds them accountable for their performance are 2.5x more likely to be engaged. Make action planning easy and effective.
Managers can inspire and energize their employees like a coach — instead of having them feel like someone is breathing down their necks — when you equip them to have strengths-based, engagement-focused and performance-oriented conversations, often.


Third part of the series 7 ways to use the Clifton Strengths to improve your employees experience

6. Develop: Go deeper into an employee’s CliftonStrengths 34 profile.
There may not always be a promotion or pay raise available for employees who want to advance in their career. But growing and developing is about much more than “moving up.” True growth is about incrementally improving great performance, expanding your knowledge and influence, or understanding who you are at a deeper level.

Managers can help their employees develop by looking beyond their top CliftonStrengths and learning how to navigate all 34 of their CliftonStrengths themes.

A person’s best performance — both as an individual and within the team setting — depends on using their strongest CliftonStrengths to succeed, regardless of where a particular theme falls within their rank order of CliftonStrengths 34 results.
7. Depart: Strengths-based development helps with retention and gives people something valuable for a lifetime.
A strong retention strategy is your best defense in a competitive job market. Retaining your best employees can help your organization save time and money and protect against unwanted changes to culture. A strengths-based approach has been proven to help teams experience up to 72% lower turnover.

But think a bit bigger at this stage of the life cycle. Even some of your best employees will leave, for whatever reason. You can create genuine ambassadors for your employment brand when you provide employees with the chance to discover and develop their CliftonStrengths.

This investment in your people’s talents pays dividends while they work within your proverbial walls. But if (or when) they leave, you’ve given them the lasting benefit of taking a strengths-based mindset onward to apply in any aspect of their life. Whether they specifically voice this as they move on or not, employees can at least subconsciously connect their time with your organization with their discovery of what they do best.

Second part of the series 7 ways to use the Clifton Strengths to improve your employees experience

3. Onboard: Create a common language that helps people connect.
So many leaders whose organizations use CliftonStrengths remark that it gives managers, employees and entire teams a common language. Asking someone about their CliftonStrengths is an easy way to start a conversation about so many important topics: How do you work best? How do you like to be managed? How can we collaborate?

It’s up to managers and their leaders to ensure that each employee receives CliftonStrengths results and focused coaching on how to apply their CliftonStrengths to succeed in their role. This approach to development assures that you’re creating a culture wherein teams feel comfortable talking about and embracing each other’s unique CliftonStrengths.

It’s up to managers and their leaders to ensure that each employee receives CliftonStrengths results and focused coaching on how to apply their CliftonStrengths to succeed in their role.

4. Engage: Empower people to do what they do best every day.
Only four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” However, if that ratio improved to eight in 10, organizations could realize a 14% increase in profitability along with other increased business metrics.

When employees get to do what they do best, they are more engaged at work. They are more present, focused and inspired. They bring more innovative and creative ideas to the table, and they naturally work to improve processes and outcomes. In fact, a 2015 meta-analysis finds teams that received strengths-based development can experience gains of up to 15% in employee engagement. As a result, business units see increased productivity and revenue. Needless to say, having a strengths-based culture is a powerful way to align employees with what they do best.

The manager is crucial here. Managers are responsible for 70% of the variation in team engagement scores. In fact, when asked if their manager focuses on their CliftonStrengths, 67% of employees who agree are engaged — that percentage plummets to 2% when employees disagree. Plus, the deeper managers can go in strengths-based development with employees, the better: A 2018 meta-analysis finds that, compared with employees and teams who received feedback on just their top five CliftonStrengths, those who received feedback on their CliftonStrengths 34 results improved more on all but one of the 12 question items in Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement metric.

This means that managers need to have regular, informal conversations with employees in order to fully understand their strengths and help them apply those strengths to their daily work.


5. Perform: Practice coaching conversations that focus on employees’ strengths.
According to Gallup’s report Re-Engineering Performance Management, only one in five employees strongly agrees that their company’s performance system motivates them.

Why are employees so unmotivated? At least one aspect is that manager feedback is often focused on fixing weaknesses rather than focusing on strengths. A culture where “feedback” means “criticism” doesn’t work. In contrast, Gallup has found CliftonStrengths coaching that focuses on development leads to higher performance, productivity and higher customer metrics.

Employees need regular coaching conversations that apply CliftonStrengths to setting performance goals. For example, for your employees who lead with the Competition CliftonStrengths theme, maybe they need a “score to beat.” Or, for your employees strong in the Learner theme, maybe they need to craft goals that are dependent on engaging with information or ideas they’ve never dealt with before.

By coaching employees to use their natural talents instead of focusing on their weaknesses, you will empower them to reach their potential in the long run.

7 Ways to Use CliftonStrengths to Improve Your Employee Experience Strategy (several part series)

Employee experience describes the journey an employee takes with your organization. It includes all the interactions your employees have with you before, during and after their tenure.

What happens during those interactions shapes your employees’ perceptions of your organization — which has an effect on employee performance, customer experiences and your ability to attract more talented employees.

Those interactions take place at various points in the employee life cycle: Seven life cycle stages have been during which employers have the opportunity to affect the employee experience the most.
One consistent approach to creating valuable interactions at each of the seven life cycle stages is focusing on employees’ CliftonStrengths.

Long proven to be a driver of positive business outcomes, applying a strengths-based approach at each stage of the life cycle can ultimately result in an improved employee experience.

One consistent approach to creating valuable interactions at each of the seven life cycle stages is focusing on employees’ CliftonStrengths.

Here’s how you can go deeper with CliftonStrengths at every stage of your employee experience strategy:

1. Attract: Be a place where people are known for their CliftonStrengths.
Today’s employees are looking for more than just a paycheck. They want an employer who can offer them purpose, growth and the ability to use their talents on a daily basis. Sixty percent of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them.

That said, many employers still struggle to fit people in the right role, and many managers fail to adjust roles to allow employees to work the way they work best.

Being known as a strengths-based organization is a key differentiator for your employment brand. It tells potential job candidates, “You won’t be just a number here. We are interested in what makes you unique. We want to place you in the best position to fulfill your dreams, and we will work with you help you grow and succeed.”
2. Hire: Explain your identity as a strengths-based organization.
Gallup offers talent-based hiring solutions for companies looking to outfit their organization with individuals who display innate tendencies to be successful in specific roles. This is not the same thing as CliftonStrengths; Gallup does not recommend using the CliftonStrengths assessment to make hiring decisions.

However, discussing with candidates your organization’s strengths-based development approach is an important selling point. Prospective employees may not be familiar with the way your organization values the CliftonStrengths of individuals and the teams they compose. Ideally, you can explain how your focus on CliftonStrengths is a critical part of your workplace culture.

Additionally, if you attract and hire people to your organization under the guise of being “strengths-based” but never deliver on that post-hire, you risk doing irreparable damage to the employee experience.

A Template for Growth in the Restaurant Industry

I was asked by a client in the restaurant business about this article and I thought others in the food industry would benefit as well.
All six points on The Golden Thread apply to specific food service issues — labor, management, customers — but they’re all, at heart, about culture. When food service leaders get culture right, everything else gets easier or better, often both. The Golden Thread — and the culture it helps leaders build — can help you translate your brand to new people and markets. It is a proven way to leverage partners outside of your organization, your employees within, and to accomplish your goals more effectively than you have before.
So yes, the points on The Golden Thread, approached holistically, help restaurants succeed in their markets, generate profit and plug revenue leaks by helping leaders create a culture that wins. But if handled with some forethought, The Golden Thread can also be used as a means for growth. So the sixth point is about bringing all the points on the thread together to solve one of the industry’s biggest challenges: In tight markets like these, how can we grow?

In fact, there may be no better template for growth in food service than The Golden Thread, and a lot of brands need that template now. In a year characterized by less-than-thrilling growth (Zacks Equity Research describes it using words like soft, weak and dull), many companies need to grow their way out of the slump.
The Template for Restaurant Growth, Point by Point
Like The Golden Thread itself, growth plans should begin with vendors and suppliers. Local expertise will be invaluable, and suppliers can usually do more than they’re asked. Vendors and suppliers must feel like real partners in order to think on behalf of the brand. A partnership between you and your suppliers/vendors can help you enter new markets, gain knowledge and avoid mistakes.

Franchisees and brokers who feel emotionally attached and psychologically invested are better brand ambassadors and more liable to practice the behaviors that engage employees.

HQ is the second point on The Golden Thread — and HQ’s priority is to establish the brand purpose. That purpose must be sacrosanct across stores, channels and delivery methods. Especially when the brand takes its show on the road: purpose drives the brand experience, and there’s no way to provide a consistent brand experience if the purpose is too flexible.

Successful growth depends a lot on good field support, the third point. The translator between HQ and the front line, field support can and should explain to stores how products and services meet the market — and explain to HQ what the market is saying to the stores. And when a brand is opening new locations in new territories, field people can arbitrate consistency. Sure, a brand has to accommodate places and people — there’s a reason KFC sells egg tarts at in China but not Chicago — but culture, purpose and promise should never change. Field support’s job is to make sure of that.

The fourth point on the Golden Thread is brand ambassadors. Typically, customer-facing employees are thought of as brand ambassadors because they deliver the brand promise and create the brand experience. They’ll only do it if they’re engaged, though, so employee engagement should be institutionalized by HQ and field support, driven by managers and felt by every employee. Their engagement is the key to capturing new customers.

But brokers and franchise owners need to be brought into the engagement fold, too. Franchisees and brokers who feel emotionally attached and psychologically invested are better brand ambassadors and more liable to practice the behaviors that engage employees. That can have a long-term competitive advantage in attracting more franchisees — and potentially better ones — down the road. That is the key to sustainable growth, especially when a brand is growing beyond a familiar market.

The fifth point is customers, as well it should be. To thrive in a competitive landscape, restaurant leaders must care deeply about customer engagement. To thrive in a new competitive landscape, leaders should live by it. Gallup’s CE3 customer engagement survey helps restaurants move past the rational NPS metrics and lay claim to the emotional level of customer attachment. That’s key to successful growth. Novelty wears off fast, and familiarity exerts a gravitational force on customers. The only way to find and keep new customers is to offer an emotionally satisfying experience more powerful than comfortable old familiarity.

Strategizing external influences effectively is the sixth and final point on The Golden Thread. When this point is approached effectively, and the other five points of The Golden Thread are maximized, restaurant leaders are positioned to achieve. They have an industry-specific, tested means of strategic execution and people management. And leaders need every bit of it to grow the brand in today’s super-competitive food service market.
Execute Growth Successfully in a Saturated Market
In the past decade or so, successful growth and market penetration initiatives were based on either differentiation — mostly healthier menu options and fast casual — and expansion into foreign markets: Most of Wendy’s net growth this year was in international markets, McDonald’s and Yum! Brands overseas’ sales handily beat its domestic ones — in fact, KFC sales in China outpaced U.S. sales by nine percentage points.

The companies with the financial and human bandwidth to expand well are succeeding. But 48% of industry leaders run small shops with nine employees or fewer. They’re competing with global brands that sit on massive budgets and have a margin for error that smaller operations can’t muster.

But all restaurants, big or small, are facing the same problem: merciless competition in a saturated market with customers who don’t even have to leave home to get a comparable product.

Restaurants can grow if they execute culture more intentionally. Define purpose, align it with brand promise, deliver a consistent brand experience, differentiate your brand and engage customers.
As Gallup has found with many of our clients, the dollar value of better execution, from higher productivity to increased customer engagement, can be extraordinary. When all of this is done right, getting the right talent in your doors isn’t something you have to worry about anymore.

That’s as true for a one-person operation as it is for a global dominator. Because when you come right down to it, it doesn’t matter to a customer who owns the place. It only matters how the place feels. To thrive in this business, restaurant leaders need to follow The Golden Thread — there are many, many aspects of a winning customer experience and The Golden Thread helps leaders strategize.

But they’ll find that the thread ends where it begins: culture. When leaders in this industry are clear on culture, decisions can be easier to make, opportunities are easier to seize and mistakes may be easier to avoid. When that winning culture is in place, growth is more achievable … and for masters of culture execution, perhaps inevitable.