Manager as coach

I've just been reflecting on my running year as on December 6 I reached my target of running one 10k race per month. So that's 12 races. Unfortunately instead of achieving my related goal of improving my speed in each race the reverse happened. I've got slower each time. Thus, I hit the target and missed the point – all too common in organisational/individual performance measures.

So, I know the required drill. In myself as my manager role I've put myself in the bottom corner of the 9-box grid. This is the dreaded 'must improve' category. Am I about to exit running or be exited from it?

No, I tell my manager (me). The reasons why I'm in this box are easy enough to list. They include: a) no practice or even much running between races b) no supportive community of runners to practice and/or run with c) concentrating on the objective i.e. run 12 10k races, and not on the desired outcome: to improve race time incrementally.

But I'm annoyed and demotivated by the bottom box rating. I achieved the target if not the outcome. I think my manager (me) could try a different tack to motivate me to improve my running. After all she knows the many reasons why the 9-box grid is a questionable method of performance improvement. (See my blog on this).

What I need to do then is help my manager (me) to be more effective at her role. She too doesn't really believe in the 9-box grid as a motivational tool but like many managers I think she thought she could 'drive' my performance by setting a quantitative target. (Perhaps some language adjustment is in order. She needs to re-read How the way we talk can change the way we work by Kegan and Lacey). I think she should be more of a coach.

In a recent HBR article You Can't Be a Great Manager If You're Not a Good Coach the author says the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching and goes on to say that that to motivate people you manage means coaching and encouraging them, not just setting tasks.

In the running world runners do have coaches trained to encourage and develop performance. In fact, to be a running coach takes 12 months of training. So I need to retrain myself as my manager to take on a more coaching role. How would this play out? The coaching article mentioned above offers 5 tips for starting coaching conversations:

1. Listen deeply: the suggestion is to start with an open question e.g. 'What would help you get the outcome you're after', and then listen carefully to the responses
2. Ask, don't tell: As responses come the advice is to encourage the person to develop their own path to the outcome
3. Create and sustain a developmental alliance: Once this is agreed you give the person the autonomy and wherewithal to move forward
4. Focus on moving forward positively: When the person experiences set backs the manager as coach should help the person look for ways of moving past these
5. Build accountability: it is the person's role to take the actions and self-monitor progress and not the manager's

In myself as my manager role I will act on these tips to take on a more coaching role of myself as runner. I'm confident that during 2016 I will achieve my new outcome based goal of incrementally improve my running speed and with myself as coaching manager move myself out of the must improve box.

What's your view the 'bottom box'? Can a coaching style of management improve performance better than a task driven style? Let me know.

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