Skill no. 5: Coaching

Effective managers are increasingly being described as coaches rather than as bosses. Just like coaches, they’re expected to provide instruction, guidance, advice and encouragement to help employees improve their job performance.

There are three general skills that managers should exhibit if they are to help their employees generate performance breakthroughs. You can be more effective at coaching if you use these skills and practice the following specific behaviors associated with each.

  • Analyze ways to improve an employee’s performance and capabilities

A coach looks for opportunities for an employee to expand his or her capabilities and improve performance. How? By using the following behaviors: observe your employee’s behavior on a daily basis. Ask questions of the employee: why do you do a task this way? Can it be improved? What other approaches might be used? Show genuine interest in the employee as an individual, not merely as an employee. Respect his or her individuality. Listen to the employee.

  • Create a supportive climate

It’s the coach’s responsibility to reduce barriers to development and to facilitate a climate that encourages personal performance improvement. How? By using the following behaviors: create a climate that contributes to a free and open exchange of ideas. Offer help for assistance. Give guidance and advice when asked. Encourage your employees. Be positive and upbeat. Don’t use threats. Focus on mistakes as learning opportunities. Ask: “what did we learn from this that can help us in the future?” Reduce obstacles. Express to the employee that you value his or her contribution to the unit’s goals. Take personal responsibility for the outcome, but don’t rob employees of their full responsibility. Validate the employees’ efforts when they succeed. Point to what was missing when they fail. Never blame the employees for poor results.

  • Influence employees to change their behavior

The ultimate test of coaching effectiveness is whether or not an employee’s performance improves. The concern is with ongoing growth and development. How can you do this? By using the following behaviors: encourage continual improvement. Recognize and reward small improvements and treat coaching as a way of helping employees to continually work toward improvement. Use a collaborative style by allowing employees to participate in identifying and choosing among improvement ideas. Break difficult tasks down into simpler ones. Model the qualities that you expect from your employees. If you want openness, dedication, commitment, and responsibility from your employees, you must demonstrate these qualities yourself.

Skill no. 4: Choosing an effective leadership

Effective leaders are skillful at helping the groups they lead be successful as the group goes through various stages of development. There is no leadership style that is consistently effective. Situational factors, including follower characteristics, must be taken into consideration in the selection of an effective leadership style. The key situational factors that determine leadership effectiveness include stage of group development, task structure, position power, leader – member relations, the work group, employee characteristics, organizational culture and national culture.

You can choose an effective leadership style if you use the following six suggestions:

  • Determine the stage in which your group or team is operating: forming, storming, norming or performing

This is necessary because each team stage involves specific and different issues and behaviors, it’s important to know in which stage your team is. Forming is the first stage of group development, during which people join a group and then help define a group’s purpose, structure, and leadership. Storming is the second stage, characterized by intra-group conflict. Norming is the third stage, characterized by close relationships and cohesiveness. Performing is the fourth stage, when the group is fully functional.

  • If your team is in the forming stage, there are certain leader behaviors you want to exhibit

These behaviors include making certain that all team members are introduced to one another, answering member questions, working to establish a foundation of trust and openness, modeling the behaviors you expect from the team members, and clarifying the team’s goals, procedures, and expectations.

  • If you team is in the storming stage, there are certain leader behaviors you want to exhibit

These behaviors include identifying sources of conflict and adopting a mediator role, encouraging a win-win philosophy, restating the team’s vision and its core values and goals, encouraging an analysis of teams processes in order to identify ways to improve, enhancing team cohesion and commitment, and providing recognition to individual team members as well as the team.

  • If your team is in the norming stage, there are certain leader behaviors you want to exhibit

These include clarifying the team’s goals and expectations, providing performance feedback to individual team members and the team, encouraging the team to articulate a vision for the future, and finding ways to publicly and openly communicate the team’s vision.

  • If you team is in the performing stage, there are certain leader behaviors you want to exhibit

These behaviors include providing regular and ongoing performance feedback, fostering innovation and innovative behavior, encouraging the team to capitalize on its strengths, celebrating achievements (large and small), and providing the team whatever support it needs to continue doing its work.

  • Monitor the group for changes in behavior and adjust you leadership style accordingly

Because a group is not a static entity, it will go through up periods and down periods. You should adjust your leadership style to the needs of the situation. If the group appears to need more direction from you, provide it. If it appears to be functioning at a high level on its own, provide whatever support is necessary to keep it functioning at that level.

Skill no. 3: Budgeting

Managers do not have unlimited resources to do their jobs. Most managers will have to deal with a budget, a numerical plan for allocating resources to specific activities. As planning tools, they indicate what activities are important and how many resources should be allocated to each activity. However, budgets aren’t used just in planning. They are also used in controlling. As control tools, budgets provide managers with quantitative standards against which to measure and compare resource consumption. By pointing out deviations between standard and actual consumption, managers can use the budget for control purposes.

You can develop your skills at budgeting if you use the following seven suggestions.

  • Determine which work activities are going to be pursued during the coming time period

An organization’s work activities are a result of the goals that have been established. Your control over which work activities your unit will be pursuing during a specific time period will depend on how much control you normally exercise over the work that must be done in order to meet those goals. In addition, the amount of control you have often depends on your managerial level in the organization.

  • Decide which resources will be necessary to accomplish the desired work activities

Although there are different types of budgets used for allocating resources, the most common ones involve monetary resources. However, you also may have to budget time, space, material resources, human resources, capacity utilization, or units of production.

  • Gather cost information

You’ll need accurate cost estimates of those resources you need. Old budgets may be of some help, but you’ll also want to talk with your manager, colleagues, and key employees, and to use other contacts you have developed inside and outside your organization.

  • Once you know which resources will be available to you, assign the resources as needed to accomplish the desired work activities

In many organizations, managers are given a monthly, quarterly, or annual budget to work with. The budget will detail which resources are available during the time period. As the manager, you have to assign the resources in an efficient and effective manner to ensure that your unit goals are met.

  • It’s wise to review the budget periodically

Don’t wait until the end of the time period to monitor whether you’re over or under budget.

  • Take action if you are not within your budget

Remember that a budget also serves as a control tool. If resources are being consumed more quickly than budgeted, you may need to determine why and take corrective action.

  • Use past experience as a guide when developing your budget for the next time period

Although every budgeted time period will be different, it is possible to use past experiences to pinpoint trends and potential problems. This knowledge can help you prepare for any circumstances that may arise.

Skill no. 2: Active listening

The ability to be an effective listener is often taken for granted. Hearing is often confused with listening, but hearing is a merely recognizing sound vibrations. Listening is making sense of what we hear and requires paying attention, interpreting, and remembering. Effective listening is active rather than passive. Active listening is hard work and requires you to ‘get inside’ the speaker’s head in order to understand the communication from his or her point of view.

We can identify eight specific behaviors that effective active listeners demonstrate. You can be more effective at active listening if you choose these behaviors

  • Make eye contact

Making eye contact with the speaker focuses your attention, reduces the likelihood that you’ll be distracted, and encourages the speaker.

  • Exhibit affirmative nods and appropriate facial expressions

The effective active listener shows interest in what’s being said through nonverbal signals. Affirmative nods and appropriated facial expressions that signal interest in what’s being said, when added to eye contact, convey to the speaker that you’re really listening.

  • Avoid distracting actions or gestures

The other side of showing interest is avoiding actions that suggest your mind is elsewhere. When listening, don’t look at your watch, shuffle papers, play with your pencil, or engage in similar distractions.

  • Ask questions

The serious active listener analyses what she or he hears and asks questions. This behavior provides clarification, ensures understanding, and assures the speaker you’re really listening.

  • Paraphrase

Restate in your own words what the speaker has said. The effective active listener uses phrases such as “what I hear you saying is …” or “do you mean …?” Paraphrasing is an excellent control device to check whether or not you’re listening carefully and is also a control for accuracy of understanding.

  • Avoid interrupting the speaker

Let the speaker complete his or her thoughts before you try to respond. Don’t try to second-guess where the speaker’s thoughts are going. When the speaker is finished you’ll know it.

  • Don’t over talk

Most of us would rather speak our own ideas than listen to what others say. While talking might be more fun and silence might be uncomfortable, you can’t talk and listen at the same time. The good active listener recognizes this fact and doesn’t over talk.

  • Make smooth transition between the roles of speaker and listener

In most work situations, you’re continually shifting back and forth between the roles of speaker and listener. The effective active listener makes transitions smoothly from speaker to listener and back to speaker.

Skill no. 1: Acquiring Power

Power is a natural process in any group or organization, and to perform their jobs effectively, managers need to know how to acquire and use power – the capacity of a leader to influence work actions or decisions. There are five different sources of power for leaders including legitimate, corrective, reward, expert and referent. Why is having power important? It is because power makes you less dependent on others. When a manager has power, he or she is not as dependent on others for critical resources. And if the resources manager controls are important, scarce and non – substitutable, her power will increase because others will be more dependent on her for those resources.

Following eight behaviors if used can be more effective at acquiring and using power.

  • Frame arguments in terms of organizational goals

To be effective at acquiring power means camouflaging your self-interests. Discussions over who controls what resources should be framed in terms of the benefits that will accrue to the organization; do not point out how you personally will benefit.

  • Develop the right image

If you know your organization’s culture, you already understand what the organization wants and values from its employees in terms of dress, associates to cultivate and those to avoid, whether to appear risk taking or risk aversive, the preferred leadership style, the importance placed to getting along well with others, and so forth. With this knowledge, you’re equipped to project the appropriate image. Because the assessment of your performance isn’t always a fully objective process, you need to pay attention to style as well as substance.

  • Gain control of organizational resources

Controlling organizational resources that are scarce and important is a source of power. Knowledge and expertise are particularly effective resources to control. They make you more valuable to the organization and, therefore, more likely to have job security, chances for advancement, and a receptive audience for your ideas.

  • Make yourself appear indispensable

Because we’re dealing with appearances rather than objective facts, you can enhance your power by appearing to be indispensable. You don’t really have to be indispensable as long as key people in the organization believe that you are.

  • Be visible

If you have a job that brings your accomplishments to the attention of others, that’s great. However, if you don’t have such a job, you’ll want to find ways to let others in the organization know what you’re doing by highlighting successes in routine reports, having satisfied customers relay their appreciation to senior executives, being seen at social functions, being active in your professional associations, and developing powerful allies who speak positively about your accomplishments. Of course, you’ll want to be on the lookout for those projects that will increase your visibility.

  • Develop powerful allies

To get power, it helps to have powerful people on your side. Cultivate contacts with potentially influential people above you, at your own level, and at lower organizational levels. These allies often provide you with information that’s otherwise not readily available. In addition, having allies can provide you with a coalition of support if and when you need it.

  • Avoid ‘tainted’ members

In almost every organization, there are fringe members whose status is questionable. Their performance and/or loyalty may be suspect. Keep your distance from such individuals.

  • Support your boss

Your immediate future is in the hands of your current boss. Because s/he evaluates your performance, you’ll typically want to do whatever is necessary to have your boss on your side. You should make every effort to help your boss succeed, make her look good, support her if she is under siege, and spend the time to find out the criteria she will use to assess your effectiveness. Don’t undermine your boss. And don’t speak negatively about your boss to others.

21 Management Skills (Intro)

Going through this blog means learning about, practicing, and reinforcing specific management skills. Here are 21 skills that encompass the 4 functions of management: Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling. They are:

  1. Acquiring power
  2. Active listening
  3. Budgeting
  4. Choosing an effective leadership style
  5. Coaching
  6. Creating effective teams
  7. Delegating (empowerment)
  8. Designing motivating jobs
  9. Developing trust
  10. Disciplining
  11. Interviewing
  12. Managing conflict
  13. Managing resistance to change
  14. Mentoring
  15. Negotiating
  16. Providing feedback
  17. Reading an organization’s culture
  18. Scanning the environment
  19. Setting goals
  20. Solving problems creatively
  21. Valuing diversity

Source: Taken from Management (Pearson Hall Publications)