Coaching for talent builders

Coaching for talent builders

Q: I have been trying to coach this young goal-driven manager of mine to be more consistent and predictable in his management behaviours and style. Despite doing my best for him, I am still frustrated with myself as he has not shown any improvement and in actual fact, his behaviour is getting from bad to worse. More and more of his colleagues are complaining about him and this puts me in a tight spot as he has been earmarked for higher promotion. Put into this cross road, I am not sure whether I should give up or I should pass this problem to another department, say Human Resources, to handle him instead of me. - Caretaker

A: No immediate superior, including yourself should view developing your people as someone else responsibility instead of theirs. When your people development role is given to someone else it is as good as saying "I got no time for you" or "I am not interested in you". Face the reality. Sooner or later in your career, you will have more and more direct reports whom you have to put in efforts to grow them. Leaders who do not grow their people are not true leaders. It is like saying that parents are not responsible for growing their children except taking care of putting food on the table! So it is better that you learn to manage this responsibility rather than giving up.

The Bottom Line: The issue may lie more in your coaching skills than this young manager's resistance to change. So you need to work more on yourself with respect to acquiring real coaching skills to do this. Many leaders claim they are coaching, but in fact they are telling and advising their people what to do! Without a formal coaching education, we simply use what we are most familiar with, and that is, telling and advising people what to do. So you can imagine how this will work in the case of your young manager.

Also, your focus should not be correcting his management behaviour alone, he requires you to listen to him so that you can uncover the root causes of his behavior. It is like a doctor who has no answer why his patient is still having stomachache because he has been treating his symptom only! Growing people is not a skin deep methodology. So go out and get your training in growing people and accept that this is a role you need to do as long as you are a leader to your people.

Powerful Questions: What did you exactly do when you say you coach him? How much of this is spent listening to his inner emotional and psychological issues as compared to telling him what to do? What will you gain if another department is taking up the role of developing your people instead of you? What will having good people development skills do for you?


Q: We took over a manufacturing plant about a year ago. It has not been performing well. Production has been low for quite some time. People are lethargic and leadership is weak. In short, everything is in a mess! So we planned to introduce new changes in all front in order to get a reasonable return on investment soon. We tried starting this by putting a new vision, identified the core values needed and introduced a set of work standards. We had numerous sessions in communicating all these to them. The unfortunate thing is we are still facing lots of resistance from the people here. It looks like they prefer things to stay the way it has always been. What do we do now? - Hard Nuts

A: If you were to take the "blame them" perspective in this situation, then I think there is nothing you can do about it. Things are likely to stay pretty much the same as it has been. Managing people is never a straight forward task of solely relying on power and authority to get people to change. Many other factors are needed and change does not come easy. So just being their new boss will not make much difference. What you need to do instead is to take responsibility of this situation and search for the best ways in doing this. When you adopt this perspective, you will then put the challenge on yourself to get the results rather than waiting for them to show the results.

The Bottom Line: Building your trust in them is perhaps the most paramount for a healthy working relationship to emerge. It usually requires you giving them the attention that is vitally needed at this stage. You got to understand why they are what they are today. Are they totally to be blamed for this? Are they really so bad? Pay attention to them by listening empathically to find out why, and then with the information gathered, find the best ways to collaborate with them for the most effective way to make things better. With a greater sense of ownership and responsibility to drive for the desired outcome, everyone is going to gain from what you and your team are planning to do.

Powerful Questions: Objectively, why is your current method not working? What outcomes do you want? What is still needed from you and your team? What will you and your team "own" from now on to make things happen?

By Dr Michael Heah

* Public, in-house and online ICFaccredited coaching programmes are available monthly. For details, call 03- 62054488 or log in to get the latest book "Dialogue With The Life Coach". Read the blog "Stories That Coach" at