Manager as coach - one factor that separates the best from the rest

Most managers become managers because they were good at doing the job they are now managing others to do. As a manager therefore, it can be enormously tempting to use our experience and expertise to ‘fix’ situations and problems that our people may bring to us. Sometimes this is perfectly appropriate however, if this is too much of a habit, it can be the road to ruin. It creates a dependency and reliance on the manager that means they become overburdened and overworked and worst case, reduces the sense of ownership and responsibility of their direct reports to become more self-sufficient and deal with the issues themselves.

It has been extremely popular over recent years for managers to learn how to coach. However, it’s still not easy for some managers to break the habit of ‘fixing’.

This ‘attraction to action’ is a complex issue as there are a number of thoughts and feelings that run through the mind that tempt a manager to ‘fix’ – for example:

  • Surely it’s quicker to 'tell' than to coach.
  • It feels good to fix things. It makes them feel they have contributed and have value – perhaps subconsciously thinking “If am not fixing things, then am I really needed around here?” or words to that effect.
  • It feels good to have helped someone out who has a problem or issue.
  • The situation or issue has got more chance of being resolved the 'best' way i.e. their way.

These are all perfectly understandable however, it is vital managers have the ability to resist the temptation.

Many years ago now there was an advert on TV for fruit pastilles that challenged people to put a fruit pastille in their mouth and resist the urge to chew. The point being that it was impossible NOT to chew due to the tastiness of the sweet. There is a parallel here for managers. They also need to resist the temptation to ‘chew’ i.e. fix! It may feel good, look  good and taste good however it’s not always advisable.   

Top Tip to avoid ‘Chewing’: Take 10 minutes at the end of each day and review any examples of where you ‘fixed’ – look for what the situation was that triggered this. What attracting forces were at play? Are there any patterns or trends to these situations – for example; certain people, situations or circumstances that push the ‘chewing’ button? The more you do this and the more awareness you build of why, when and how you are likely to ‘chew', you will start to catch yourself in advance. It might not feel natural or even comfortable, however it’s the foundation of building the behavioural flexibility required to be a top performing manager. 

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