ISSUE 3 – FEBRUARY 2014
Roger Maitland & Brett Anderson-Terry
A glance at the origin of the word management, to ‘control a horse,’ is a reminder of the traditional command-and-control legacy of management. The Great Recession has reshaped the business landscape and resulted in a more closely integrated global economy, where knowledge has become the source of competitive advantage (Birkinshaw, 2012.) In an economy where knowledge has replaced capital as the scarce resource, businesses require managers to prioritise the development of talent and knowledge.
Adopting a coaching approach to management goes a long way in growing talent and creating knowledge through building a thinking environment (Kline, 1999) in your team. Garvin (2013:78) found, through employee survey and performance review data, that Google’s most effective managers were characterized by the ability to coach. The thrust of management must foster and harness initiative and creativity, not just enhance efficiency. The crucial change that has occurred is that “knowledge workers now own their own means of production” (Birkinshaw, 2012:17.) This requires a change in relationship between manager and employee to one in which management becomes a vehicle to support employees to develop their capacity beyond what they are able to develop independently. This image of a vehicle or ‘coach’ echoes the roots of the word, which stems from the Hungarian village ‘Kocs’ where the first coach was constructed (Skeat in Stojnov et al, 2011.)
Coaching is thus becoming increasingly important as businesses strive to stretch the capacity of knowledge workers in order to create and sustain their competitive advantage. As Druker (1974) pointed out, “the purpose of an organization is to enable ordinary humans beings to do extraordinary things.” Increasingly coaching is being used as part of line management to achieve this. As early as 2005, the CIPD found that nine out of ten organisations in the United Kingdom were using coaching by line managers, rated by 84% of surveyed organisations as effective or extremely effective.
Developing as a manager coach is a gradual process requiring tenacity and a healthy dose of reflection. One senior manager in a JSE-listed company commented, “An initial barrier I faced was the assumption that coaching is a waste of time and extra work. I realized that my impatience wasted more time as my direct reports came back with similar issues as I didn’t actually develop them to deal with issues independently.” The long term benefits, in most cases, outweigh the short term pain. As another senior manager remarks, “There are stronger results. Despite a tough quarter, my team have exceeded their targets and been able to set in place processes which will benefit us in years to come.”
So if your team is not quite chomping at the bit, perhaps it’s time to reinvent your approach to management and make the commitment to develop your coaching skills.
- Birkinshaw, J. 2012. Reinventing management: Smarter choices for getting work done. San Francisco: John Wiley.
- Druker, P. 1974. Management: Tasks, responsibilities and practices. New York: Harper & Row.
- Garvin, D. 2013. How Google sold its engineers on management. Harvard Business Review, December.
- Pavlovic, J. & Strojnov, D. 2012. Personal construct coaching: A ‘new/old’ tool for personal and professional development. In Stojnov, D., Džinović, V., Pavlović, J. & Frances, M. (Eds.) Personal construct psychology in an accelerating world. Serbian Constructivist Association: EPCA Publications.