It’s fair to say that getting established in business typically ignites a directive style in many of us. There’s a sense of immediacy with what needs to be done and as a Director/Owner you may well be operating with authority, directing those people who work for you towards a specific outcome. At this early stage you are getting to know the capabilities of your team, building your confidence in their delivery and often working through the daily crisis that crops up to keep your business alive. There’s no doubt that in the early days, a directive style is one that proves most useful. For the purpose of this piece let's call this the manager style.
But as your business has grown you’ve now likely got a team of competent folk who are performing at a reasonably high level. A team that have helped facilitate your growth by their delivery to date. A team that you now know well which provides you with the confidence to build this business sustainably.
But here’s the thing…
A competent team doesn’t need managing, a competent team needs coaching - an approach that helps people get to the answers themselves rather than telling them what to do.
When I think about the times when I’ve applied a directive mode incorrectly to a competent group or person, it was often met with malaise. Discomfort from the person I was engaging with and discomfort in myself as a leader in the interaction. In the past, with inexperience, I couldn’t always work out why, but with years of leadership experience under my belt I’m thankful that these days I can sense the discontentment immediately and know how to adjust my style to suit.
Knowing whether to apply a manager or coach style is something that comes with experience, and it’s fair to say that ideally we need a blend of both dependent on the circumstances and the people involved.
Here are my top tips to help you move from that directive culture to one where your employees remain engaged in their roles and in your business :
- Be a facilitator of business processes than an arbitrator of the outcome
- Appreciate that you don’t have all the answers and create space to listen to the answers of your team
- Invite the team to consider how and what they could achieve as opposed to driving them with rigid objectives of what you think it should be.
- Encourage collaboration between all employees regardless of hierarchy to achieve the benefit of mutually generated ideas & initiatives
- Empower your employees to solve the problem than to always provide an answer yourself
- Encourage individuals to set expectations for themselves (with your support and direction)
- Share information with your team to create an environment of openness & trust
It’s argued that adopting a coaching culture provides not only a stronger set of employees but also a stronger business result. In an era where business is increasingly operating in a more volatile and uncertain world, who wouldn’t want that?