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/ Coaching Remote Teams

What is the role of the manager coach.

Standing at the top of a mountain

The role of manager coach, the reality in organisations.

I have investigated the role of manager coach through customer meetings over the last 18 months, where I have learned much about the challenges and fears of executives who manage field based teams. Some feedback I expected, some surprised me. One consistent theme ran through all my encounters; the role of the managerial coach. Managers are expected to take on the role of performance coach.

As a manager coach when so should you be directive with your team, and when should you be participative?

First allow me to start with some research findings, then I will share my own personal experience so far.

What the research says….

More than 80% of organizations use a coach approach to management or leadership and most plan to expand its use (Human Capital Institute & International Coach Federation, 2016).

Despite the widespread endorsements of employee coaching as an important managerial activity, managers vary in their willingness to coach their employees. Although good coaching is basic to managerial productivity, most organizations have difficulty getting their managers to be effective coaches. (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 2002)

Participative approach

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Effectiveness of the manager coach

Coaching effectiveness is usually constrained by the lack of an organizational environment that supports coaching oriented behaviors; time pressure that managers feel, so they do not feel that they have time to engage in coaching activities. (Whitmore 2003)

Where theory meets reality.

I have had the pleasure of meeting customers large and small, from commercial to educational sectors. When we ask how customers coach their field teams today, this generates an engaged conversation. Like the research states, organisations are looking to the first line managers to take on the role of manager coach.

When I ask customers what happens after training, the majority reply “not alot”. When we present how Mobile Practice, customers understand immediately. The surprise is what happens next. Senior executives share their concern in the ability of their managers to provide coaching performance feedback. These are the opinions of senior management as well as the feedback from their managers.

Mobile Practice developed  a solution that managers could leverage to complement their in-field observations when accompanying team members. There are customers whose managers have the maturity to coach their teams effectively. We also met customers who were concerned the coaching skills of their managers.

Don’t be surprised, research says …..

Supervisors often are reluctant to openly communicate or provide guidance because they do not have the time or they lack confidence when put in the position of “playing God” . This is especially true when they do not have the skills or resources needed for coaching. [Wexley & Latham, 2001]

Manager coach conflict

We face the reality that Mobile Practice may sometimes expose a delicate issue. As a consequence we re-thought the problem, and have worked with professional coaches to develop a managerial coaching workshop to equip the managers with the toolkit to manage and coach their teams. There is an obvious conflict between a pure independent coach approach  which holds the coachee’s interest at the centre of the conversation. A manager’s responsibility is to the company and team objective. How can you square the circle of a Managerial Coach? The role of performance coach combines the manager who directs and leads the team members, and the coach who listens and asks pertinent questions to show the coachee the way.

Directive approach

Photo by Lucas Gallone / Unsplash

The dilemma for senior executives

The second reaction we encounter from executives is when we speak about the opportunity for executives to observe the interaction and coaching performed by their first line managers. We have unearthed a potential sensitive cultural issue, where senior executives feel uncomfortable observing and coaching managers, or they feel it inappropriate.

Shadow coaching

Photo by Tom Barrett / Unsplash

Shadow coaching

We have responded by developing a shadow coaching offer. This enables organisations to engage external objective resources to coach their managers. This demonstrates a cultural sensitivity between the first line manager and the executives that is not observed between the manager and their team members.

Transform learning into performance in the field.

Managers face many challenges when coaching remote teams. The time and effort it takes to observe their performance. The challenge when accompanying team members to isolate the specific behaviour as a coach that they wish to observe. Finally many managers lack confidence to coach their teams.

We agree with Gartner on the impact of coaching on performance (3 hours of coaching a month improves performance by 18%). Indeed I have spoken to large organisations that prioritise their manager’s time so they spend 1 day a week coaching their team members, and who can demonstrate the positive performance results.

If we agree on the role and importance of the managerial coach, what steps have you put in place to overcome the barriers and support the manager with remote teams? If you are willing to share your experience please contact me the co-founder of Mobile Practice. ben@mobilepractice.io

Find out more @ mobilepractice.io.