Picture the manager who is respected because they set high standards, gets results, provides strategic direction and executes strategy. They’re driven, goal focused, determined and because of the hierarchical authority they easily take charge and get things done. They’re proud of the way they are. These behaviours all sound admirable. It’s “good” for them and the business. So is there any issue?
The drawbacks are that there’s often an unconscious or conscious need to compete, usurp, control and win. As a consequence, a pattern of placing results ahead of people, of setting unrealistically high standards and operating with a fear of avoiding failure is embedded.
Although the manager exhibits these strengths the tendency to control reduces the potential for the formation of trusting relationships required for the development of a high performing team. The manager is likely aware of this too. Yet they are inadvertently sending the message to others that they don't really want to collaborate preferring to dictate. Consequently, direct reports and even peers have learned to respond by remaining silent, and their creativity and wisdom remains latent, limiting potential for growth. Furthermore, follower engagement declines and the manager will compensate by working even harder to achieve results they so earnestly seek.
When a coach works with managers like this, their coachee may enhance their awareness and learn that their internal assumptions aren’t necessarily supporting them to be as effective as they might be. When a valid and reliable 360 – degree survey instrument or methodology is utilised, managers often learn that others around them, are experiencing a different reality than what their experience is. Now they see what they’re doing from multiple perspectives – not just their own.
The coaching remit is typically – can you stop the manager being like this – he or she is disengaging their team or fracturing relationships? This is helpful data because it is symptomatic of something that’s going on ‘below the surface’. It is helpful yet it is not all that is needed to support the development of a case conceptualisation. Instead of asking the manager to quit being this way, it is more helpful for the coach to be curious and yearn for more data. The coach may ask the manager ; “How is this behavior working for you?”, “What is it costing you?” and “How does this show up for you?”. These questions open the door to raising self-awareness. With the help of a plan to experiment with new ways of thinking and doing supported by a follow through coaching engagement, the manager learns how to address liabilities, tap into their potential, and move themselves and the team to higher levels of engagement, performance and achievement.
Tim Hicks is a member of ICF Australasia NSW Branch. He specialises in leadership performance and developmental coaching. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org