A Manager's Guide to Coaching

Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best From Your Employees

A Manager's Guide to Coaching

Authors: Anne Loehr, Brian Emerson
Pub Date: April 2008
Print Edition: $16.95
Print ISBN: 9780814409824
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814410813

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Getting the Best from Employees

If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

It’s a basic rule of life here on earth and in the business world today. It’s what drives most of us to be better at what we do and who we are. It’s the desire to “be more.” Because of this desire, the term “coaching” has caught the attention of both the personal-growth and business worlds, creating a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry and a situation in which everyone wants a coach. More than ever, employees are asking for developmental opportunities and managers are being told they need to “coach” their employees on a regular basis. We’ve even worked with managers who say they’ve been told to “stop managing and start coaching.” This all sounds great in theory—managers coaching employees to grow and be more effective—but there’s one problem. Although many people agree that having a coach is a great way to move toward success, very few people know what a coach actually is or what a coach actually does. This leaves many managers scratching their heads as they try to fit one more ambiguous task into their already over-busy schedules.

So what is a coach, and what is coaching? This is our definition: A coach is someone who helps another person reach higher effectiveness by creating a dialogue that leads to awareness and action. By creating the space to step back, look in the mirror, and grapple with the tough questions, a coach helps a person examine and deal with their reactions to obstacles and, in a sense, “get out of their own way” as they achieve better results, in a more efficient manner.

But why is this important? Why is helping a person deal with their own personal obstacles so necessary? Why can’t people just focus on the task at hand and put all that other emotional stuff to the side? The answer, much to the chagrin of many people and managers, is that as humans, we don’t have a choice. If we are going to grow, be more, and reach higher levels of effectiveness, we have to spend time learning how to clear one of the biggest hurdles of success—our own emotional baggage.


When we are faced with a task (in business, or any aspect of life), there are three things that we need to be as successful as possible:

*Aptitude—the know-how, skills, and capacity to complete the task at hand

*Attitude—the drive, confidence, focus, and determination to complete the task at hand

*Available Resources—the tools, equipment, and time needed to complete the task at hand

Without these three components, we cannot be at the top of our game. The degree to which each of them does or does not exist directly contributes or detracts from our ultimate level of success. It can be thought of as an equation with variable components.

Start with Aptitude, the most obvious component of the equation. Without the proper skills and know-how (Aptitude) to complete a task, we are left scratching our head and frustrated. Think of a kid on her birthday receiving her first shiny, new bike. She has the determination and excitement (Attitude) to ride her new wheels (Available Resources), but she lacks the skill and ability (Aptitude) to go whizzing down the street as she envisions. After two or three wipeouts, you end up with a frustrated little birthday girl.

Just as crucial to the equation is having the Available Resources to complete the task. Think of the last time your team at work had a great idea or new approach to accomplishing success—but you lacked the budget, time, or people power to execute it. You had the capacity to figure out a new solution (Aptitude), the drive and confidence to make it a reality (Attitude), but lacked the money or people (Available Resources) to pull it off. Not a fun place to be in, by any stretch of the imagination.

As managers, and people, we are comfortable and see the need to focus on Aptitude and Available Resources. When things aren’t working in the office, managers are often very willing to train people in new skills or throw more money at the problem. However, it’s the middle part of the Success Equation—the keystone if you will—that most people tend to overlook, forget about, or outright ignore. Attitude refers to things like the drive, confidence, focus, chutzpah, enthusiasm, grit, determination, need, desire, fortitude, and inspiration to accomplish the task at hand. Although difficult to measure and manage, without the right Attitude, having only the Aptitude and Available Resources will get you nowhere. Unfortunately, managers often say things like, “why can’t people just do their jobs and leave all that other stuff at home.” Well, people don’t “leave all that other stuff at home” because as humans, we can’t. Understandably, many managers wish that this was not the case, because managing would be immensely easier if people could really “check their emotions at the door.” We get it, and, unfortunately, it’s not possible. Think of the times your work day has been affected because you were ill, or you had a fight with a family member. This doesn’t even include the events that happen at work. When rumors of a downsizing start in an organization, how many people are able to completely check their emotional reaction to the news and focus 100% on their work? Not many. So, for better or worse, managers have to accept that our Attitude affects our Level of Success, and focusing on it is more than “a nice thing to do.” Like it or not, Attitude is hardwired into the Success Equation for humans, and not just as a variable on the periphery. Attitude is perhaps the most vital component in the entire equation, and focusing on it is a manager’s business imperative.

Hardline business people are often most comfortable thinking of this in terms of sporting analogies. Anyone who has played sports has probably been told at one time or another to “get your head in the game,” “focus,” “get psyched up,” or “don’t think that you can’t beat these guys!” Sports coaches know that the confidence, drive, and determination (the Attitude) of their athletes can make all the difference between playing and winning.

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