The most important management role; building competence through coaching

Virtual Classroom Delivery

One of our 4 C’s of being a high functioning team is ‘Competence’.  It’s the domain expertise, skill element of the team.  It’s something we all need, the manager, but also every single member of the team.  However for the manager there is something really important to understand; no matter how brilliant you are, how great your competence, if your team isn’t up to the required competence then two things become very evident:  

  1. You can’t go and have lunch because your people will be addicted to you, and 
  2. you will never be able to empower your people with confidence.  

Both those things add up to never being a high functioning team, and if you are by chance high performing, then it will likely be pretty stressful and hard work.  

I don’t know that I was ever told this back in the day (when I managed teams throughout my manufacturing career), but I now believe the single most important role you have, is to develop the competence of your people.  It’s primary, if you don’t facilitate their development, then it will take them years if they ever make it at all.  I’ve become totally convinced that great managers spend most of their time creating opportunities for their people to grow their domain skill and fine tune their ways of working.  

Competence is the heartland of being able to empower your staff to get on with the task in hand.  So what should you do about it if managing a team?  Here are two simple things that will accelerate you in making a difference:

Constantly work at creating learning experiences for you people.  

To help you create learning experiences, you probably need to stop seeing delegation as a way of getting your work done, and instead believe your people will never develop their competence unless you delegate new experiences to them.  Delegation is a developmental tool and should be viewed as nothing else.  Everyday, ask yourself, what could I delegate to whom in order to develop their competence.  Along with this recognise they are not telepathic!  You will have to cover off method, the sequence of events to complete the delegated task, and you will do well to check in with them to support and guide them in those early steps.  

The second thing you need to do is increase your coaching style as a manager.  

It seems to me that there is a huge misunderstanding amongst many managers about what that means.  Lots of managers we work with confuse ‘telling’ or ‘directing’ their staff as coaching.  In very simple terms that’s mentoring, coaching is the complete opposite.  It’s using questions to draw out understanding, it’s getting out of the way of the solution and being non directive.  A basic difference would be this.  You notice someone has the wrong answer, so you step in and say something like “I think you’ll find the answer is eight”.  That’s not coaching, nor is anything that borders on giving your staff instructions, process, guidance, or even sharing your experience.  Coaching would sound more like this “How did you get the answer seven?”  The difference between the two is simple yet profound.  So long as you keep giving the answer, you will create management junkies, utterly addicted to you and your over controlling ways.  The moment you switch to the question, you will begin to help your team work things out themselves, enabling them to develop their own competence.  

Just these two things alone; creating learning experiences, and using coaching questions will start to accelerate your team members competence.  Implement them and they will be an absolute pillar that allows you to empower your staff and function together in a significantly more effective way.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

We are exploring this topic more deeply in Squeeze episode 6, so please do have a listen.