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Be a Coaching Manager

Traditional order and control management is being replaced by a coaching management style, asserts researcher Morten Emil Berg at BI Norwegian School of Management. Good economic results alone are no longer adequate. In addition to generating results, organisations have become a values workshop, helping employees develop a meaningful life.

The profile of the “new” manager is distinguished by thinking and acting like a coach, maintains Morten Emil Berg, Assistant Professor at BI Norwegian School of Management. He is one of Norway’s foremost experts on coaching, and works with manager training, team development, and organisational changes, in theory and in practice. He maintains that the idea of a coaching manager is not some kind of hocus pocus, but rather systematised good sense. Managers support and challenge their colleagues to manage themselves, says Berg.

In Good Company

A manager is herself, trusts herself, and finds her own way, while also being open to objections, paradoxes, and dilemmas. She is in good company. These ideas reflect the inspirational thoughts of Socrates, Aristotle, Rousseau, Kierkegaard, and Rogers and Adler, points out the BI expert.

Morten Emil Berg has developed an overview of seven practical tools for becoming a coaching manager.

1. Training through Role Playing

Coaching managers readily take their entire extended management group on two-day training workshops. Participants work in small project groups of 6-9 members throughout the workshop.

The object is to get to know each other, build networks, and generate team spirit. Much of the time is used on role playing, based on real challenges and opportunities facing the managers.

The problem can be a difficult colleague, a lack of personal efficiency, an imbalance between working life and home life, and, not the least, being able to give feedback without putting the recipient on the defensive.

Managers work together in groups of three during the role playing itself: One owns the problem to be solved (the coachee). The second manager is the coach, asking good questions and suggesting various courses of action. The third plays a constructive “Devil’s Advocate”. The participants learn from each other, solve concrete problems, and build a culture.

2. Focus and Energy

The coaching manager maintains a solid grip on the entire workshop. She presents the results achieved by the business unit, visions of the future, and what the managers should improve on.

Top managers are very clear on their expectations; for example, that managers should become even better at valuing their colleagues and inspiring them to be creative.

Nevertheless, participants are encouraged to find their own way, to get better acquainted with themselves, and to be themselves. They need to take control of their own lives. These signals are the basis of the training itself.

A coaching manager exudes a strong belief and confidence in the ability to achieve bold goals if everyone helps each other. This generates optimism, enthusiasm, and self-fulfilling prophecies.

3. Values and Meaning

It is important to work on concrete skills and, even more importantly, the core values that govern actions. Central values include: altruistic egoism, will power, belief in the future, self-discipline, and emotional intelligence.

Individuals are challenged to be aware of their core values and how these values affect how they think and act. When fundamental optimism, enthusiasm, and joy are lacking, it doesn’t help to be good at praising, delegating, and giving feedback. Your body language will give you away.

We like what the manager says, but not the way she says it. This does not generate trust and credibility. It is not enough to have high ambitions for creating value in the organisation. Employees must also experience their workplace as a workshop where they can develop themselves and learn to live a full and meaningful life.

Employees must experience success and personal rewards at work. Rewards can include experiencing good team camaraderie or having more time to think about development.

4. Super Management and Mastering

Managers shouldn’t try to control what cannot be controlled. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide what to think and how to act. Employees must be directed to manage themselves. They must be competent in their own self-management.

Individuals often have resources and “hidden” talents, but many ruin their chances with negative thoughts and negative comments about themselves.

“I am not really that competent, the others have just not realised it yet.” Good self-management entails asking the following question: “Am I telling myself the truth or have I just convinced myself it is the truth?”

To achieve good self-management, individuals need good helpers who can support and challenge through central questions. The object is to become competent in cognitive leadership, in other words, direct our thoughts. If we don’t take control of our thoughts, our thoughts will take control of us.

A coaching manager provides their employees with positive experiences of mastering, so they can develop a belief in their ability to master.

5. Manager as a Role Model

A test of good leadership consists of two questions. First: Is the manager credible? Does the manager back up her talk with action? Secondly: Does my boss wish me well? Does my boss want me to succeed?

The Manager must be a good role model. She participates in the role playing, just like everyone else. The manager “forgets” her position and is one of the most enthusiastic to discuss. She considers her strengths and how she can be even better.

Talking openly about her weaknesses may be used against her in the future. Nevertheless, it is so important to demonstrate trust that it is worth the risk. The manager is not afraid of feedback, even if it is not positive. This enables learning and development.

6. Tackling Paradoxes

Leadership is about balancing scant resources and differing interests with wise decisions. When dividing up a cake, everyone should feel that they got a slightly bigger piece than everyone else. One thing that sets competent managers apart from less competent managers is how they relate to incompatibilities, dilemmas, and paradoxes.

Unpopular decisions must be made, while still maintaining a good relationship with the employees.

Leadership is situational. Managers must understand when coaching can work and when it will not.

7. Simplicity and Story Telling

Managers convey a message that employees can easily understand. Often, this can mean quoting others: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” (Abraham Maslow) “It takes two to know one.” (Gregory Bateson)

Often, a message can be a metaphor like: dark clouds on the horizon, but we are well prepared. Often it can be personal stories of success or failure, but learning constantly.

Audun Farbrot | alfa
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