Recently, I was asked to advise an executive in crisis.
In the six months since he had joined the company, the executive had lost eight of the 10 people reporting to him. Not only did the company have to incur financial costs to replace the departed managers, but an untold amount of "institutional knowledge" also vanished when they walked out the door.
When we conducted one-on-one interviews with the eight managers, each gave the same reason for leaving: they did not trust the new executive. In story after story, they recited instances when he distorted the truth, betrayed their confidences, and treated them with disrespect.
When we shared this aggregated feedback with the executive, he couldn't believe that's why his people left. Gradually, however, he came to accept the feedback as truth, and asked for our help. We worked with him to change his management style into one based upon trust, which involved his becoming more of a coach to his staff.
Another time, I was visiting a client when I overheard a manager and an employee discussing expectations that the subordinate was not able to meet. Without consoling or criticizing, the manager simply looked the person in the eyes and sincerely asked, "What can I do to help you?" Although the manager in no way relieved the employee of his responsibility to improve his performance, I could see relief and gratitude on his subordinate's face.
Managers who behave like coaches are far more effective than those who don't. Any coaching relationship -- whether it is boss-subordinate, parent-child or mentor-mentee -- is an ongoing process. It happens continuously, sometimes without the parties involved even knowing it.
Coaching is about building a trusting relationship by giving honest, helpful feedback. It's about creating a psychological and emotional environment where positive things can happen. It's about setting goals and helping people achieve them.
Not all coaches are managers, but all managers can -- and should be -- coaches.