November 2015

How do Managers Learn to Behave as Leaders?

When the boss (does his job and) provides meaningful Coaching.

by Perry J. Martini, PhD

All organizations are faced with the challenge of filling positions with people who have the requisite knowledge and leadership skills. More and more, companies are realizing that the ability to build bench strength quickly yields a competitive advantage. There are essentially two ways to acquire bench strength — hire those with the needed talent or develop the talent of existing people. Given the cost of finding people and acclimating them to the organization's culture and values, most companies have realized that the better method is to develop internal talent. Coaching others to perform at their maximum potential is thus one of the most important responsibilities of every leader and should be one of the highest priorities of those in current leadership positions. This is how a manager starts to not think like a leader but act like a leader. The leaders' legacy and the organization's future rest on the shoulders of those who follow them.

Additionally, most companies recognize the power of developing others through performance coaching. Although many leaders agree that coaching is a powerful strategy, few are either competent or confident in their coaching ability. Some believe that coaching is directing employees on how to perform specific tasks. Others believe that it involves advising employees on personal problems, which is commonly known as counseling.

Coaching is neither problem solving nor personal counseling. Rather, coaching is a process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge and opportunities they need to develop themselves and become more successful. A company's current performance and potential for the future depends on every member's ability to perform to required standards. Leaders can develop others through coaching in much the same way as sports coaches improve their teams – by setting goals, identifying performance standards and areas needing improvement, developing and implementing plans of action and providing oversight and motivation throughout the process. Leaders must thoroughly understand the abilities, limitations, potential and professional goals of their people in order to be effective coaches.

Informal coaching occurs at every level in an organization, and occurs whenever a leader helps followers change their behaviors. Coaching is the leader's focal point for leveraging the organization's human capital. The continuum of coaching ranges from helping poor performers improve, through enhancing the strengths of longer-term employees, to capitalizing on high-potential employees by challenging them and stretching their current skills. In terms of duration, it ranges from short-term coaching on performance of a specific task to a life-long process of mentoring. Supporting the developmental efforts of others contributes to individual productivity as well as the productivity of the team and the organization as a whole. Coaching is not a one-way street where the leader has all the answers, but rather a partnership where both leader and team member share responsibility. Good coaches help people manage change effectively, model mastery in their areas and sponsor and nurture future generations.

Coaching has become crucial in developing a leader's strategy in changing one's behavior and has long been recognized as a process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge and opportunities they need to develop to become more successful. Based on our commitment to offer the best leadership experience to our attendees, Academy Leadership has incorporated Executive Coaching into their Leadership Excellence Course (LEC) curriculum. This program is offered nationwide in over 50 locations and participants receive 36 PDUs, 30 PDCs, 21 HRCIs, or 36 CPEs.

Perry J. Martini, Ph.D., is a 1971 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and later earned three Masters Degrees in Business, Education, and International Affairs. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Education with Distinction from The George Washington University. Perry was a Naval Aviator and served for twenty-seven years in multiple leadership positions. He is currently the Director of Executive Leadership Programs at Academy Leadership, and an accomplished author and speaker.