3 Habits for Managing and Coaching High Performing Teams

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team of people work together at a table with computers and graphs

The role of front-line managers is undergoing a revolution. This is a good thing. But it is also a very difficult transition fraught with risks to the status quo business models. However, according to Gallup’s recent book, It’s the Managerpoor management is likely destroying your enterprise’s engagement and productivityso this transformation from management to high-performance coaching is more than necessary. 

High-performance coaching marries the best of management and coaching practices for the benefit of the employee and the business. Great managers excel at setting clear expectations, planning, and leveraging processes. Great coaches are good at helping others exceed expectations, innovating, and developing talents into reliable strengths. When you blend both, you set yourself and your company up for long-term success.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once remarked that “leadership is affirming people’s worth and potential so clearly that you are inspired to see it in yourself.” His enduring legacy is a blueprint for productivity that reverberates and resonates more than 20 years after its original publication. In the spirit of Dr. Covey’s work, here are three habits that you can expect from high-performance coaches and the benefits of each for your business as you scale. High-performance coaches focus on control over concern, serve and support, and fill buckets daily.

Control Over Concern

This principle comes directly from Dr. Covey’s first habit of being proactive. The theory states that there are two types of peopleproactive and reactive.

Proactive people understand where their actions and influence can positively impact outcomes. Reactive people fail to take action and find themselves in a doom spiral consumed by external worries and concerns that no action on their part can actually impact. So, the first step as a business leader is to assess the level of proactivity of your management core. 

Here are two tips for how you can go about assessing this. The first is by laying out your growth strategy (short, medium, long-term) for the business and then asking your first line managers two questions: 1) What concerns, worries, and fears do they have related to this ambition and strategy? And 2) What are the obvious actions within the control of the team to begin making immediate progress toward achieving the ambition. 

Don’t worry if you receive more concerns, worries, and fears than obvious actions at first glance. This is almost always the case as often there are more worries than actions. However, if the managers have difficulty identifying actions to make immediate progress and mitigate the worst of the concerns,  your core of managers may need a proactivity intervention.

The second approach to assessing the spirit of proactivity of your managers is to have a conversation related to the primary performance issues they faced in a given week, month, and quarter and what actions they anticipated versus which actions they had to scramble to put into place due to unanticipated causes. 

Once again, if your managers are constantly in reactive mode, that means your company is in reactive mode and will have great difficulty becoming the protagonists of your own journey.

High-performance coaches focus on what they can anticipate, control, and influence. Therefore, their teams are fully aligned with delivering in alignment with the most important priorities and are constantly progressing toward their goals. That’s why your first mission as a business owner or leader is to rewire the thinking of your managers in this way.

Serve and Support

Hierarchy is the enemy of productivity in today’s much flatter and faster business world. This is because the people that understand the problems the company is facing are too far away from the actual decision-makers. 

So, a fundamental shift must be made in how managers see their role in the company. They need to own the fact that their role is not only to direct but also to serve and support their people.

This new direction and orientation of managers must be role modeled at all levels of management. If you, as the business leader, begin interacting with customers and those employees dealing with customers more directly, you will dramatically increase your understanding of the issues preventing your sales growth from happening at the rate you expect. Then you can work to remove the relevant barriers and accelerate growth. 

Once you take up this aspect, it will empower all leaders and managers in your company to do the same and soon everyone will be working in service of improving the experience for the customer. Linking with principle with that of proactivity you have now created a company that is constantly acting on high impact controllable factors.

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Fill Buckets Daily

In How Full Is Your Bucket, authors Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath provide a metaphor of a dipper and bucket as a simple example of how energy is transferred between individuals. There are “energy adders” and “energy absorbers” in every team in every organization. 

Energy adders fill the metaphorical buckets of others via a series of positive attributes and in return are filled with more positive energy. Energy absorbers actually dip into others’ energy reservoirs via a series of negative attributes and rob them of their engagement and productivity. You can imagine the impact of a manager with the energy absorber aspect. 

Energy-adding managers are one of the most important assets a company can have. They create the can-do spirit within the organization and encourage people to go above and beyond the call of duty in achieving objectives.  People who work for these energy-adders often feel valued and supported. So keeping the proportion of energy-adders high should be one of your priorities as a company leader.

Identifying these key people is quite straight-forward. Energy-adders are those who dive into new challenges. They usually respond positively to change and transformation initiatives, and they also consistently achieve and maintain the highest employee engagement scores on internal surveys. 

Just as important is minimizing the number and impact of energy-absorbing managers within your organization or team. These people need to understand that they are measured on the “how” of performance as much as the “what” of the results achieved. 

The moment you as the leader demonstrate that positive behaviors in your managers are as important as obtaining objectives, you will see a ripple effect on how they act towards their subordinates.

By reinforcing the absolute importance of these three habitscontrol versus concern, serving and supporting, and filling buckets daily in all of your managersyou will positively begin to transform managers into high-performance coaches who are masters of employee productivity, engagement, and development. 

As the title suggests, the keyword is habit here, meaning put into daily or regular use. This is not something that can be implemented via endomarketing and positive talking. 

Remember that what you truly value as the leader becomes the blueprint for how your managers will behave. This means the first person who needs to change their habits is you.

Posted in Company Culture

Omar Harris

Omar Harris

Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams, available for purchase in ebook or print on Amazon.com. Please follow him on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or his website for more information and engagement.