Coaching, not commanding

"Command and control" sounds more like a video game than a management style, but it's been around in the latter form for eons. In fact, the "do this, do that" micromanaging method is what we often think of as the "classic" style of leadership - the boss who barks out orders and gets results. And while command and control works well for institutions such as the military, it isn't always the best route in today's corporate world.

Workplace trends expert Lisa Aldisert says managers can benefit greatly from moving from a commanding method to a coaching one.

Micromanaging your people takes a lot of effort and often culminates into a Pyrrhic victory. Sure, you may get the results you want, but the overbearing style can cost you valuable staffers and productivity gains in the long run.

"People who report to command-and-control managers are usually told what to do rather than engaged into the process in a way where they will take more ownership of the assignment," she says. "The biggest benefit by shifting to more of a coaching approach is you gain more engaged employees." When employees are more personally invested in a project, they will do their best.

By moving into the role of coach, you give your employees a task and let them find the best way to do it, rather than prescribing a method yourself. Yet doing that takes trust, as you have to believe your employee can produce the results you want when you want them. Trust is usually the hurdle that keeps us from moving in that direction, as we are ultimately responsible for the employee's actions (or lack thereof) yet we relinquish control to them. One of my earliest management ah-has came in this vein. I remember it being difficult when I gave an employee an assignment and a deadline and told her to go for it. When she returned with the desired results by deadline, I realized she didn't get from Point A to Point B like I would have, but she got there and did her job well. It was then I realized that as long as employees get the job done well and on-time, it's OK. I didn't have to have all the answers.

"When your people are more engaged you end up spending more of your time with the big picture, strategic types of thinking, whereas the people who are working with you are able to run with projects, and you don't end up having to micromanage," Aldisert says.

Here are seven tips from Aldisert on how you can move from command and control to coach:

  1. Allow people to develop high levels of problem-solving skills. If someone asks you how you would handle a particular situation, instead of answering, ask.

  2. Destroy an environment of victimization by leading with a positive attitude.

  3. Create a professional development strategy for each employee. Have them seek mentors where appropriate.

  4. Commit to ongoing education. Make it a policy that your team takes two weeks a year for training or professional development courses.

  5. Catch your staff doing something right. Acknowledge this individually and to the group as a whole.

  6. Solicit ways to improve from everyone. Reward good ideas with a small gift such as a mocha latte from Starbucks.

  7. If you are truly committed to a collaborative coaching environment, work with an executive coach yourself to enhance your development.

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