Is Coaching the Silver Bullet for Managers to Achieve Higher Levels of Engagement and Productivity with their People?

The pandemic has made life and work tougher for mostly  everyone in many ways, and it seems that these situational difficulties have dampened employee engagement in many organizations. Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, wrote that only 20% of full-time employees worldwide are engaged in their work. He goes on to observe that there is a chain reaction where low engagement results in lower individual productivity that hurts organizational productivity that negatively impacts country Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (Clifton, 2021)

This chain reaction seems credible enough especially when it happens at a critical mass. What can organizations do to increase employee engagement that is good for its employees’ well-being and performance, its customers’ happiness with its products and services, and thus, the organization’s success? Employee engagement is good for business is good for customers.

One interesting “breakthrough” insight is offered by Clifton in his blog. These conclusions deserve a closer look so that we can ask ourselves how true it is for ourselves and the people we work with. And if these are true, what are we going to do to turn things around if we find ourselves stuck with less engagement and productivity that we know we and our people are capable off?

Clifton: “Gallup has discovered — through studying what the best managers do differently — that great managing is an act of coaching, not one of directing and administrating.

One of Gallup’s most famous leadership breakthroughs, based on meta-analytics of 100 million employee interviews, is that a full 70% of the variance between highest engaged teams and persistently disengaged teams is just the manager.

There really is a silver bullet to running a culture of high performance and high development.

It’s always the manager.”

Or perhaps, you might think, that you knew this already, i.e., that the manager has a lot of influence on employee engagement and productivity.

While many organizations and HR practitioners may not agree with the bold statement to cancel all rating forms, meaning performance ratings, many may agree with this statement about how the practice of management must be changed. Reinvented.

Clifton: “We lead through a habit of having one meaningful coaching conversation per week with each team member.”

Many managers and leaders we have trained on coaching skills for the workplace typically complain that they do not have time to coach, so their default management style is the traditional “command and control” approach that they believe saves time. But does it really and what are the tradeoffs? Here is the big BUT about just telling people what to do instead of developing their thinking skills and accountability.

Managers and leaders who fail to develop their people/teams may have overlooked that they have been training their people/teams to be dependent on them for solutions to challenges and problems that they may be capable of handling at their level. How much time and productivity are lost when people/teams wait for the boss to tell them what to do? Or, habitually pass the buck to the boss instead of taking responsibility? Another impact could be the boss becoming the bottleneck.

Coaching helps develop thinking and problem-solving skills, a more proactive mindset, and accountability. It not only helps people be more productive at work, but it also helps them rediscover their purpose, their passion, and focus on what are most meaningful and important to them, thus re-energizing their commitments.

So, would you agree with the title of the article, “Gallup Finds a Silver Bullet: Coach Me Once Per Week” from Jim Clifton, The Chairman’s Blog, May 27, 2021?

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Are You Ready for Coaching?

Your company has initiated a coaching program for high potentials. So you have been enrolled in a three month coaching program by your boss, your sponsor. What now? What can you do to get ready and make the most of this great opportunity to work with a professional coach?

Here are eight questions to think about.

  1. Are you prepared to take responsibility for your own growth and development?
  2. What specific goals do you need and/or want to focus on during the three month coaching program?
  3. Are you willing to talk to your boss and discuss what goals she had in mind for you?
  4. Are you willing to work on these goals as well?
  5. Are you willing to listen and receive feedback?
  6. Are you willing to be open to another person?
  7. Are you committed to taking action on your learning?
  8. Are you willing to commit to the weekly coaching sessions?

To get you started, consider these points.

1. Are you prepared to take responsibility for your own growth and development?

You are always responsible for your own personal and professional growth and development. Other people may be there to help you, and unless they know what you need and want, they may not be able to help you as much.

2. What specific goals do you want to focus on during the three month coaching program?

Based on your experience and feedback from others, what do you want to be different? What do you want to change and be better?  If you have information from a 360 assessment that you took, go over it carefully and ascertain what areas/competencies you need to work on.

3. Are you willing to talk to your boss and discuss what goals she had in mind for you?

What are your boss’s reasons for enrolling you in the program? What did she want you to take away from it? What benefits did she hope you would get so that you can be a better you and more ready to take on new challenges?  Take the initiative to meet with your boss on a periodic basis to find out how you are doing, to discuss your career goals, and to give feedback about your progress relative to your agreed upon goals.

4. Are you willing to work on these goals as well?

How similar or different are the goals that your boss had in mind and your own goals?  If they are quite different, how do you reconcile these differences and prioritize what to focus on during the three months?  Get agreement on the priority goals.

5. Are you willing to listen and receive feedback?

How open are you about feedback that may not sit well with you or that you may disagree with? Think of all feedback, good and bad, as gifts of different points of view to explore. Ask yourself what might be the truth in each of these and how you can use these different perspectives to help you grow.

6. Are you willing to be open to another person?

Take heart, confidentiality is part of coaching. Typically, what you discuss with your coach is confidential. Often, the responsibility for updating your boss is with you. Nevertheless, it would be helpful for you to have a discussion about the limits of confidentiality with your coach and your boss. What is the coach required to report on?

7. Are you committed to taking action on your learning?

While the coaching process may give you a lot of opportunity to reflect on the present situation, you must take steps to act on what you have learned to move closer to your goals. If you have an “assignment” between one session and the next, work on it and learn in the process.  If you want to make progress, you must be willing to change self limiting beliefs and behaviors.

8. Are you willing to commit to the weekly coaching sessions?

Last, but not least, is that you will show up and on time during your coaching sessions.  Plan your week and block off your calendar to make sure that you don’t schedule anything else during your coaching session.  Coaching is an investment in your future and deserves your time and energy.

Want more?  Read “Get the Most Out of Executive Coaching” from the HBR Blog Network.

Check out this “coachability” quiz at

What are the ICF Core Coaching Competencies?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

The ICF has defined 11 core coaching competencies for professional coaches to master and demonstrate in their coaching with clients.  Coaches who aspire to be members of ICF and get their ICF credentials first need to take coaching training that is aligned with these core competencies, then continue to strengthen their actual application and mastery of these competencies, and then pass the ICF credentialing process.

So, what are these 11 core competencies?  The core competencies are grouped into four clusters. All competencies are critical for any competent coach to demonstrate.

A. Setting the Foundation
1. Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards
2. Establishing the Coaching Agreement

B. Co-creating the Relationship
3. Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client
4. Coaching Presence

C. Communicating Effectively
5. Active Listening
6. Powerful Questioning
7. Direct Communication

D. Facilitating Learning and Results
8. Creating Awareness
9. Designing Actions
10. Planning and Goal Setting
11. Managing Progress and Accountability

More about each core competency to follow in the succeeding posts.

Source:  Retrieved from the ICF Individual Credentialing Core Competencies.

Knowing Which Hat To Wear

So what if consulting, coaching, and mentoring are different form each other? As a professional coach, it is important to know how one is similar and different from the other so that you know which hat to wear given a specific client requirement or situation.

One interesting perspective was given by Edgar Schein when he wrote about indoctrination, training, education and coaching in his essay Coaching and Consultation Revisited, Are They The Same? Essentially, all these involve changing the behavior of an individual or groups of individuals in an organization. One can say the same thing about consulting and mentoring as well.

Schein clarified that what’s different is that in coaching the coach does not necessarily have in mind a predetermined direction or outcome, the coach does not have arbitrary power over the person, and that the person volunteers and is motivated to learn.

He thought of coaching as helping a person develop a new way of seeing, feeling about, and behaving in situations that are defined by the person, the client, as problematic. In coaching, the goal is selected by the client. He viewed coaching as a subset of consulting.

While you may or may not agree that coaching is a subset of consulting, at the end of the day, you may agree with his point that it’s more important that you can easily move from one role to the other as needed, and that the ultimate skill of a coach is to assess the moment-to-moment reality that will help him or her know which hat to wear to be in the appropriate role.

Which is Right for You, Executive Coach or Career Counselor?

One question you may have is what is the difference between an executive coach and a career counselor.  I came across an interesting and similarly titled article which sought to help leaders assess which one is right for them.

The article gave the context that organizational leaders today face many tough challenges such as economic uncertainty, faster technology, globalization. We can add more such as unrelenting competition, talent shortage and workforce mobility, to name a few.

To be successful, leaders must develop not only new skills but also broader and alternative perspectives. The question is, how does a leader go about identifying and developing these?  The answer is, and you guessed right, through working with an executive coach or career counselor.

While both help their clients assess and develop their professional capabilities, these are some distinctions between executive coaches and career counselors, and understanding what kind of transition you are making can hekp you make the right choice.

If you are making a career change or are considering one, a career counselor may be more helpful to you in identifying and exploring your career options. Career counselors would have more information about job and career opportunities in various industries.  They can also do assessments of your interests and skills.

If you are working to develop your full potential, which is a never ending journey, an executive coach is the better choice.  Executive coaches help you in ascertaining and focusing on your priority development goals and in moving forward to achieve these.

In a nutshell, if you are making a career change, seek a career counselor, and if you need support in moving foward to develop your full potential, seek an executive coach.

Five Benefits in Joining the ICF Philippine Chapter

If you are a professional coach, one of the self development activities well worth your while is to become an active member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) Philippine Chapter. Whether you are a Life Coach, a Leadership Coach, an Executive Coach, or specialize in a niche of your choice, being a member gives you several opportunities.

Networking with other professional coaches. Getting to know other coaches who share similar passions gives you a larger perspective of the profession, the demand, practices, and trends, among other things. Networking also enables you to build your credibility with colleagues and market your services.

Continuing learning through the monthly chapter meetings. Activities during the meetings aim to enhance the core competencies of the members, as well as share developments in the field.

Participating in peer group coaching (PGC). Some of the monthly meetings focus on the PGC where one coach shares a case, anonymous of course, and the other coaches ask powerful questions that promote reflection, create fresh perspectives, and give valuable inputs that help the case owner to be an even better coach.

Volunteering to conduct learning activities. Each chapter member has unique contributions to make. As each one furthers her own competencies and practice, each one has something new to offer and share.

Earning Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Attendance in the monthly chapter meetings counts towards CEUs necessary to attain and maintain credentials.

The chapter meetings are held every last Wednesday of the month at Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. To learn more about the ICF and the ICF Philippine Chapter, please visit the websites by clicking on their links in the Blogroll.

Developing Coaching Skills in Managers

So you want your managers to be good coaches to their direct reports and teams?  Where do you begin?  A good way to start would be to get them to attend a coaching workshop and then have follow-up coaching sessions where they are coached as well to help them apply what they have learned in the workshop.

The coaching workshops for managers provide the concepts and skills, and practice coaching sessions. These may focus on skills for overcoming individual and team performance problmes, and developing employee skills. The practice sessions promote gut level learning.  The follow-up coaching sessions is where they coach their direct reports and teams and get support and feedback from a professional executive coach.

Benefits of developing coaching skills in managers include fostering a positive coaching culture in the organization, building on strengths and developing new skills, increasing individual and team productivity, rekindling employee motivation, and creating promotable subordinates.

Depending on the goals of each manager to develop specifc coaching skills, maybe 8 to12 follow-up coaching sessions may be sufficient to help them move forward and achieve their goals.

Is Training Enough?

I’ve often been asked about what training people should take to learn a specific skill, for example, public speaking. My reply is that training alone is not enough and that more time and effort must be focused on applying and practicing what was learned. Learning a few critical things and applying them has more impact than learning a lot of things but not using these.

Developing yourself and the people you are responsible for is one key to your success as well as theirs. Enlightened leadership calls for investing in continuous personal and professional development of everyone in the organization. Often, the top of mind approach is sending people to some form of classroom training to learn about the concepts and skills they need to be more effective and productive on the job. Experience, however, has shown time and again that such training alone is not enough to achieve better performance on the job.

People need help and support to transfer what they have learned in the classroom to on-the-job situations. Questions you may want to consider asking yourself are: What opportunities are our people given at work to apply what they learned for the benefit of the organization? How do their managers or supervisors encourage and reinfore the use of what they have learned? What more can be done so that training investments can be optimized?

One approach for helping people apply what they have learned is the use of managerial and professional coaching in tandem with training initiatives. With someone encouraging them to practice what they’ve, and holding them accountable for results, the organization gets a higher return on its investment.