In order to turn your managers into great coaches next year, stop looking backwards at what employees did and start looking forward at what employees can do. Progressive companies are abandoning the ratings system and the annual employee conversation. They favour more regular coaching from managers and performance-related discussion that focuses on future contribution. Less-progressive companies are loosening the restrictions around performance management, providing guidelines for more frequent conversations. While, the most progressive companies already consider performance management a thing of the past. They equip managers with the skills needed to effectively coach  employees to higher levels of satisfaction and contribution.

Is there a “right” way to make your managers great coaches in 2016? There are models; guidelines, systems, and rules… There are, in essence, many ways to coach. However, what makes coaching challenging is the reality that every employee is unique, and therefore has unique needs. There are many similarities, trends and best practices. However, the underlying fact is every person is different. Each of us has different drivers, motivators, values, needs, desires, and visions. To some, coaching is a pat on the back; to others, it’s a kick in the butt.” Some employees will need constant feedback, others not so much. Some employees want guidance on how to grow their career; others are content where they are. It’s no wonder managers struggle with the concept of coaching.

For many, today’s manager is expected to continue producing as a full contributor, track their team’s workload and productivity, follow management policies and procedures, oversee Health & Safety, give feedback, provide training, offer advice, AND coach their employees. How can they be expected to do all that, knowing that each of their direct reports need something different in order to succeed?

How to turn your managers into great coaches:

  1. Provide the essential tools to help them understand what coaching actions are important to each of their direct reports.

How else can the manager know all the variables that contribute to an employee’s unique sense of self? Assessing the importance of specific coaching actions is a great way to start a conversation around how to be an effective coach.

  1. Train them to have genuine, productive conversations with their direct reports about what they find important.

It’s not good enough to just understand what employees find important; it’s what you do with that information that will truly make the difference in the manager-employee relationship and grow productivity.

  1. Provide them with a framework or guidelines for how to have effective coaching conversations.

There are many different coaching models and guidelines; find the one that works for your organisation and train your managers on how to use it. This will become the language used throughout the company.

  1. Help them focus on the type of coaching that will respond to the dynamic needs of the organisation and the employee.

Coaching an employee through a performance issue looks very different than coaching them through career growth, which looks very different than coaching them through a merger or change. Providing them with tools to focus their coaching on the issue at hand will make for a more meaningful conversation.

  1. Give them time and room to practice.

Don’t expect your managers to naturally know how to coach well. Give them room to try saying the words out loud, to make mistakes, and to get feedback and help on how to be more effective. Practice makes perfect.

In the end, a good coaching relationship between a manager and his/her direct reports makes all the difference. Not only will it increase productivity, efficiency, learning, and performance, but it will also build stronger teams and make for a more enjoyable workplace. Those who coach will reap the benefits of an engaged team, and leave work feeling proud to have made a difference.

Above all else, to turn your managers into great coaches,  train them, don’t blame them’.

Until they know what to do and how to do it well, you can’t expect any more than you already have.

Brian Rosnell is a professional leadership trainer with betterment training. www.betterment.co.nz