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Can All Managers Coach Every Employee?

And should they? Or are others in the organization better qualified to provide support?

Often we assume that managers should be able to coach each of their employees, but this is not always the case. Consider the difficulty in coaching employees who are better skilled than the manager in performing certain tasks. Consider the difficulty in coaching employees in completing tasks that the manager may never have done himself. We make the assumption that the manager must be the best at the role the employee does. This is rarely, if ever, the case. The employee is going to have expertise the manager does not have – isn’t that why they were hired in the first place! Too often managers assume they must be the experts in all areas. Sometimes this is the expectation set at the top, in other cases it is just a false assumption on the part of the manager.

Certainly we might rely on a manager to coach an employee in how to work more effectively with others on the team, or on how to resolve conflicts, or negotiate a contract. But if an employee’s technical skills are stronger than the manager’s, it doesn’t make sense for the manager to be the coach when the employee needs help in this area. However, just because the manager can’t be the coach, doesn’t mean someone else can’t help out!

In working with many clients I have found that when the manager cannot assist in coaching an employee in a particular area, the coaching just doesn’t happen.  Or…. the manager tries to coach the employee in an area in which the manager is not strong which provides no help at all to the employee and is embarrassing for the manager.

When an employee needs help in an area in which you, as the manager, may not be skilled – support the employee by helping them secure a coach within the department, workgroup or even outside the organization. Your employee will appreciate the effort and will benefit highly from another coach with the expertise needed to help the employee be successful. Bottom line – get past your ego that you may not be an expert in a particular area. It is perfectly OK and frankly you can’t be an expert in everything!

In my past years working within organizations, I have managed many an employee who had expertise I did not have. I didn’t fake it. When they needed support I couldn’t provide, I found someone who could. In some cases this was someone else in the department (what a great learning opportunity for the other individual!) and in other cases it was someone outside the department or even outside the company. Every employee has appreciated that I found someone who can assist them and not one complained that I wasn’t an expert in a particular area. That’s why I had them on my team in the first place! For the expertise!