Alex had been on this job at the individual contributor level for more than three years now. He wondered, “What should I do, to move to the next level, should I seek another opportunity, or should I try to grow within the organisation? Three years had gone by, in learning on the job and seeking support ‘if” required. He had been the ‘go-to’ guy for getting things done. However, this year, it felt like he needed more!!
Such a dilemma is not rare at the first-time manager level or any transitionary level. Organisations have become accustomed to organic growth and leaders too at all levels learn through observations and experience.
But DDI Research
(Leaders in Transition: Stepping Up, Not Off) shows that experience is a poor teacher for developing coaching skills.
Leaders in transition have questions and dilemmas that lead to rash career choices. We see human being’s transition all the time, but notice that there are milestones and certain transitions that need more support than the other. Transitioning from a teenager to an adult is a big transition that becomes intense at certain milestones.
In a career ladder too, the milestones of moving from an individual contributor to a first-time manager can be viewed with the same intensity.
Everything one knows about ‘self” is questioned and the development areas become more magnified. Now, more than ever, being present to the coaching needs of leaders is becoming critical. The dilemma is two-fold:
Are you as a leader craving coaching vs. Are you as a manager ready to coach? Jahnvi had a performance appraisal conversation coming up with her direct report. She had been on this role for six months and wondered if she was on the right track herself. The expectation from Jahnvi was to ensure that she guides her direct report on her development. She found herself in a quandary, “How does she guide someone while she was craving for guidance herself!”
DDI’s research shows that at all levels, making a leadership transition, most frequently occupied the number one slot in the list of life’s challenges that were arranged in order of their greatest difficulty.
Nearly one out of every five people leaders rank it as the most challenging life event.
Leaders in a first-time manager role have primarily been promoted for reasons of technical prowess and not their ability to coach and manage people structures in an organisation.
Though 60-80 percent of the execution pyramid is managed by the first-time managers, the initiatives that involve ‘coaching’ is almost unheard of. Is it because coaching is an elite concept, restricted/offered to only the senior leaders of an organisation?So, do we need coaching at a first-time manager level? DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast (GLF) 2018 found that Leaders across levels appreciate three features the most in their learning experience:
Personalised learning experiences Coaching from external mentors Formal training
The organisation can activate the learning experience of a first-time manager by ensuring that they offer structures i.e. group coaching / individual job coaching / formal session that help deal with the transition issues proactively than reactively.
The right techniques
It’s time to simplify and help ‘leaders in transition’ to pick up the right techniques. We need to begin the journey to coaching, ‘Job Coaching’ early on. Managers need to be ‘taught’ the techniques of coaching to be proactive rather than reactive in the approach. Workgroups that leverage the coaching skills across departments, divisions and even organisations need to be planned well ahead of the actual transitions.
So how does one develop the skills required for coaching? Clearly, experience alone does not develop or improve coaching skills. Perhaps this should not be a surprise. The fundamental skills and concepts of coaching remain constant, even as leaders gain experience and change roles; however, the environment has changed. Even a leader with a strong foundation of coaching skills must adapt and further hone his or her approach as the workforce and workplace evolve.
‘Being a coach’ is no more an elite concept; instead, it is the ‘how’ of everything one does.
Dipali Naidu is Head of Consulting at DDI India.