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Why every successful manager needs leadership coaching

May 17, 2021 - 17 min read

These days, organizations expect more from managers than ever. In this environment, everyone has room to grow.


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Build resilience to handle tough times

Develop strategic management skills to contribute to the big picture

Empower employees to be their best

Improve focus to get work done through disruptions

Learn how to thrive in and out of the workplace with leadership coaching

These days, organizations expect more from managers than ever. In addition to tracking budgets, today’s managers have to keep up with rapidly changing demands, navigate competing priorities, and constantly integrate new information and tools. They also have to build agile, high-performing teams. And, to deliver on that, today's manager needs to act as a guide and coach to bring out the best in their people.

Most managers aren’t well-prepared for this mix of expectations. If they’ve been trained, it is often in rigid command-and-control management techniques that don’t fit the needs of today’s less predictable environment. And those old management techniques don’t fit the high expectations for empowerment and opportunity of today’s workforce, either.

A recent study showed discrepancies between managers' self-assessment of their coaching skills and the assessment from their teams and peers. According to Harvard Business Review, "twenty-four percent of the respondents significantly overestimated their abilities, rating themselves as above average while their colleagues ranked them in the bottom third of the group."

Managers today are under a lot of pressure—in this environment, everyone has room to grow. But where they should grow, and how — well, that depends on the situation. Through personalized leadership coaching, managers can learn to leverage their strengths, develop their skills, and become more aware of how they want to grow. And as they grow, managers become better coaches, too, to help their teams thrive in and out of the workplace.

Build resilience to handle tough times

As a manager, you’re bound to face stressful times in your role. In those moments, it isn’t always easy to know what’s best for the team. Or, to put the needs of the team first. But it's your responsibility to be your team's guide and cheerleader — you don't want your stress to stress and derail those who report to you.

How can you increase your stress tolerance? By building resilience through leadership coaching. According to BetterUp's research, managers who underwent leadership coaching to build resilience saw a 31% increase in team performance, a 9% increase in team innovation, and a 52% decrease in burnout. Moreover, "organizations that experienced the highest increases in workforce resilience" showed 3.2 times greater year-over-year revenue growth and a 60% increase in five-year revenue growth.

Managers learn to build resilience in leadership coaching through personal one-on-one conversations, intentional practice and reflection, and goals for personal growth.

BetterUp leadership coaches help managers practice new skills and behaviors by understanding individual strengths and areas of growth. Coaches focus on helping managers develop their own cognitive agility, emotional regulation, self-compassion, optimism, and self-efficacy to help build resilience.

We focus on improving these areas because research shows that individuals with these qualities are better able to tolerate stress. Take cognitive agility. Our research shows that "people in the top 25% of cognitive agility are 6.3 (times) more likely to be in the top 50% of resilience."

BetterUp behavioral scientist Shonna Waters says awareness of your thoughts is essential to develop cognitive agility and resilience. Through mindfulness practice, managers can change their perspective about a negative situation and nip automatic thoughts in the bud when they're not factual.

Not ready to commit to coaching, but eager to start building your skills? Managers can ease in by trying BetterUp's virtual scenario to develop cognitive agility and resilience.

Develop strategic management skills to contribute to the big picture

A company's plans are only as effective as their implementation. To turn goals into desired outcomes, managers need to understand their organization's strategy and communicate it clearly to their teams.

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 61% of executives "were not prepared for the strategic challenges they faced upon being appointed to senior leadership roles." Leadership coaching can help you understand your company’s vision and align your teams with the organization’s larger plans.

BetterUp Coach Meredith Betz teaches the following steps to improve strategic management skills:

  • Decide where you want to be. When you set goals, think about how you're approaching the strategy and why. Some managers approach strategy from the inside out, based on the organization's strengths and competitive edge, whereas others base it on the market (outside-in).
  • Gather more perspectives. Do a gut check. Reach out to other managers to gather different perspectives and test your assumptions, be it about the organization, market, customers, finances, or anything else.
  • Implementation. Ensure that every action is aligned with the strategy, so you can catch it quickly if anything goes off course.
  • Monitor and revise. Evaluate what worked and didn't, and adjust your plan accordingly.

Through leadership coaching, managers can communicate the strategy effectively and, if there are bumps along the way, find solutions to support their teams through the implementation process.

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Empower employees to be their best

Empowered employees are engaged employees. People are often motivated to improve their performance when they have autonomy over their work and their workplace has a trust-based culture.

According to Harvard Business Review, "compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout."

With the support of a leadership coach, you’ll be better positioned to empower your direct reports. Your coach can teach you how to:

    • Rethink accountability. As a manager, your wins are closely tied with that of your team. Leadership coaching teaches you to share the weight of accountability with your team. Employees tend to be more productive when they feel ownership over a project. Your coach will encourage you to guide your team to take chances, solve problems independently, and learn from mistakes—by providing autonomy or offering support as needed.
    • Align employees to company goals. Managers learn how to communicate effectively, so direct reports understand their role in the company at large and why their work matters.
    • Be mindful. Managers are sometimes un comfortable with releasing power, and it's essential to be conscious of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to learn how to let go. A leadership coach can help with that.

NetApp turned to BetterUp leadership coaching to teach their managers about empowering the company's employees and building a high-performance culture.

BetterUp's hyper-personalized, mobile-enabled, scalable approach to coaching allowed us to focus on the areas that mattered most to us: our people.

Larry McAlister VP of Global Talent at NetApp

"We needed to unleash and develop the potential and leadership of every person in the company," says Larry McAlister, VP of Global Talent at NetApp. "BetterUp's hyper-personalized, mobile-enabled, scalable approach to coaching allowed us to focus on the areas that mattered most to us: our people."

NetApp's managers received individualized BetterUp leadership coaching, and within months, they "experienced growth in core leadership skills such as strategic thinking, driving alignment, and empowering others."

Improve focus to get work done through disruptions

A manager's job entails multiple responsibilities—from putting out fires to tracking performance to aligning team members to deliver big outcomes. Maintaining focus isn't always easy—for you or your team.

According to VoucherCloud, the average employee is productive only for 2 hours and 53 minutes in a workday. Managers are no different. A leadership coach can help you identify your particular focus traps — some people are distracted by their surroundings, some by their inner thought patterns — and provide tools and strategies to help you develop better focus, considering your strengths and challenges.

BetterUp coach Meredith Betz offers the following tips during coaching sessions to improve managers' focus:

    • Remove distractions. Remove anything that can distract you from your line of sight. If that's your phone, put it away. If you have too many unnecessary tabs like social media open, close them. With fewer things to distract you, you'll have more time to focus on work.
    • Take active breaks. It's well known that breaks can improve productivity, so give your body a few minutes to stretch between activities that require you to focus longer. This way, you can revisit the task at hand with fresh eyes.
    • Set time-related boundaries. Use your calendar wisely. Block off time on your calendar for deep work by setting aside a few hours without any meetings. This practice also lets your team know when to approach you, so you're able to give the conversation your undivided attention.
    • Decrease the number of meetings. Encourage your team and other coworkers to reconsider if a meeting is really needed for deep collaboration or if there's another way (like Slack or email) to communicate the required information just as clearly. If a meeting is necessary, ask for an agenda to ensure sessions don't run long and eat into the time allocated for other work.
    • Stop working at the end of the day. End each day with a list of priorities that you can revisit in the morning. At some point, you need to call it a day to rest and recharge, so you can be productive the next day.

With leadership coaching, you'll be equipped with tools to be your most productive self at work, so you have the necessary downtime to spend time with your family or friends.

Learn how to thrive in and out of the workplace with leadership coaching

Employee well-being and success in the workplace are closely related. When your team’s feeling their best, they’re able to do their best work. Managers are the single biggest influence on how the team is feeling, on their experience of belonging, purpose, and productivity. When you are feeling your best, you’re able to be a better manager. By supporting your personal and professional development, leadership coaching can help you, and your team can thrive at work and beyond.

Interested in learning how BetterUp coaching can benefit your organization and its managers? Schedule a customized demo.

Sign up to receive the latest insights, articles, and tools from BetterUp.

Published May 17, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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