Establishing your persona as a first-time boss is not easy. While it is important to be true to yourself and honest with your crew, getting a balance between trust, respect, and authority requires thought and care.
Previous generations of bosses didn’t worry so much about this: they oversaw a culture of unquestioning obedience, or even fear.
But the so-called coaching style of management that has become more popular in recent years has been shown to also be more effective – around 80% of employees with coaching-style bosses say that they work, communicate, and feel better than when they were simply told what to and how to do it (and that there would be hell to pay if they got it wrong.)
Principles of coaching
The coaching style doesn’t require you to get out the blackboard and start chalking up different working formations and set-pieces like a sports coach. You can get to that later!
In the first place just remember: ask questions, listen, don’t pull rank. Observe the unique qualities of your individual employees and be sensitive to opportunities to improve, or potential pitfalls in asking too much of staff who aren’t ready for specific responsibilities.
It is easy to be dazzled with suggestions that you adopt one ‘school’ of management or another. So while you develop your broader management style, it is very helpful to keep a few concrete principles to hand which you can use in the ordinary day-to-day running of the department or business.
When you do see that an employee is struggling or has made a mistake, it is actually a great opportunity to demonstrate that you can be trusted and that you value their contribution. Yell at them or hint at the precariousness of their job, and you instantly lose that trust: they become more likely to hide mistakes or avoid complex tasks altogether in the future. They certainly won’t remain emotionally invested in their job if they feel it is permanently under threat, or that they are just there to perform tasks for money.
Demonstrating how to complete a task properly is a good chance to try out your coaching technique. Ask questions as you go along: how would you do this? why do you think I’m doing it this way? You will encourage the employee to engage and learn, while demonstrating that you value their input.
And when they do get something right, try to vary your praise so it feels genuine. If you enjoy constructive criticism, you’re going to love constructive praise! With this approach, you ask questions about how your employee achieved what they did, how they enjoyed it, workflow improvements they would suggest, and further development opportunities connected to their achievement.
Before you know it, you’re coaching. But to get started, it helps to have some material to work with. Try learning these few short coaching phrases to use in the workplace and – just as important – the principles behind them, and you will soon be ready to inspire trust and excellence in your new position as boss.