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A manager is most simply defined as: a person responsible for controlling or administering an organization or group of staff. A definition which rang true for decades, but no longer holds up for the majority of workplaces. Today’s managers are expected to wear many different hats: counselor, confidante, cheerleader, coach… the list goes on. 

A huge management focus is on employee wellbeing, yet targets for high performance and ever-increasing output from teams have not reduced. Finding the right balance appears impossible.

While it’s certainly challenging, with the right tools and resources, managers can be everything to everyone – most of the time.

Juggling conflicting priorities

Balancing the conflicting priorities of wellbeing and output is hard. Managers must protect and develop their teams whilst also focusing on business outcomes, productivity, and performance. 

If a team member is struggling with workload, but deadlines are looming and there’s no additional resource budget, it can become overwhelming. Managers must seek to balance everybody’s needs and find an appropriate solution. This is especially challenging for new managers with less real-world leadership experience – and often less business experience, too.

In these conflicting situations, it’s easy for emotions to become fraught, and perspective to be lost, which is where emotional intelligence (or EQ) comes in. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to develop EQ in your people, regardless of their starting point. You simply need to invest in the right initiatives to help them gain perspective, empathy, and resilience. 

The best place to start is with access to individual professional coaching, where managers can work through challenges in real-time and on their schedules, gaining clarity and solutions to their challenges. They’ll also learn skills for their management toolkit, so future conflict will seem less overwhelming.

Manager as coach

Not only do your leaders need coaching themselves, they should also be actively working to become coaching managers to best support their teams and the business. 

A coaching management style is rooted in the concept of empowering individuals to grow and develop within their organization. 

It’s about facilitating learning rather than directing it; asking questions rather than giving answers; and helping employees unlock their potential. It’s a huge move away from simply enforcing rules and procedures. 

It’s popular because it works: employees with coaching managers are 40% more engaged and are 20% more likely to stay in an organization long term.

How do I develop coaching managers?

If you already see the value of coaching as a management skill, but have no idea where to start, you’re not alone. It’s a common issue: many senior stakeholders envisage a vast program of work. Rather than retraining every line manager in the organization, it actually all starts with a simple mindset shift.

You need to develop a coaching mindset in your people.

It may sound like corporate jargon, but developing coaching mindsets in managers is the best way to guarantee strong leadership. 

Put simply, it’s an attitude or approach that involves guiding, inspiring, and supporting others in their growth and development. Managers with a coaching mindset see themselves not as bosses or supervisors, but as facilitators who empower their teams to perform at their best.

The first crucial step in transforming managers into effective coaches, this mindset shift centralizes the growth and development of others. Instead of taking a directive approach, where the manager tells the team what to do, there is a more collaborative one, where managers and employees work together to identify solutions and make decisions.

Where should I start?

If you’re ready to develop coaching leaders, here are the best ways to get started:

Management today is complex. Far from the output-focused role it once was, today’s managers are expected to be everything to their teams: career guides, mentors, support systems… the list goes on. The shift is best defined as a move from management to leadership; rather than dictating tasks and giving orders, the expectation is to develop teams aligned to a cause, who perform because they are bought into their leaders.

Striking the balance between pastoral care and goal attainment is tricky, especially for new managers who may not have much business experience themselves. Developing high levels of emotional intelligence is one way managers can navigate the delicate balance, understanding when to shift their approach from supportive to outcome focused.

Emotional intelligence, commonly referred to as EQ (Emotional Quotient. Think: IQ, but for empathy) comes naturally for some, but for others, it can be more of a challenge. The good news is that EQ can be developed in everybody, whatever their starting point.

Why is emotional intelligence so important?

First, let’s take a look at how EQ presents in a business context. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to perceive, understand, manage, and use emotions in a constructive and adaptive way. It can be categorized into five main components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

All of these characteristics show up in strong leadership. Without these attributes, managers are unable to understand and manage their own emotions, or empathize with the feelings of their team members. 

How can I increase my managers’ emotional intelligence?

Whether they have high emotional intelligence, or there’s work to be done, here are a few ways managers can enhance their EQ, whatever their starting point:

Reflection: Regular self-reflection helps managers become more self-aware and understand how their emotions drive their behavior.

Feedback: Encourage open and honest feedback from peers and team members. This can help managers understand how their actions affect others. Feedback can be informal or more formal via tools such as 360 degree assessments.

Mindfulness: Practices like meditation can help managers stay focused and aware of their emotional state.

Coaching: Providing ongoing coaching to your managers is the most impactful way you can support their EQ journey. Coaching is proven to help increase self-awareness, resilience, and motivation.

How do I know it’s working?

Strong leaders will always get better results, develop more engaged teams, and see far lower undesirable headcount churn than their peers.

Investing in a meaningful EQ initiative – like coaching with Sama – for all managers gives you access to real-time data that demonstrates the impact of coaching. Using retention data and employee surveys also demonstrates the benefits of strong, empathetic leadership on your business success. 

By investing in developing the emotional intelligence of your managers, you’ll enhance the effectiveness of your coaching efforts and create a more supportive, understanding, and productive work environment.

Emotional intelligence is just one component of developing empowering leaders. Find out more about developing managers to drive your business success in our complete guide. Get in touch to discuss your people strategy today.

Managers are confronted with new realities in today’s work environment.

Emerging trends are quickly reshaping the world of work as we know it and redefining manager-employee dynamics. This means that the nature of your managers’ job may be different from what they signed up to.

  • Remote and hybrid work models are becoming the norm. A recent survey found that 73% of employees want flexible remote work. Less face time in an office requires us to be more conscious and disciplined about how we communicate as a team.
  • Teams value human connection. According to a Mckinsey report employees prioritize feeling appreciated and connected over compensation when deciding whether to stay or move on from a company. There is a notable need for a more human-centric management style.
  • Technology is impacting the way work is done. Gartner predicts that almost 69% of managers’ routine work could be automated by 2024.
  • Managing during a looming recession. A number of companies have started restructuring initiatives in the wake of a recession. Managing teams in a downturn is different from managing teams during a bull market. Maintaining team morale to achieve business objectives while the sky is falling adds complexity.

Managers are central to employee experience and managers’ actions have a direct impact on team performance and wellbeing. It is not surprising that Gartner found that 60% of HR leaders consider leadership and managerial effectiveness a top priority for 2023.

How can companies ensure that their managers are the people leaders they need?

Identify key challenges

Start with investigating what challenges your managers are facing. These insights can help you identify trends and adapt your learning and development support accordingly. Talk to your managers about the key issues they’re dealing with. What can often come up is team motivation, giving constructive feedback or leading remote teams. You can complement their inputs with data from employee engagement surveys.

Share best practices

Leverage successful managers within your organization. Identify what makes them successful and share those practices and behaviors with others. You can share strategies around how managers can build the right environment for collaboration, how to offer constructive feedback to help employees grow or how to set the right goals that can help accelerate team performance.

Create communities to support your managers

Peer support can be very valuable. Invite managers to weekly or monthly forums, where they can discuss their challenges and share experiences. Discussions can be open or facilitated on specific topics. Such meaningful conversations can help managers gather feedback and uncover creative solutions that help them strengthen their leadership capabilities.

Provide development opportunities

Invest in managers’ professional development to equip them with the right skills and mindset to successfully lead teams.

Using one-on-one coaching to develop your managers can be a powerful tool. These confidential coaching sessions empower managers to explore their own strengths and development areas. Coaches help challenge their thinking and keep them accountable for converting good intentions into positive actions that support their teams’ development and performance.

Reward managers for more than just results

Just as team members have shifted their values in the workplace, recognition practices should as well. This is just smart leadership, as managers who show high levels of empathy have 3x the impact on their employees’ performance relative to those who show low levels of empathy. Provide recognition and highlight success stories of those managers who live the values of your organization and create a positive work environment for their teams.

Help managers optimize their time

With new technologies, organizations have more tools and resources at their disposal to help teams optimize their time and energy. You can leverage tools that help automate repetitive tasks and enable managers to get insights into their team members’ workloads. This can help managers refocus their time and attention on higher-impact relationships. Take the time to evaluate which tech tools your organization could benefit from and make sure that everyone knows how to use them properly.

Managers are the key to unlock performance and team wellbeing. While the world of work is evolving, in a changing economic environment, investing in your managers’ development is crucial. Organizations and HR professionals must take proactive steps in order to develop the skills and mindsets of managers in line with the demands of today’s workforce. Ultimately, by doing so, they’ll create teams that are engaged and productive.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
– Peter Drucker

You can be a great manager, but are you good at being an effective leader? Have you ever thought of what kind of a leader you would like to be?

What is the difference between leading and managing?

A strong manager successfully plans, coordinates and sets up processes and structures that help their team accomplish specific goals. Being a strong manager is different from being a leader. Leaders go beyond managing day-to-day tasks and “hitting the numbers”. Generally, we think of managers as being task-focused, driving action through a plan. Leaders drive people to action through a compelling vision. Leaders align their teams towards a common vision, empowering and inspiring their teams to unlock their full potential. This leads to high performance, creativity and innovation.

With the right mindset anyone can develop effective leadership styles at work. Here’s how you can:

Build empathy
Studies show that empathy positively impacts innovation, engagement and boosts retention. Empathetic leaders invest in building relationships with their teams. They are interested in learning what is important to their team and what sets them up for success. Take steps to understand your team’s motives. What influences them to behave in certain ways? Give people the opportunity to share their perspectives and backgrounds by asking questions and genuinely listening. When you take the time to engage with people and give them the space to share thoughts and experiences, it makes them feel heard, valued and establishes strong bonds.

Leaders are driven by a higher purpose. When you become an effective evangelist, you don’t just promote the work you and your team does; you explain how the work makes a positive difference. Being an effective leader means inspiring your team with a common purpose. This makes their work more meaningful and motivates them to take action. One way you can be a successful evangelist is by developing and communicating a coherent message of purpose – both within and outside the company. Seize opportunities to spread awareness of what your team and company do, and the positive impact it can have.

Recognise and celebrate your people
A study by BCG found that the number one factor of happiness at work was feeling appreciated. Research also shows that social rewards such as being recognised and appreciated for your work have the same impact as financial rewards. Being an effective leader means recognising people for the value they bring, as it motivates them and reinforces the positive behaviours that lead to successful outcomes.

Bring out the best in your people
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, posits that leaders must shift from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” mindset. Being an effective leader means you value the importance of learning and development – for themselves as well as for their colleagues. One solution is to give your team the opportunity to own their learning and development. Ask your team for their input on skills they would like to build or resources that could truly support them. This will allow you to offer impactful development tools that will be used.

Free up your time – and mind
As a leader who juggles multiple tasks and responsibilities, it is easy to get roped into day-to-day tasks with no breaks. This might leave you feeling overwhelmed, with little time for creativity or strategising. Studies suggest that when you free up time and let your mind wander, it boosts creativity. Being an effective leader doesn’t mean you don’t feel stress or anxiety at work, many leaders experience this, too. Be disciplined about carving out time daily to create some mental space by, for example, meditating, taking a walk, or journaling.

Embrace ambiguity
Leaders recognise that ambiguity is inevitable and constant because of the complex world we operate in. To successfully embrace ambiguity, start by acknowledging your own limitations. Being intentional in reaching out to your network of experts for their perspectives can help you enrich your knowledge and better navigate ambiguous situations.

Most managers develop their own style of leadership based on factors like experience and company culture, as well as the unique needs of their company and its organisational structure. Being an effective leader doesn’t mean fixating on just one leadership style. There are various effective leadership styles that result in increased employee happiness, engagement, and retention rates. By consciously taking steps to shape your mindset, empowering and inspiring your people, you can become an impactful leader that builds a team that works with you, not for you.