Vision and structure

To be a strong leader takes a compelling vision for people. It also requires an ability to set up goals and follow-up on it. In addition to this, to enable great things through people, it takes a softer side, a caring side. That is what you call coaching. Focused on enabling great results through people, coaching requires different skills than just leading and managing. These are the new pillars of enabling growth at work, internal motivation, and greater productivity. This is a combination of leadership, management, and coaching.

Coaching as the path to leading others

Although managers would like to think differently, people don’t come to work with the company goals on their mind; neither do they think about how much money the company is making. People come to work concerned about themselves. People focus on deeper internal concerns like their own personal challenges at home, personal goals, their money pressures, and relationship problems. People come to work wondering if they will find support, opportunities to develop, and of course have interesting work to do.

The gap between personal goals and company goals

Organizational life by definition is not always like family. It is focused on making money, maintaining stability, and compliance. For some, it can feel like job prison, especially for those who don’t enjoy their work. As a result, people often don’t go out of their way to take risks, offer new ideas, be creative or show courage at the office. People don’t feel like being punished if they make mistakes or if their ideas will not be appreciated. Sadly, this is the opposite of what managers need from their people to do at work. We need people rocking the boat, challenging the status quo when they feel it is necessary. But, how exactly do we enable people to do this to advance both their own development and the goals of the organization? After many years of managing and leading people, I know that this is the challenge. So the most important question to ask is how to make work more human, more joyful, and at the same time enable people to achieve their goals while helping to advance the goals of the organization.

A new leadership approach is required now!

The carrot and stick approach doesn’t work if we want people to accomplish great things at work. We need a new approach: a humanistic approach which places people over profit. This doesn’t need to make stockholders turn in their sleep. Placing an emphasis on the person at work as the center will not only make work more enjoyable which is good for people and society, it also will enable people to achieve more and this creates more profit.

This takes a new emphasis – Coaching

I like to advice people who want to go into management that they should enjoy being a teacher. A great teacher like a great coach has both the developmental interests of people and the organizational goals in mind. This approach places the emphasis on people, unlike outdated management theories of one way monitoring (scientific management) and reward and punishment (Behaviorism). This enables joyful and productive work in the long term. This doesn’t mean making more money, a corner office, or better job title. It is about whether a person feels valued at work and has trusted and open relationships. And more importantly, this approach enables people to see the bigger picture: a connection of a vision of the organization and their own life.

Enter Coaching

Any good parent or good athletic coach is focused on enabling growth, achievement, and learning. If you think about personal relationships, the most successful are those where the spouse is supportive. This is the same coach that is needed in organizational life. What is coaching? Coaching is about asking questions which enable people to make better decisions, solve more challenges on their own, and have better interpersonal relationships along the way. These all lead to productive work and goals being met. Coaching is about having empathy, assuming that all people have the resources they need to be successful. Great coaching enables people to step back and place a better frame around a situation, to look at it from a new perspective to imagine new possibilities.

When to apply coaching?

There are many opportunities to apply coaching throughout the course of one’s management day. A crisis, career development discussion, a decision to be made, confusing goals, or peer relationships issues, all are good reasons to apply coaching. Coaching is not oriented towards solution giving, opinion giving, leading to manager’s personal agenda or asking why something is not working. This approach can cause a person to go backwards and not forward. Coaching behavior starts with having the person’s best interests at heart. Coaching is about working together keeping the focus on people and their needs.

Coaching takes time

Many managers prefer to manage in autocratic ways barking orders and not listening well. Others just feel more comfortable micro-managing. This isn’t healthy for people of the organization or society. Adults are really just like children except we have bigger bodies. Children like to enjoy what they do, have good relationships, and be heard while having opportunities to express themselves. So do adults! Coaching does require more patience and more time. In spite of this, if we stand back and look at our world, our society, our sagging economy, we will see that a new type of leader is required now, a type of leader who is a great coach at the same time.

The Emphasis should change

Many people who I meet don’t enjoy their work and aren’t as productive as they could be. I rarely these days meet people who are passionate about their work. Many work cultures treat their people like children demanding compliance. These same environments are filled with negative punitive terms such as probation, execution, verbal warning, performance management, 360 degree assessment, ranking and rating etc. We need to move away from empty terms, the urge to rank and rate people making them compete against one another at work. We must resist the urge to develop categories of people: good performers, bad performers, fast trackers, high potential, talent, and other management related empty terms. When people are forced to compete we end up with winners and losers. There is no reason for punishment at work unless of course someone breaks the law!

Coaching focuses on positive feedback and not evaluation

Coaching requires daily communicating with followers, asking better questions, focusing more on what is working vs. what is not working. When managers only focus on fixing problems, they find more problems and end up wasting time on low priority problems which don’t need to be fixed. People aren’t broken, the systems which they work under are! Leaders strongly influence the behavior in the organization. Great coaches understand this.

Coaching requires better questions

Here are three of them:

  1. As a result of reading this article, what steps might you take to better lead yourself and others?
  2. How might you start thinking differently about how you lead yourself and others?
  3. What specific action can you take today as a result of reading this article so you can role model great coaching?

I’ll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson

Get latest news, events and updates on

Joyful work and humanistic leadership from Dr Craig Nathanson:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons