High noon, at the senior management conference of a large chemical company. Tom Mayer, old war horse and enigmatic leader, clears his throat. "Ladies and Gentlemen: The digital revolution has finally arrived here,” he starts. “I will personally see to it that one by one, all our departments are brought up to digital speed, ..." An uneasy murmur rises. "But … but Tom knows zilch about digital processes,” Arthur Smith, Head of Manufacturing, whispers audibly, “plus he is facing retirement!" "... assisted by Daniel Moos, a young IT expert we’ve recently hired. He's a genius in his field, I might add," Mayer continues. There’s some polite applause. Smith’s voice, once again: "A guy from outside, unfamiliar with the company and its needs? You can't just hire some greenhorn and get him fit for a big change like that, at least not fast enough." Oh yes, you can. And Tom Mayer knows.
The key is to help people help themselves
Mayer has drawn up a plan, and he’s gotten some expert help – for the interactions between him, a senior manager, and this young IT guy had been challenging and quite a strain on him. He’d known he needed to give David some coaching – but exactly what he was supposed to do, he hadn’t been so sure. You're probably grappled with this question in your own management practice: What kind of coaching do I need to provide to enable my people for their tasks? So, what’s your approach? Are you still in push mode – or have you begun to apply pull? Is it "I'll solve that problem for you" or "I'll help you solve your problem”? If you’ve moved into your management position from an expert career track, you may tend to think you have to have an answer for everything. Which means you're probably the "push" type. Mind you: This preference is not a flaw – it's simply a result of the experience you gathered in your previous working life. If you manage to let go just a bit, you’ll be able to expand your coaching skills very carefully towards the Pull side. I promise it will be a relief. Rather than having to have an answer for every question, you’ll be able to rely on your people's capabilities. Everyone will contribute his or her part to solution development. On the scale between Push and Pull, as a mentor you can make suggestions your team member can evaluate and implement at their own discretion.
There can't be only one
Between the extremes of Push and Pull, I can't give you THE ideal solution. It doesn't exist. It always depends on the situation and the organization, at what point you should assume what role and pursue what approach. What this implies is that there is an effective coaching approach for every single person – in your organization, too. That's for sure! You may find the following questions helpful: What’s your team member's skill level – both in terms of technical expertise and in terms of organizational knowledge? Is this the kind of person that will proactively tackle things, or rather the hesitant type? Does he or she tend to ask for your advice before making a decision? Based on these considerations, you can tailor your coaching to the individual and decide what degree of Push and Pull he or she needs. In other words: You have options. You can adapt your style to people's needs and to the specific situation. Whatever approach you choose – the key is that you’ll stand by that person’s side, supporting them with your entrepreneurial savvy and your expertise and gently guiding them into the right direction. To find out what effective employee coaching can look like in practice, see my book "Impact. Develop Your People – Enhance Your Company's Success".