Employer Branding

Stop Hiring Managers and Start Hiring High-Performance Coaches

According to Gallup’s recent book, It’s the Manager, poor management is likely destroying your enterprise engagement and productivity. This is because to each employee of your company, despite how clear or well-articulated your vision, mission, and goals may be, these are always filtered through each of your front-line leaders. Most of your managers were probably chosen into their role either out of necessity or because they were excellent individual contributors in their previous role. But nearly every senior leader I speak with admits that very rarely do stellar individual contributors make solid managers. This is a huge problem because a lack of employee engagement leads to high employee turnover — which ultimately leads to poor performance.

What do we usually do when strong individual contributors are not turning into strong managers? We seek to source managers from outside in the hope that another company’s manager selection process was better than ours. But this is the literal definition of the blind leading the blind. It’s time we fix this issue for once and for all.

Whether I source managers from either inside my company as a promotion or from outside, I am looking for a specific blend of attributes I call high-performance coaching. High-performance coaching marries the best of management and coaching practices for the benefit of the employee and the business. Great managers excel at setting clear expectations, planning, and leveraging processes. Great coaches are good at helping others exceed expectations, innovating, and developing talents into reliable strengths. When you blend both, you set yourself and your company up for long-term success.

At this point, you may be asking yourself: “Do high-performance coaches even exist in today’s environment?” Of course, they do. And all it takes is a shift in focus to find them.

High-performance coaches are first and foremost people developers – so asking a prospective manager candidate how many of their reports achieved positions of higher responsibility during their tenure is a great probe. High-performance coaches are known for sustainable results, so don’t source managers with less than 2-3 years of line management experience. They also have highly engaged and productive teams, so ask candidates about their turnover and team engagement scores and what they do to maintain a high-performance environment.

As more millennials proliferate throughout business, expectations are shifting so much that 21% of millennials — more than three times the number of non-millennials — switched jobs in the last year due in large part to poor or absent professional and career development. Managers are primarily concerned with the end outcome whereas coaches desire to develop the capabilities of their people. High-performance coaches would focus on leveraging continuous learning and regular feedback to drive positive personal and business results.

The impact of disengaged employees is clear and the impact of high organizational turnover is obvious. It is not possible to simply start from scratch and wipe the slate clean of current managers — so the most logical approach is to help them evolve from managers into manager/coaches and then finally into high-performance coaches. The transition from manager to manager/coach begins with an expansion of focus. The manager must begin to concentrate as keenly on their employee as they do on business outcomes.

They do this by taking inventory of each colleague’s strengths, pride motivators, development needs, and turnoffs (a practice I call INNERviewing in my new book, Leader Board: The DNA of High Performance Teams. Then they set performance expectations and work with their employee to achieve and exceed these objectives via a combination of strengths development, targeted reinforcement and motivation, and regular two-way feedback sessions. This effort comes with an immediate payoff in terms of employee trust. Taking a personal interest in someone beyond what they can deliver for you (as Dale Carnegie advocates in How to Win Friends and Influence People) usually provides a powerful relationship boost that creates a virtuous circle leading to higher levels of performance.

To be sure, this evolutionary process will be painful in the beginning. Still, just as the penguins in Our Iceberg is Melting identified key trends and navigated to safer ground, my advice is to start the journey to high-performance coaching sooner rather than later in order to avoid the coming business calamities of employee disengagement and millennial mass exodus.

About the author: Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams available for purchase in ebook or print on Please follow him on instagram, twitter, LinkedIn, and/or his website for more information and engagement.

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