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Creating an environment of growth through coaching

As managers, our results come through those who work with us. Managers have a powerful influence on their teams as role models and through their working relationships. Most of our learning occurs at work - we learn through those who manage us. Many organisations see learning and development as something extra they offer to their employees on top of their regular work, but to create a culture that encourages employee growth, learning should be an expectation, not a quid pro quo for promotion. Managers should encourage continuous learning with supportive behaviours and coach their team members, instead of simply suggesting that team members participate in formal training or take an online course.

A good starting point for managers coaching their team members is to open up about their own development and their personal areas for improvement. By doing so, it becomes more acceptable for everyone else to do the same. Managers who want to create an environment of growth for their teams should demonstrate themselves that they are committed to growth. By talking about learning and development in a positive way, managers set a tone that encourages people to try new behaviours and adopt new skills. A successful learning environment celebrates growth and recognises employees when they make progress on a new initiative, even if they don’t hit the end goal. Learning can also be supported by not hiding failures, as this creates an environment that encourages transparency and allows for teams to discuss issues without blame.

Unfortunately, due to too many demands and time pressures, coaching is often pushed to the bottom of the to-do list for many managers. A recent survey of HR leaders found that they expect managers to spend 36% of their time coaching their direct reports, however the survey of managers showed that the actual amount averages 9%. It turns out that the 9% shouldn’t be alarming, because when it comes to coaching, more isn’t necessarily better.

To understand what are the best managers doing to develop employees in today’s busy work environment, researchers at Gartner surveyed 7,300 employees and managers across a variety of industries. Surprisingly, the results showed that whether a manager spends 36% or 9% of their time on employee development doesn’t seem to matter as there is very little correlation between time spent coaching and employee performance; it’s less about the quantity and more about the quality.

According to researchers, managers should focus less on the frequency of their developmental conversations and more on depth and quality. Coaching should be about understanding the employees’ aspirations and the skills needed to develop in that direction. Instead of talking about development only one-to-one, managers should open the conversations up to the team and encourage colleagues to coach each other, pointing out people who have specific skills that others could benefit from learning and connecting colleagues across the organisations so that they can learn skills that they wouldn’t be able to learn from their own team members.

At Acumen, we offer customised coaching programmes to help managers to develop their teams by using day to day work as a learning experience. For more information, contact

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