Having been appointed to lead departments in an organisation as a public relations (PR) manager, the aspect of coaching subordinates is taken as natural part. Well, like many in the field, the discovery to the contrary can be quite a shock.
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I assumed that my background as a former teacher and lecturer would serve me in good stead. How wrong I was. And this applies to other professions as well.
Not all managers practice it, yet it is part of their professional role to coach their employees. The fact that they lead a team of people means that they are responsible for their development and effectiveness.
While the job of a manager is to assign tasks and keep track of when projects are due, they should also act as mentors, motivators and teachers to the staff, encouraging them to do the best they possibly can.
The PR manager, being more experienced in terms of the number of years in the profession and training or education they would have gone through, is obliged to pass those skills and insights to his or her team members.
However, the skill of sharing and ensuring that those that look up to his or her lead, does elude some of them because they simply do not know how to do it.
The first step to take, for supervisors that want to start coaching their employees to be effective in what they do, is to learn what coaching means.
I discovered that coaching was different from managing, being the boss or simply training. It is a skill on its own.
Coaching not only involves teaching others new skills, but also empowering them mentally to work independently and effectively.
While almost all new members of a team need to be coached on daily tasks, company culture and the organisation’s values and goals, many existing employees can benefit from coaching sessions, as well. When new systems are introduced or new skills required.
One soon realises that the need to coach takes the control aspect out of the managerial role, and, instead, creates a relationship of fellowship, one where the supervisor accepts the staff’s possible shortcomings and works with them to improve the way in which they work.
A mentor once said to me, it’s no longer a case of do as I say, but rather one of do as I do! It also means that one has to value a subordinate’s unique qualities.
Most managers tend to expect their staff to have the same level of knowledge, skills and initiative to work at mostly the same levels of competency.
When certain individuals can’t keep up, or simply don’t work as productively as others, managers tend to come down hard or at worst, show them the door. They are taken to be square plugs in round holes, not fitting their expectations.
Well, managers have to realise that they are not in the army, unless of course they are.
In a work environment, however, coaches should value each person’s individuality and uniqueness, understanding that each and every employee provides a value to the overall team.
It could be a unique skill or a character trait that would be an asset.
Just as a coach on the field of play attempts to bring out each player’s unique skills, so should a manager find and value each staff’s unique contribution to the team.
Some people may possess better communication skills, while others can work more quickly, and yet others are more creative. Coaches should understand that each individual learns differently, and should try to adapt a way to connect with the person.
In a typical office, employees turn to the boss with issues and problems who then usually finds a solution to put out the fire.
However, coaches focus on teaching problem-solving techniques to the staff, and then instil the confidence and skills necessary to have the employees feeling empowered and determined enough to try and solve the issue themselves.
The manager soon discovers that coaching is a time commitment, and can definitely put more responsibility on their plate. If one does not recognise the importance of this skill, they usually find themselves at wits end as to how to deal with situations where they just have to play follow the leader.
It can be frustrating and off putting from what one believes is their job description. Unless of course they are made aware or trained for the role. In coaching, patience becomes virtue.
After putting in time and effort, the investment into coaching employees eventually pays off, and the supervisor will be able to take on less responsibility, as the staff will be more skilled and confident to tackle additional workload on their own.
Those of us with years of experience under the belt will always recall those individuals that have taken their time to nurture them, rather than those superiors who made them not only feel their weight, but also let them feel their way around the job.
While the temptation by the manager to take on everything they feel is critical — leaving the menial tasks to subordinates — is great, the chances of failure or shoddy work are even greater. Let alone the cause of burnout, even meltdown.
There are skills that PR practitioners are expected to coach their clients, fellow employees or their seniors, such as training spokespeople in public speaking, handling the media, what to say at interviews, general media relations and crisis training.
Coaching is important in that it allows managers to derive more meaning from their influence over subordinates, so they can achieve their strategic goals.
Lenox Mhlanga is a communications specialist with over 16 years experience. He was a consultant with the World Bank Group and a lecturer in public relations at the National University of Science and Technology. He is an associate with Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org