Article: ‘Growth not tethered to managerial title; focus should be on building capability, capacity’

A Brand Reachout InitiativeExecutive Coaching

‘Growth not tethered to managerial title; focus should be on building capability, capacity’

People Matters sat down with Puneet Pratap Singh, Regional Director of Research and Analytics for APAC, Gallup, to talk about manager development, creation of high-performing teams, the "Boss to Coach" philosophy and much more.
‘Growth not tethered to managerial title; focus should be on building capability, capacity’

As the world of work transforms and organisations transition from traditional top-down management styles to more contemporary coaching-oriented approaches, HR leaders are not only faced with several complex challenges but also abundant opportunities. 

We sat down with Puneet Pratap Singh, Regional Director of Research and Analytics for APAC, Gallup, to talk about manager development, creation of high-performing teams, the "Boss to Coach" philosophy and much more. Read on for Singh’s insights into how this transformative approach is helping reshape the traditional manager-employee relationship.

Here are some excerpts: 

What are the primary challenges that organisations typically face when transitioning from the traditional top-down management style to a modern coaching-oriented approach? How can companies address these challenges?

In the dynamic landscape of organisational evolution, understanding the responsibility and ownership of driving major people initiatives is pivotal. If the answer to the question of who primarily drives these initiatives aligns with organisational leaders, indicating a top-down approach, we categorise it as a type one organisation. These organisations evolve when they produce more champions in the system, with HR and L&D leaders taking on more responsibility, marking a significant shift. The next phase involves people managers taking up the mantle of driving initiatives. The subsequent stages include managers evolving into enablers and facilitators, with teams assuming ownership, ultimately culminating in the ideal state where individuals autonomously drive their learning, engagement, and performance.

Recognising an organisation's position in this evolution is essential as it helps inform discussions on management styles. Building capability and capacity with people managers is becoming critical, and aligning with a coaching-oriented approach tailored to the organisation's evolutionary stage is the way ahead. This contextual approach ensures a strategic and progressive journey as organisations navigate the transformative landscape of work.

What are the key characteristics or skills that HR should focus on when developing managers to lead high-performing teams?

Drawing on a sports metaphor, consider the scenario of cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli captaining a team during the World Cup. The captaincy bestowed upon great players due to their individual contributions may not inherently translate to effective management skills. This dilemma is particularly evident in functions like sales or technical roles, where outstanding individual contributors are promoted to people managers, only to struggle in their newfound managerial roles, impacting both team management and their own performance. This brings us to the essential concept of Fit to Role — identifying individuals suited for leadership roles based on their inherent abilities. 

Now, transitioning to the key characteristics, three crucial elements stand out. First, the ability to be a visionary, strength-based leader. This leadership approach ensures individuals are placed in roles where they can flourish, fostering a high-performing team. The second characteristic centres around creating an engaging environment that fosters a psychological connection between employees and the organisation. This involves moving beyond traditional satisfaction metrics to building emotional engagement. An apt example is the extraordinary efforts we saw during the pandemic, where employees went above and beyond due to a deeper emotional connection rather than material rewards. The third – arguably a silver bullet in the era of hybrid workforces – is a manager's ability to engage in ongoing, meaningful conversations. This involves setting clear expectations, establishing fair and outcome-oriented accountability, and providing regular coaching check-ins. 

In essence, the focus should extend beyond mere technical proficiency to a holistic approach that encompasses knowing the team and oneself, adopting a strength-based leadership style, building an engaging environment, and mastering ongoing, meaningful conversations. 

Can you share specific examples of successful manager development initiatives you've implemented in your organisation and the positive outcomes they've had on leadership and team performance?

I would love to focus on one of my favourite topics — the CliftonStrength Program. This initiative holds a special place for me because it was during this journey that I experienced the power of understanding my strengths for the first time. In this initiative, we address a few crucial aspects. First and foremost is understanding oneself as a manager. Through assessments, we acknowledge that every manager leads differently, whether through relationships, a task-oriented approach, or a competitive nature. The initial step is unravelling the unique managerial style. The second part involves comprehending the team members as individuals and understanding their strengths to form connections. The dynamics of strengths further extend to understanding how the team collectively operates. In the context of the ongoing cricket team metaphor, we reject the notion of trying to convert every player into an all-rounder. Instead, we embrace the idea of a well-rounded team with diverse strengths.

The final component involves connecting these insights. For instance, if a manager excels in relationship-building and identifies team members who share this strength, the connection becomes seamless. Moreover, recognising and leveraging complementary strengths within the team adds an extra layer of effectiveness.

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, how can Gallup's approach to manager development help organisations ensure their managers remain effective and adaptable to evolving leadership demands?

Recognising managers as the backbone of leadership, especially amid organisational growth, is a significant step. Today, managers serve as change agents and invaluable contributors to organisational success. In navigating this swiftly evolving environment, acknowledging the pivotal role of managers becomes paramount. Subsequently, committing to their development emerges as a strategic imperative. Focusing on the comprehensive development of managers inherently enhances organisational agility and cultivates a proactive response to dynamic business landscapes.

Contrary to conventional thinking that growth is exclusively vertical, emphasising the significance of individual contributors challenges this paradigm. Growth need not be tethered to a managerial title, and recognising the pivotal role of individual contributors and surrounding them with a supportive team helps augment their capabilities.  

Also, the investment in creating an architecture for individual contributor roles reinforces the understanding that both managerial and individual contributor roles are integral to organisational success. This paradigm shift empowers managers and catalyses their growth.

Lastly, fostering a coaching management style among managers is key. Encouraging managers to embrace a coaching mindset without necessitating a transition to formal coaching roles significantly enhances their effectiveness. This shift enables managers to view themselves through a more coach-like lens, thereby optimising their leadership approach. In essence, Gallup's approach to manager development encompasses these multifaceted strategies, ensuring that managers remain not only effective but also adaptable to the evolving demands of leadership in today's dynamic business environment.

Could you explain what Boss-to-Coach means and how it transforms the traditional manager-employee relationship? And what are the key leadership competencies that the this framework seeks to develop? 

The shift to "Boss-to-Coach" was a profound transformation in the fabric of the manager-employee relationship. Traditionally, the workplace was characterised by a transactional mindset, where employees worked for a paycheck, and job satisfaction was deemed sufficient. However, this paradigm has swiftly evolved and the future demands a purpose-driven approach.

Drawing inspiration from the world of sports coaching, managers are urged to emulate cricket coaches who provide real-time feedback to players. This coaching mindset translates into an ongoing, intuitive, and contextual dialogue between managers and team members. The traditional annual or biannual reviews are supported with regular, on-the-spot discussions that align with a coaching philosophy. Key to this shift is the emphasis on strengths rather than fixating on weaknesses. The coaching mindset acknowledges that talent is innate, whereas competencies are acquired, leading to a strategic alignment of strengths and competencies for optimal performance. Gallup's research indicates that a staggering 70% of the variance in a team's engagement is attributable to the direct supervisor or manager. The regular, meaningful conversations fostered by this coaching approach significantly contribute to team dynamics, job satisfaction, and deeper levels of engagement.

Ultimately, the Boss to Coach framework is designed to cultivate key leadership competencies. These competencies include the ability to lead with purpose, offer real-time feedback, focus on strengths, navigate the delicate balance of work-life integration, and engage in conversations that transcend the traditional boundaries of the workplace. This approach not only enhances team dynamics but also contributes to sustained high performance and elevated levels of employee engagement.

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Topics: Executive Coaching, Leadership

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