Effective managers are typically those who have been coached on how to perform to the best of their ability. So says Stephen Johnston, a faculty member of the Stayer Center for Executive Education at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, a proponent of initiatives to create better managers through the learning process.
Johnston focuses on helping leaders unlock their potential in an online lecture offered by Notre Dame’s Executive Education Programs.
“As a coach, you want to get the job done through people,” Johnston said. “You want to make sure you are effective in that it moves you toward your goals.”
In the online lecture Coaching, Feedback and Discipline, Johnston offers practical tools to help business leaders strive for effectiveness, efficiency and resource management. In business, the goal of a leader is to meet the needs of the organization in ways that save time, money and labor. A manager also can achieve success by learning to embrace the responsibility to help employees improve their skills and accomplish the task at hand.
Johnston’s approach to effective management responsibilities includes Robert Allen’s theory of “Performance as a Formula”. It spotlights performance as a function of ability, motivation, clarity of expectations and opportunities.
Johnston said one way to showcase a manager’s ability is to find out what that person can do. What are they trained to do? Do they have an aptitude to learn more? If so, what can they do if trained?
Managers also should use that performance function to determine the abilities of the people they lead. Johnston said a good manager will take the time to assess the abilities of each employee to help them reach their potential and accomplish their goals.
According to Johnston, motivation stems from an internal desire to accomplish a task. Regardless of the amount of guidance and support they provide, leaders don’t have the ability to motivate others. Motivation comes from within.
"You cannot give someone motivation," Johnston says. "You can create an environment in which someone who has motivation will be motivated."
Johnston explains this as a concept known as Adam’s Theory of Equity, which states that an employee’s work performance is based on what he or she believes is a fair trade. Someone does the work with the understanding that compensation will be received once the task is completed.
There also are implications for managers, when workers feel they aren’t getting a fair shake.
“Where are they getting the idea they aren’t getting a fair value, that it’s not equitable for them?” Johnston asks. “They have come up with some type of comparative other. What are they comparing it to, or are they comparing it to someone making more money doing the same type of job?”
Johnston recalled an incident at a previous job, where mail room employees, who pushed large mail carts around the building each day, were allowed to wear shorts to work, but other workers were not. Some of the other employees went to management with a request to change the company policy to allow all employees to wear shorts to work.
“They were comparing their jobs to the jobs of the people in the mail room. That was the comparative other,” Johnston says.
Johnson said he offered those who made the request the opportunity to apply for entry level jobs in the mail room if they wanted to wear shorts to work.
“That changed people’s attitudes about how things worked, and if that was an adequate treatment or not."
A coach can help managers and employees better understand three important elements:
Johnston said coaching can be essential to creating a positive environment for good customer service. Managers should be focused on doing the right thing for customers, because solving problems for the customer should be paramount.
"Coaching can provide managers with tools to communicate expectations in ways employees understand and offer suggestions on how to ask questions to make sure you are being heard and understood," he adds. "It also highlights the importance of giving immediate feedback, whether it is positive or negative, about job performance."
Good managers will create opportunities for people to grow and thrive in an environment where they can use their personal strengths.
“I believe 60-75% of employees are in their positions for the money, not because it’s a strength,” Johnston says. “They may have gotten good doing certain things, but they don’t have a passion for it.”
Employees who are passionate about their jobs are easy to spot.
“When you talk to them, they are very excited to come to work. They enjoy what they do. They have passion around it.”