Coaching is a must-have management skill. It begins with interactions at the executive level. Top companies invest in teaching their leaders how to be coaches. The investment reaps rewards throughout the organization.

In my consulting work, I often start meetings by asking about a recent success: “tell me a story about a coworker doing something great this week. Tell me a story about an employee living up to your core values.”

Celebrating each other’s successes is a form of coaching, in an abstract sense – staff are able to see how their contributions matter, and how core values play out in everyday work life. Sharing stories makes everyone part of company culture and history.

Business norms are evolving, and transparent, collaborative company cultures are paying big dividends. Human factors such as employee engagement, which were barely considered a generation ago, are seen as the new keys to company success. As business norms change, management styles change too.

What Coaching Is – and What It Isn’t

Coaching is a departure from the “command and control” style of years past. Good coaching is about asking questions rather than telling people what to do. It should be a conversation, and the goal is to engage rather than to dictate. No one likes being told what to do; employees respond when they feel like they matter.

Consider the classic coaching moment in sports – the trip to the mound in baseball, when the manager goes out to talk things over with a struggling pitcher. The first thing out of the manager’s mouth is not instruction or criticism – it’s “how do you feel, kid?”

The coach supports the pitcher by asking questions, by starting a dialogue. The same works in business: you can’t decide the best course of action without knowing how your team is doing. A manager coaches by asking questions, supporting team members in working out solutions, and encouraging creativity. This shift from traditional management styles can be illustrated this way:

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This form of coaching engages creative problem solving, empowers decision making and affirms support. When leaders coach this way, it inspires staff and teams to bring forward their best self and therefore work, every day.

Creating a Company Culture where Coaching Is the Norm

Successful companies are creating cultures where support, dialogue and feedback are ongoing throughout the year. Not only does this management style build employee satisfaction and engagement, it encourages a nimble workforce that adapts more quickly to changes in business. When small course corrections are a regular part of the work week, employees don’t get into rigid patterns. They understand how they fit into the big picture, and have minds open to shifting business goals.

Technology makes coaching even easier. Our software platform, OpaConnect® fills the need for continuous open dialogue, and for transparency in goals and expectations. Tools like OpaConnect® empower employees to be better decision makers, and to design their own paths to contribution and success. It not only provides employees with a platform to success, it creates exceptional managers.

Leaders Change with the Times

As business norms change, leaders must change too. Senior leaders who are set in their ways need to be open to changing how they manage. If you’re mired in a command-and-control style, I challenge you to step up, and be willing to learn something new.  If you want your employees to be open to change, you need to do the same.

A CEO with strong coaching skills works with executives using inquisitive dialogue, spending more time listening than talking. I encourage C-suite leaders to adapt a coaching model within senior ranks. Coach each other. From that foundation, instill a coaching model throughout management and into rank-and-file work team supervision. When a supportive and inquisitive management style works throughout your company, you’re poised to compete for top talent and thrive in a changing business world.

Kirsti Tcherkoyan

CEO, Options4Growth & OpaConnect