Leading Thoughts

How does coaching improve new manager transitions?

During the course of completing my thesis, ‘Developing a Coaching programme to facilitate transition into a managerial role: A Black African Perspective’ a work-based research project I undertook to earn my Master’s in Coaching from Middlesex University, I reviewed many studies which highlight the benefits of being coached during the transition into a new role. My previous article in this series explained the myriad of challenges that people face when they take on a new managerial position, from grappling with a new organisational culture and feeling isolated, to not having the essential information and connections to successfully do their work.  Difficulties with navigating these transitional challenges frequently derail new managers leading to a high rate of failure, at great cost to both companies and talented individuals. Coaching is a helping profession focused on guiding a person towards greater competence, self-awareness and self-confidence.  Coaches serve as catalysts for change, encouraging their clients to see and act differently so that they can achieve their goals and be successful.  Coaches support growth and development, assisting their clients in practising and gaining new skills.  A successful coaching experience results in the client learning the techniques to coach themselves. In my study, I set out to gain insights into the coaching experiences of new Black South African managers.  My respondents had all been engaged in a coaching intervention within six to twelve months before or after their appointment into a managerial position.  I wanted to discover what they thought about being coached and how the experience had impacted upon them. As it turned out, they were unanimous in their views that their coaches were key assets to them, and it was clear that the coaches had helped in a range of ways to empower these new managers to deal with their transitional challenges. The coaches had helped the new managers to clearly identify the information that they were lacking to do their jobs, and worked with them so that they could ascertain how to get it.  They encouraged greater self-awareness of skills shortfalls and helped plan skills-building interventions. Coaches also played a valuable role in clueing new managers into the unwritten rules and codes of behaviour embedded in organisational culture.  My study revealed that this is particularly important In South African context where new Black managers are disadvantaged by coming from backgrounds that were a world away from corporate South Africa.  This leaves many of them unschooled in the nuances of organisational culture and vulnerable to making blunders that draw negative perceptions and alienate them. The coaches also played important roles as motivators, supporters and champions, breaking through the isolation that new managers experience.  One respondent commented:  ‘…she restored my faith in myself because she believed in me; and another said: ‘…really motivational, he helped me to believe in myself’. These findings validate my belief that corporate South Africa needs to strategically manage the transitions of new managers in order to increase the likelihood of their success.  It is far from the common case that companies provide their new managers with access to coaches and mentors.  What would help is if basic coaching skills were included in the required skills-sets for line managers and human resources managers.  This would embed coaching skills in the organisation, and ensure that if the new manager cannot access a professional coach, they... Read More

Studying managers in transition

I was delighted to graduate with honours from Middlesex University in 2015 and receive a Master’s in Work Based Learning Studies (Professional Practice).  It is my hope that my thesis, ‘Developing a Coaching programme to facilitate transition into a managerial role: A Black African Perspective’ will make a contribution to the improvement of the success rates of newly appointed managers. I founded Capital Assignments, a pioneering executive search firm specialising in the Financial Services industry in 1995, just after South Africa’s first democratic elections.  With the introduction of Employment Equity legislation at that same time, we went into business keenly focused on identifying and helping to develop Black talent for leadership roles.  Over the past decades, it has been frustrating to see the slow rate of transformation in organisations despite the pressure of the legislation.  It has also been frequently distressing to witness fine talent failing after promotion into managerial roles. The failure of a new manager leads to serious costs all round.  The company suffers from low productivity, wasteful disruption and high recruitment expenses.  More often than not, the incumbent takes a staggering personal blow that is hard to recover from.  Bearing witness to this, both in the industry we work and other sectors was certainly part of the motivation for me, some years back, to become a professional coach.  Capital Assignments began to offer coaching services to our clients so that both line managers and incumbents could be properly supported in the wake of a new appointment.  In pursuit of my Masters in Coaching, it was a natural step to devise a work-based project that could contribute to the research into better ways to help new managers succeed. It is my view that coaching, training and mentorship are worth considering as interrelated interventions for managers in transition.  I believe that a holistic approach that combines training to address skills-related competencies, mentorship to foster organisational socialisation and coaching to support new appointees would be a powerful model to enhance the success of new managers.  Within the academic boundaries for my thesis, I decided to focus the study on researching the coaching experiences of new Black managers. Although transitional coaching plays an important role in the development of leaders globally, there is still a dearth of academic research on the topic of executive coaching; and research that focuses specifically on the impact of coaching on Black managers is even scarcer. I developed the work-based research project, using an autoethnography approach, to gain insights into the coaching experiences of newly appointed Black managers in order to contribute to the understanding of how organisational transitions in South Africa can be managed more effectively to improve employee retention, productivity and engagement with the organisation. I have subsequently used the findings from my study to develop ‘How to coach your managers in transition’, a bespoke modular training programme to help Line and Human Resources Managers to develop basic coaching skills so that they are empowered to properly support their new managers and increase their chances of success. Should you be interested in hearing more about my training programme, please contact me at 021 419... Read More

5 ways to get past the demand for work experience

If you are returning to the work-force after a long absence, wanting to switch careers or are a first-time job seeker, chances are you will come up against the ‘work experience required’ barrier. It can be incredibly disheartening and frustrating to see the job of your dreams advertised, in which you just know you would do well, and feel that your life circumstances have disqualified you from applying or competing for the position. However, you are not helpless. Of course, employers are trying to get the most qualified and experienced person they can for a position, and they advertise as such. However, they also know well that those two criteria are not the only qualifiers in searching for the best person. Here are five strategies to help give you a fair chance of getting the job you want, even if you lack the experience required: Build your personal brand online – Use professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn to establish your personal brand. Be honest about your lack of experience but compensate for this by demonstrating your enthusiasm and interest in the industry where you want to work. Learn as much as you can about your chosen industry and share views, opinions and information that shows that you know your stuff. Posting regular blogs and publishing articles on reputable platforms creates a body of work that shows the breadth and depth of your interest and knowledge. Highlight your soft skills – Focus on the personal abilities and characteristics that you have that you believe will enable you to be successful in the position you want. We all develop a set of soft skills from a variety of life experiences. These include the capacity for teamwork or leadership, as well as traits such as being very well-organised or having a drive for innovation. Think about all the team, school, college and community activities that you have been involved in and list your top soft skills that are relevant to the job you want. Develop true anecdotes that would demonstrate to an interviewer how you applied these skills to deliver the required results. It does not matter that the context was not a work environment. A good prospective employer is most likely to take into account your life experience; the key is to be relevant by accurately matching your top soft skills to the position you want. Look for volunteer opportunities – Even if you are not in a position to do this full-time, actively look for opportunities in non-profit organisations, community organisations or small businesses where you can gain hands-on experience. Studies have shown that even part-time volunteering can be a highly effective way to increase your chances of employment. Many prospective employers give weight to the experience gained through volunteerism, and consider your perseverance in gaining experience in a positive light. Working as a volunteer also increases your network. Enhance your job skills-set – Even if you have recently graduated with what you believe is the latest and greatest qualification in your desired field, it cannot hurt your chances to be even more qualified. Analyse the jobs you want to apply for and determine the full set of skills needed. Assess whether you have any shortfalls or other weaknesses. Consider short courses and other training opportunities. If your... Read More

Managing and Motivating a Multigenerational Workforce

Over the last five years, the composition of the workforce has undergone a significant change. For the first time in history – four generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y/Millennial) are present in today’s workforce, each generation with its own perspective, expectations, needs and values. This presents a challenge in that a “one size fits all” approach to managing such a workforce won’t produce a productive and collaborative team. What might work for a Baby Boomer may  frustrate a Millennial and vice versa. It is thus important that leaders learn to understand the different generations and what drives them in order to ensure motivated, committed and productive employees.Although most traditionalists have retired, many remain in the work force. They value hard work, are extremely loyal and believe that respect for authority is tantamount. They tend to be technologically challenged, preferring face-to-face communication over email and are motivated by being acknowledged for what they know and what they do. Baby Boomers want to be valued as individuals and feel needed. They are loyal as long as they are involved and need a strong sense of security. They enjoy processes, collaborating and discussing work assignments (they are likely the ones who will call a meeting for everything). The Generation X’s are the individualistic sceptics who want to know what’s in it for them. They are ambitious, want to be autonomous and therefore loathe being micro-managed. They value work-life balance; they work to live and not vice versa and enjoy external recognition such as being given awards or a voucher. The entrance of the Millennials into the workforce seems to be what has precipitated the discussion around managing a multigenerational workforce. This generation values innovation, believe that work-life balance is a birthright and want to know why before they do things. They struggle with working with people who they see as less intelligent than they are and expect to be consulted regardless of their level or experience. So how does one manage and motivate a diverse workforce with different needs?  The answer lies in focusing on the similarities and the strengths. All employees desire recognition and rewards, albeit in different forms. Creating a multi-faceted reward system (promotions, vouchers, time off, opportunities to study further, etc.) will allow an organisation to cater to and motivate each of the generations. Create a sense of team work that focuses on the strengths of each generation. As an example, use the Traditionalist’s vast experience to give guidance into a project, allow the Baby Boomers to manage the project and processes, give the Generation X’s the space to work on their part of the project autonomously and give their feedback to the team and task the Millennials to look at ways to bring in innovation. There are several methods to get the best out of a multigenerational team, but the key remains in recognizing that each person is an individual with different needs, accept and respect these differences and finally, engage with your employees in order to better understand... Read More

Thinking twice about the counter-offer

Thinking twice about the counter-offer

By the time you decide to accept the offer of a new job, you have already put a significant and clear distance between yourself and your current employer.  You believe that all that’s left is for you to resign, pack up and say goodbye before entering the new chapter of your career that you have decided would be good for you.  When it’s time to resign, you will have probably visualised how you want this last stage to go, thought about what you will say and imagined how you will feel. That’s why receiving a counter-offer can lurch you into a sudden and unexpected state of confusion and indecision. With two offers on the table, what should you do? If your intention to work for another company has made your current boss suddenly realise your value and now acknowledge that your company needs and wants you, you may feel that you are in an ideal position to negotiate and solve the reasons why you wanted to leave in the first place.  They might be open to promotion and increased remuneration; better responsibilities, improved work and working conditions.  It might look like this may well be more beneficial to your career, over the long-term, than the new offer you just decided to accept. In general, most executive search specialists advise against accepting the counter-offer.  You may believe that this is because they have a vested interest in you taking the job they head-hunted you for, but it’s not as simple as that.  Hiring experts are well-aware of the pitfalls of accepting the counter-offer. It is one of the most precarious scenarios you can experience in your career; and the risks need to be carefully considered as you weigh up which of the two offers might work out best for your career. Here are 4 common pitfalls that you need to think through: 1 . Will you become a ‘fidelity risk’? It might not seem fair in this age where career mobility is often seen as an acceptable and even, desirable indicator of one’s ambitiousness and competitiveness, but perceptions of your loyalty may still hold a lot of clout. If your current employer and team members regard your offer of resignation as evidence of your lack of loyalty, you may find yourself mired in a hostile work environment, shut out of the inner circle, and in a situation that can seriously compromise your career success.  Being regarded as a ‘fidelity risk’ is a common reason why those who accept the counter-offer soon fail. 2.  Are you agreeing to be the ‘stop-gap’? Counter-offers can often be made in a moment of desperation.  Faced with the possibility of sudden loss, your boss has sprung into action and made a fast agreement to keep you in place, for the time being.  You need to assess whether you really believe that your current company has had an epiphany about your value, or whether they may be buying the time they need to find your replacement. 3.  Is the counter-offer truly a ‘fix-all’? You had your reasons for looking for a new job.  It may seem that an offer of advancement or an increase solves all the problems that you had with your company; but is this true?  Reflect back on all your reasoning that led... Read More

New manager challenges – is SA any different?

The scarcity of talent that leads to fast-tracking leaders is a global phenomenon; however, South Africa has legislative pressure to transform organisational leadership in a specific way. Does this result in different or additional challenges for new South African managers? This was a burning question for me as I undertook a work-based project to gain my Masters in Coaching from Middlesex University. There is a substantial body of research that identifies a variety of challenges faced by new managers during their transition into the new role. Typical challenges arise out of the process of organisational socialisation that every new employee goes through. It is common for new managers to experience difficulties while finding their way in a new organisational structure, building new relationships and alliances, as well as discovering and aligning themselves with a new organisational culture. New managers have widely reported that in their view, they started out on the job without the full information, authority, relationships, tools or plans to make them successful. In bygone days, employees with leadership potential had the luxury of the time to develop into the organisation’s leaders. As you moved steadily up the ranks, so your job skills-set and soft skills-set were developed and honed by hands-on, real-time experience. By the time, you earned the nod and sat down in the manager’s seat, you pretty much knew what the job was all about, you understood what you were expected to do, and you had some fairly solid insights into how you could do it successfully. You could afford to have a fair measure of self-confidence and self-belief from day one. But we are fast-tracking talent into leadership positions today, and so it is common throughout the world to get the managerial position without having the necessary managerial, leadership and even, job skills that you need to be a success in your new role. While Employment Equity legislation in South Africa creates a pressure on companies which may well result in the appointment of under-skilled and under-experienced Black managers; sheer skills shortage creates the same pressure on global companies and they too, promote or employ under-resourced managers, of whatever racial grouping or ethnicity. Finding yourself in a new job and realising that you don’t have the skills and experience to perform it successfully is a highly stressful experience that negatively impacts on individuals in many ways, some of which can have long-lasting effects. Dogged by fear of failure and self-doubt, frustrated by one’s own drive for perfectionism and hamstrung by a lack of self-awareness, it is not hard for a new manager to find themselves in private turmoil while they do their best to present the required image of seamless self-confidence. Researcher and co-founder of The Resilience Group, Beth Weinstock identified more of what she termed ‘hidden stressors’ of transition such as identity shifts, boundary realignments and a growing awareness of what it means to be a leader, which of course, highlights your own shortfalls. Grappling with, and feeling overwhelmed by these transitional challenges has serious impacts such as poor performance and low levels of satisfaction, as well as the lack of commitment and intent to stay. If a transition into management is not managed properly by the company it often leads to compromised productivity, low staff morale, wasteful disruption and high recruitment... Read More

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