The Secret Sauce of The Best Managers At Your Company

You’re familiar with The Best Places to Work lists that come out every year. Imagine a spin on that idea—designed to be administered inside your company—The Best People to Work For.  It would go a little something like this:  survey goes out to all employees asking them, anonymously, to identify who the best managers in your company are. Then they’d be asked to explain why they chose that particular manager—what makes him/her the best boss to work for.

Would some go the suck-up route? Sure. Their brown-nosing nature or paranoia (assuming you’re following the rules and it’s truly an anonymous survey) would take over for some and they’d list their boss regardless of their true opinion. But I think a trend would emerge and we’d see the same few names over and over identified as top managers at your company.

I’d be more interested in the data around what makes those chosen few so special and desirable as managers and my guess is that it wouldn’t be related to how cool, likeable, or flexible the manager is.

So what’s the secret sauce?

Coaching skill. If I was a betting woman, I’d put my money on finding that the best managers, as judged by the people at your company, would be those who coach. I think if we dug really deep, we’d find that it wouldn’t just that coaching on a regular basis for more, better, or faster performance—they’d coach their employees to become more capable and nimble professionals so they’d be ready to take the next steps in their career.

We’d find that those with high-level coaching skills would:

  • Coach on good performance, as well as the bad. And it wouldn’t sound like they were being warm-fuzzy, rah-rah, cheerleaders and but it would be authentic.
  • Give the chance to take on projects that stretch their employees, while acting as a sounding board and providing the necessary resources and support for success.
  • Help sort through the noise. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there’s one or more big projects on deck. Great coaches help to sort through all of that to focus on what has the biggest impact for the business or project overall.
  • Help employees get out of their own way. Sometimes we need someone to help us take a step back to show us how our behaviors, habits, or approach may be limiting our effectiveness.
  • Guide rather than tell people what to do by asking great questions. Sure, sometimes we just need a straight answer or more information. But there is significant developmental value that comes from arriving at a conclusion or approach without being directly told how to get there.

Coaching for more, better, and faster performance is just your job as manager of people. If you want more, and you want to be a true coach who’s among the best in your company, it’s really about growing the people who report to you into more nimble professionals.