Alaka‘i Managers Coach, and they Facilitate

by Rosa Say for Say “Alaka‘i” on June 18, 2009

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”
June 2009 ~
Alaka‘i Managers Coach, and they Facilitate


GavinNewsome

Finding versus Making

Some of the best management advice I got over the years came from my dad. When he heard my news of an early-in-my-career promotion, one of the things he said to me was, “Now you can find your decisions instead of making them all by yourself.”

He was very aware of my natural tendency with on-the-spot decision-making based on my own sense of logic and common sense. In fact, he’d counted on me honing in on confident decision-making as one of my strengths: I was the oldest of five children, and my siblings were often left in my care as both my parents worked to make our family living. But wise man that my dad was, he knew that once I got into management, I had to get better at finding the right decision about a whole wealth of different things. Another secondary strength with explaining my own intuitive, from-my-gut-feeling decision already made, would serve me much better as a contingency and back-up option when my hunt-and-seek missions came up empty.

Finding versus Making would serve my workplace better too; it would deliver more Lōkahi [unity and harmony]. Now to find the really good stuff, I had to learn facilitation and coaching.

Coaching has become a big management expectation

‘Coaching’ is an example of an old word which has exploded into management overwhelm because it became a new profession. Yes, it’s a profession which includes me, influencing my decision to name my business Say Leadership Coaching six years ago, so no small wonder that I believe the coaching profession to be helpful and worthwhile. It provides a great service to many, and it is personally fulfilling for me. However the downside to coaching having gone professional and certifiable, is that coaching as the verb has become intimidating to many managers, and they will say, “But I am not really qualified to coach my staff.” Big, big “yeah, but” and I say, you are ”“ once you choose to be, and start working on developing your coaching skills within your management calling.

Your Alaka‘i Kuleana [responsibility] is this: If you choose not to develop your own people, at the very least you’d best claim your responsibility with helping them find someone who will, and whom they choose to. The alternative is to settle for a stagnant, mediocre working environment of non-learners likely to resist change. [From the archives: How do you Learn? Really, how?]

Susan Mazza, author of the Random Acts of Leadership blog, has written an excellent article that delves into this question of manager and/or coach, and I highly recommend it: 3 Ways to be a Manager AND a Coach. She writes:

Of course a manager CAN be a coach to someone who reports to them. But the assumption that once I am your manager I am also your coach is seriously flawed.

I continue to see this assumption at play in organizations of all sizes. It can cause a lot of mischief in the relationships between managers and the people who report to them.

Don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate of managers developing strong coaching skills. Yet when we fail to establish the foundation for a successful coaching relationship, we end up with far more failures than successes and a whole lot of unnecessary frustration and disappointment.

Susan has crafted a terrific article, and you’ll learn much from the comments she’s attracted as well – do take the time to read them. As you make your own decision about this — “will I be a manager who coaches to develop people?” — I’d like to suggest learning facilitation skills as a good place to start.

Alaka‘i Managers must facilitate

Must. This is not an “if” or “when you choose to” for me: I believe that facilitation comes with the management job, harking back to when you first earn any supervisory stripes at all.

Supervision implies other people in the mix, and the assumption I’m making here is the same basic assumption made in Managing with Aloha:

“I have come to realize that yes, good managers do work with good processes, however the great managers are the ones who concentrate on how they manage people.”

Let’s not allow facilitation to intimidate us the way that coaching might. Let’s keep this simple.

To facilitate is to find a decision, just as my dad had taught me. That decision is the best-in-time result of the input of those people involved with, or influenced by the scenario that decision will seek to improve.

When we had that early conversation, and it came up repeatedly, my dad was coaching me to be absolutely sure that I asked versus told, and that I learn the humility [Ha‘aha‘a] of open-minded and inclusive [Kākou] thinking. It had usually been okay that my younger siblings were not included in my decisions while I alone was responsible for their well being in my home care; it was definitely NOT okay that I leave out my employees in our workplace, not to mention that big fact that they knew way more about the work situations they were much closer to than I was. To leave them out of my decision-making process was downright foolish.

Don’t make your next decision; find it.

Learning facilitation skills requires two things as prerequisites to the actual skill-learning: Curbing your impatience for quick decision-making, and the willingness to have many more conversations than you are presently having, both one-on-one and in the meetings, team, and group environments we are more accustomed to associating facilitation with.

Practice this. Your opportunities will present themselves daily. Do it the local way, and bring more conversation (and sense of place) to the workplace by talking story. Don’t jump to making your next decision impulsively or intuitively; FIND your next decision by talking to the people who are involved.

You may prove your initial gut feeling to be right, but chances are that you will learn much in that affirmation, and better yet, you will earn a higher degree of respect and appreciation from those you’ve asked for input.

Facilitate first, then learn to coach. If you aspire to be an Alaka‘i manager and feel you have that calling, I’ll bet you can do it — and I’m sure you will discover you are developing your own strengths in the process. When you are ready to coach for people development, I’ll bet the people you manage will choose you to, for you have shown them you possess a very necessary qualification: You listen.

Let’s talk story.
Any thoughts to share?


Photo credit: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom by Thomas Hawk. Thomas writes in his caption:

“Ran into San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom tonight at the Powell Street BART station. Mayor Newsom was out talking to homeless people who hang out and panhandle at the BART station with a few of his staff. He was trying to tell them about his programs for them and when I asked one of his staff members what they were doing he said that they were out on the streets of San Francisco talking to the people and trying to clean up the City. It was interesting to see the Mayor out on the streets just talking to people. There were no reporters or TV crews or anything else, just him and some of his staff talking to homeless people mostly.”

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