Once in a while, somebody will ask me the dreaded question: What type of coach are you? I used to stumble over my answer, not wanting to pigeonhole myself in any way, but I’m now surer in my self-description.
I’m a Connector Coach. I’m as much about connecting business leaders with other people who can help them, as I am about helping them using my own skills and expertise.
I got a better sense of who, or rather, what, I am after reading the May-June 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review. In the magazine, there was an article called ‘Managers Can’t Be Great Coaches All by Themselves’.
Although it was written about managers rather than coaches, the findings cited in the article applied to what I do. The researchers, from Gartner, surveyed 7,300 employees and managers across a variety of industries; followed up by surveying more than 300 HR executives.
The researchers identified four distinct coaching profiles, which were then analysed in terms of how effective they were in helping “subordinates” – not the word I’d use – to grow.
Firstly, these are the four coaching styles, identified by Gartner after coding 90 variables:
1. Teacher Managers – Use their own knowledge and experience as the basis for their coaching, personally directing development.
2. Always-on Managers – Provide continual coaching, treating development as a daily part of their job. They will give feedback across a range of skills.
3. Cheerleader Managers – Concentrate on delivering feedback and empower people to drive their own development.
To directly quote Gartner’s definition, Connector Managers “give targeted feedback in their areas of expertise; otherwise, they connect employees with others on the team or elsewhere in the organization who are better suited to the task. They spend more time than the other three types assessing the skills, needs, and interests of their employees, and they recognise that many skills are best taught by people other than themselves.”
One person can’t serve all needs
If you look a little further afield than business, Connector Coaches/Managers are the norm. For example, in professional football, there’ll be a First Team Coach, alongside a Goalkeeper Coach, Defensive Coach, Fitness Coach and even a Sports Psychologist. The idea that one coach could serve all the players well is ambitious at best, deluded at worst.
The best coaches are not those who are trying to be all things to all people, but those who understand their strengths and weaknesses; only offering advice and feedback when they have clear value to add to the individual or situation.
In fact, Gartner’s research shows that it’s possible to be too involved – Always-on Managers were found to be the least effective of the coach types in terms of personal development. The reasons identified for the negative effect on performance were:
· A constant stream of feedback can be overwhelming for those on the receiving end of it.
· The coaching is less relevant to employees’ real needs.
· Having just one person delivering the coaching often means misguided advice and information is offered.
The winning coaching style? Connector Coaches.
Two-way, personalised engagement
Being a Connector is more about asking the right questions and providing tailored advice that is personal to the individual, which might mean pointing business leaders in the direction of someone who can be of greater help.
So, why don’t all coaches adopt this style? Well, it requires a coach to accept that they don’t always have the answers or the skills to solve an issue (either personal, strategic or operational), which “isn’t something that comes naturally,” notes Jaime Roca, one of Gartner’s practice leaders for human resources.
For me, that often means using my network to connect business leaders with other leaders who are better placed to help them, creating long-term relationships that don’t end once the initial problem has been tackled – the two leaders keep on supporting each other.
It’s all about working in the best interests of the business owner. As a coach, it’s crucial you don’t let your pride or ego get in the way of the best outcome.
As a Connector Coach, I also see it as my role to ensure the business leader stays connected with their personal and professional vision. When you’re ‘in it’, you don’t always make decisions that are tied back to that vision – sometimes you will do what you think is right for the business, but it might not fit with the personal journey you’d outlined for yourself, or it could cause you to stray away from your organisational strategy.
We share in your journey from your perspective, providing the support you need through a combination of coaching, strategic and operational support.