What Great Managers Do




We have the benefit of talking to hundreds of executives every month about their fears and challenges, and unsurprisingly, themes emerge. We’re hearing that people expect their leaders to be coaches, not “just” managers. What does that mean, and how do you do it?

Talentism defines management as a responsibility that achieves goals through the work of others: as a people leader you’ll mostly achieve the goals you’re responsible for through the work of those who report to you. Practically however, management has often meant control: control of information, power, and access to capital. 

That definition is becoming a real problem as the nature of work continues to change and we see increasingly more roles in knowledge work. As a manager of people in those roles, you’re generally trying to get those people to be more creative, inspired, and engaged. Control is antithetical to that. 

Three factors that have been shown to result in better output and productivity from people in knowledge work roles over time:

  • Mastery: People get better at things as they practice them
  • Purpose: People are engaged if they feel a sense of alignment with what they are doing and why
  • Autonomy: People want the resources and information required to do their jobs independently. 

And yet, many people managers – tenured or new – are unlikely to be focused on unlocking those factors for their teams. When people talk about management, what they’re often subconsciously aware of is that they’ve been put in a position of control, and are afraid of not meeting their goals since they no longer squarely control the outputs. Those managers disrupt productivity by interfering with their team members’ ability to gain mastery, undermining their autonomy, or not helping them connect to purpose.

Conversely, coaching is a responsibility to help people find clarity within themselves, whether that’s in relation to what their skills are, how to get better at something, or why they react to certain situations the way that they do. The bottom line: the best managers are coaching – you’re not there to tell someone how to do something, but rather to help them make sense of something.

In the current economic climate, productivity is more important than ever. The more you’re focused on control, the less productivity you will get. As people seek meaning and the most ideal context for them to accomplish their best work, a leader with a coach mindset will enable that for them, rather than stand in the way. 

Now is the time to understand how you can unlock your people’s potential by helping them be the best version of themselves and achieve their – and your – goals. 


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