Supporting Managers and Team Leaders

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Supporting Managers and Team Leaders 

Many organizations are currently reviewing the way their people work and Managers are being asked to bring their teams back to the workplace after what may have been a significant period of time away from the office.

So what can you do as a professional coach to support Managers and Team Leaders as they navigate what could be some quite sensitive conversations with their teams?

One thing to focus on when coaching a Manager in this type of situation is to review their soft skills. They are the things that enhance our everyday lives and can help them show genuine empathy as they talk about returning to the workplace and explore any changes that may have taken place.

Another thing to review would be their people skills as they are the things that help us communicate with others. This will be a key area to explore so they are ready to send out any return to work messages or set up individual or group conversations with their team.

From their own experience, they know members of the team will now be in new routines and may even have additional caring responsibilities within the home, so expectations will have changed and some people may feel they want to keep working from home long term.


The Skills Compass

If exploring both personal and interpersonal skills is something you want to try in your coaching sessions, try using a simple coaching tool like the skills compass. For a Manager who is now faced with some difficult conversations, it can be really helpful for them to know the skills they naturally poses or the areas they need to work on in this type of situation.

This may be a sensitive time for both the Manager and their team members, so it is important for them to use this opportunity to explore any changes that have taken place across their team. Then use this information and insight to better understand what positive or negative impact this could have on productivity or motivation.

And remember, the Manager may have been asked by their Senior Team to quickly bring everybody back to the workplace and return to more traditional ways of working. Or they may personally want to offer a more flexible approach to the working week, but find it difficult to push back or speak up when given a direct order.


Role Play

Another approach you can try alongside explore the skills people you are working with have is to use a simple activity like role play within your coaching sessions. This can enable a Manager or Team Leader to explore how they would react in different situations and practice the way they would like to respond to difficult questions.

This can build confidence and support their growth as they work on skills they do not naturally poses. It also helps them get any answers ready in a safe environment and is really helpful if they need to practice their point of view or set out a compelling case to either their team or their own line manager.

Another area that may be helpful to explore during role-play with a Manager is the options and ideas they may have available to them if they would like to talk about any positive aspects of being part of this team or remain in the organization.

This can be especially helpful right now if flexibility is seem as an attractive idea to some people, but what could a Manager say to anybody who may be looking to move?


Additional ideas for Managers and Team Leaders

To support your coaching session with Managers and Team Leaders, we have developed a range of employee retention ideas that may be helpful to explore. Especially when we are seeing so many large organizations announce more flexible working patterns and some Managers may be struggling to find the positives or feel they have little to offer.

Each idea includes an activity you can try in your coaching session with the Manager and will help them work through the changing expectations many employees now have on work-life balance. With your help this really can be a very positive experience for everybody and the Managers and Team Leaders you work with may even be open to exploring new ways of working.

This can be seen as an opportunity for them to champion a fresh approach as they bring their team back to the workplace. It can also be a way to practice how they will react if faced with team members who are considering their options and may be looking to leave, or could simply be tempted away. The skills audit, role-play and talking through these employee retention ideas may just help them retain their best people and could fundamentally change the long term approach their organization takes when recruiting new people.


Base Salary and Bonus

Many people will be happy to work for the going market rate, but if the budget enables a little bit more, the Manager will have an opportunity to reward performance and experience. If their organization cannot afford permanent increases, they may want to suggest introducing a link between a bonus and personal performance goals or overall company performance. This should increase interest in the company as it grows and hopefully incentivizes the team members to stay.

In addition to salaries and any bonus, many organizations will offer health insurance, pension payments, annual holiday and other perks. However, the rest of our employee retention ideas cover the total reward package and some of the things many Managers and Team Leaders can implement themselves at no extra cost.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, look at what their organization already provides and discuss how they can champion ideas on health and wellbeing, training and employee engagement. Look at who they can talk to for support and what approach they can take to get time with key decision-makers who may help them champion any changes or fresh approach.


Reward and Recognition

If their organization is not able to pay the best wages, there are some other ways to make their team members feel rewarded, beyond the base salary and holiday allowance. Maybe they can talk to procurement or HR colleagues and ask them to negotiate group-wide discounts on big-ticket purchases, like cars, mobile phones, TVs, computers and cycle to work schemes.

Managers can also look at some smaller local things that go a long way but don’t cost that much. Some ideas could be free tea and coffee, fresh fruit deliveries, discounts with local sandwich shops, hairdressers, nail bars or dry cleaning pick up and drop off. Managers and Team Leaders can set up team building activities like volunteering for the company charity, or at a local organization, school or community garden. They can even request a small budget for celebrating Birthdays, work anniversaries or special team achievements.

All of these small perks can boost morale, but recognition in front of the team, department or organization will really contribute to a positive company culture. Everybody wants to feel appreciated for the work they do and a Manager saying thank you is a great start. However, suggest they can get into the habit of sending an email explaining why they are so pleased with the work their team or a team member is doing. Then ask them to follow it up with some formal recognition in front of the senior team.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, you can ask the Manager to identify examples of great work by their team and discuss how they could formally recognize the effort made by the team or individual.


Health and Wellbeing

It makes perfect sense to help team members stay mentally and physically fit, but some Managers and Team Leaders are unsure exactly what they can do to help. Suggest they start by looking at the flow of work to see if anything can be spaced out to reduce spikes or pain points. These can cause stress, so removing them will give their team a chance to catch their breath. And remind them to always say thank you if anybody went over and above to help deliver to a tight deadline.

Gym membership, wellness or resilience training, stress management and team building activities are other ideas they can look at to boost the mental and physical health of the team, but these may be impacted by any local lockdowns or ongoing social distancing restrictions.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, you can discuss wellness, resilience and stress management. Explore how they manage these things and practice some exercises they can use personally or within team meetings. It will help them better understand how the team are feeling and what can be done to improve their mental and physical health. It may also be helpful for you to attend a team meeting and observe their management style.


Work-Life Balance

The global pandemic forced many people to suddenly work from home and technology helped keep teams connected and enabled Managers and Team Leaders to stay in touch. However, this was never designed to be a long term solution and Managers are now getting requests from their team to make permanent changes to working patterns or how much work can be done from home. Employee expectations have changed so this now needs to be a company-wide conversation. HR Colleagues should be included, because they can help explain any Health and Safety aspects or contractual obligations when somebody formally requests a change to the way they work.

A less ridged one size fits all working pattern can also unlock opportunities for people who previously left because of conflict between their personal and work obligations. Any new flexibility may enable them to return, so suggest they get in touch with ex-colleagues and ask if they want to get involved in this new conversation too.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, you can explore employee expectations and help identify any unconscious bias they may have about flexible working. You can also discuss how they will get teams involved in important company-wide decisions. Suggest they use developing a new approach to working from home as a way of involving teams and showing their opinion is valued.


Employee Engagement

In times of change, a Manager is a vital link between the team and any strategic decisions being made. So keeping a two-way communication channel open is vital if team members are going to feel they can ask questions whenever they feel worried or concerned. Their team will not expect their Manager to know everything, so it’s OK for them to get help or clarify what they know before sharing it with their team. It may be a good idea to talk to other Managers and Team Leaders, because they will be asked the same type of questions. Any approved Q&A can then be used in team meetings or catch up sessions and published on the intranet.

Managers are also in a great position to help explain how each role helps deliver against the wider strategic agenda. Get them to look at each role and the value it adds, so their team are clear how they are making a difference and contributing to the overall success of the company. It can really help refocus effort or retrain team members to upskill on emerging trends or technology.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, you can ask the Manager how they would present difficult information or host a team discussion. Then practice with them and help them prepare ahead of any major announcement or team meeting.


Training Opportunities

Team members will feel valued if they can see active investment in their personal and professional development, or have opportunities to grow and experience new things. Face to face or classroom-based training may not currently be available, but virtual or self-learning can be delivered via a computer, tablet or phone. So encourage the Manager to discuss learning opportunities at 121 sessions and within team meetings.

Many Managers will have a yearly training budget, but not all use it or know what options are available to them and their team. Developing a long term training and development plan will show their team they are valued and have a future with the organization.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, you can look for opportunities to provide coaching support to their team or specific individuals. You can also provide step by step coaching guides the Manager can use at team meetings or at future training sessions they would like to run themselves.


Setting Clear Expectations

We have looked at employee expectations, but it is vital teams know what is expected of them too, so they know exactly how their success will be measured, especially if it is linked to a reward or bonus. However, the performance review should not be the first time a member of a team is hearing they are not delivering.

Clearly explaining where the company is headed and linking team targets to company values or objectives will help them understand the contribution they are making. It should also increase their interest in the company as it grows and result in better performance and collaboration.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, you can explore ways the Manager can agree, monitor and review targets or goals within their team. Establish a format for 121 sessions and team meetings and practice conflict resolution. Help them look for ways to spot and change any negative behaviors within their team.


Exit interviews

At some point, a member of the team will hand in their notice and leave an organization, so having an exit interview is vital if the Manager is going to understand why they are leaving. HR will normally chair these exit interviews and the Manager will sometimes be asked to attend.

Creating a safe space where the individual can be honest is key and the Manager can use any feedback to support anything that will improve employee retention, or investigate the root cause of any negative behavior.

Tip: In your coaching sessions, you can practice asking open questions to understand why an individual wants to leave an organization. It can also be an opportunity to reflect on what they could personally do differently in the future. Identify ways they can check in with members of their team and spot subtle changes in behavior that could suggest they are not happy.


Further reading:

If you would like to learn how to support Managers and Team Leaders by exploring their skills, check out this exclusive ebook that also includes a skills compass coaching tool:

  • Ebook – Coaching Skills – This 25 page ebook will help you understand 16 of our key skills and confidently carry out a skills audit in your coaching sessions. Use it to identify key strengths and talents, or areas to focus on.

We have also published a range of essential ebooks, games and kits you can use in your coaching sessions with Managers and Team Leaders:

We constantly add content to the site, so please check our on-line shop and look at the full range of games, ebooks and kits. Or read some of the other blog posts written by our team of international coaches.


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Please note – Our materials can only be copied and distributed, if you include a reference and link to the original source: (cc) – 2021

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