The evolving role of the manager – from authoritarian to coach

Yeo Chuen Chuen, ACESENCE Agile Leadership Coaching and Training

Workplaces of today are no longer the same as before. With hybrid work fast becoming the norm globally, and Gen-Zs and millennials comprising 75% of the workforce by 2025, the traditional workplace that people were once familiar with has undoubtedly been transformed. Such revolutionary changes also mean that management practices also need to evolve. Early indication, however, shows that many leadership practices are not changing fast enough to meet employees’ expectations.

Yet, there is hope. Managers and leaders can begin to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce while grasping a myriad of changes by making small, attainable structural changes. In this article, I’ll highlight how managers can engage the dynamic workforce of the future by changing performance appraisals.

Understanding the Future Workforce

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Traditional evaluation systems are no longer effective today because these evaluations are largely based on managers’ assessments and opinions of a particular employee’s performance. Not only are these impressionistic and sometimes even biased, not giving real-time feedback also does not support employees’ growth and development.

Moreover, gone are the days when employees’ sole concern is to meet managers’ expectations to ascend the corporate ladder. Beyond an evaluation score for their work and contribution, employees now want more than that. In the Global Talent Trends, recent research by Mercer and another survey conducted by Gallup, have both shown that what employees want in their jobs are:

  1. Employer’s Commitment to Health and Well-Being
  2. Purposeful Work
  3. Training/learning and development opportunities
  4. Sense of Belonging/Inclusion
  5. Praise and fair recognition for their contributions and efforts

Unfortunately, these shifting needs cannot be met with traditional performance appraisals.

So, what can managers do to shape a new performance appraisal that engages, inspires, and empowers?

Employees Want Managers to be Their Coaches

To understand how to design performance appraisals relevant to today’s employees, let us study a list of requirements that makes appraisals more effective and developmental. They are:

  1. Frequent touchpoints so that employees and managers can build trusting relationships
  2. Scope work meaningfully and purposefully
  3. Design stretch tasks and give the appropriate guidance to encourage growth
  4. Create space for mutual feedback and diversity of opinions

If we sum up the requirements, we can easily see that managers who act as coaches will do better in the future of work.

Appraisals That Promote Managers as Coaches

Here are some elements to incorporate so that appraisals would work better:

1. Strengths-focused development framework

Instead of the conventional focus on gaps and deficiencies, a strengths-focused development framework would steer conversations towards what was done well, areas of growth and maximising potential. Assess employees based on their attainment of outcomes, but design the competencies based on their strengths profile. Design tasks that are aligned with their strengths, and are meaningful to them as people on a journey. The Gallup CliftonStrengths is a great place to start.

2. Stakeholder-centred feedback for managers

Why not turn the tables this time and include a structured process where employees can give managers feedback?

Incorporating this standard practice into your appraisal system will nurture a psychologically safe space where everyone is comfortable giving direct feedback diplomatically. Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder-Centred Coaching Framework is a great way to go, but other 180 assessments can also be designed to meet your organisation’s needs.

3. Every conversation is developmental

Some managers I work with lament that they cannot find time to coach their teams. As a result, they meet their teams once every six months and sometimes once a year. With the right questions, managers can turn every touchpoint into a coaching conversation.

Learn to ask the right questions, so your team can grow.

  1. What do you think?
  2. How do you assess the situation?
  3. What is your opinion on this?
  4. What have you learned from this project?
  5. What is the support you need from me?

The key question for all managers is this: are you a relevant leader for today’s workforce? Will employees want to follow you, and talent want to join your team?

To be an effective leader, it is important to be aware of what motivates your employees. Be a leader who nurtures and enhances those around you.