Organizations today are under tremendous pressure to innovate, expand their capabilities, and become more efficient and competitive. To achieve those goals, managers are called upon to play an even more active role in steering their direct reports’ professional growth and development. As coaching becomes a more critical aspect of managers’ jobs, HR functions are devoting more attention to training managers in the best ways to drive performance on their teams.
In our research at Gartner, we’ve identified four types of managers, each with a distinct approach to coaching. These include the teacher, who develops employees using their own experience and expertise; the cheerleader, who enables employees to take their development into their own hands; the connector, who introduces employees to the right people to meet their development needs, and the always-on manager, who provides continuous coaching and feedback across a broad range of skills. In an era when organizations are most concerned with constant growth and performance improvement, the always-on management style has become common, even preferred. However, our research finds that it is the least effective of the bunch; in fact, always-on managers tend to degrade employee performance rather than augmenting it. Teachers and cheerleaders improve performance to a degree, but it’s the connector manager who stands out, with a maximum impact on employee performance of 26 percent: around three times the impact of a teacher or cheerleader.
The connector manager model is not really new, Principal Executive Advisor Scott Engler pointed out in a session at Gartner’s ReimagineHR event in London last Wednesday. In a sense, it represents a return to the roots of performance management theory from the 1980s, before the term became conflated with performance measurement and ratings, and coaching transformed into feedback. By becoming connectors, managers can rediscover the power of coaching and substantially increase their impact on their team members’ performance without spending time they don’t have.
The high-impact coaching connector managers do has two essential qualities: it takes an employee-centric approach and uses a broader coaching network.