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Resources for Managers 

7/1/2008   
 

Three things affect success at work—an employee’s aptitude, attitude and available resources. Coaching can profoundly affect the attitude part of that equation, say authors Brian Emerson and Anne Loehr, who are executive coaches and co-founders of leadership development retreats known as Safaris for the Soul.

But although coaching gets attention as a way to success, “very few people know what a coach actually is or what a coach actually does,” they add.

A Manager’s Guide to Coaching (AMACOM, 2008) offers the manager who seeks—or is thrust into—a coaching role concrete tips on what coaching is, when to use it (and when it’s not appropriate), and how to coach others.

Designed so that readers can use it as needed, dipping directly into the how-to advice on specific workplace situations or more gradually learning a coaching formula, the book helps manager-coaches define their roles. Readers get case studies to test their ideas about whether situations require coaching or another intervention.

Loehr and Emerson offer a coaching formula called WIN BIG. To build awareness, the coach and employee wonder about root causes, investigate wants and name possible solutions (WIN). To move toward action, they build a plan, insure action and give affirmation (BIG). The book walks manager-coaches through the steps quickly with dozens of sample questions readers can use for each step in the formula and for the common issues that prompt coaching, including time management, conflict, lack of resources and conflicting priorities.

 

Tribes aren’t another name for teams, work groups or departments; they can be bigger or smaller than those organizations. Tribes are groups of about 20 to 150 people with a shared, dominant culture. That culture is at the core of whether the tribe is positive and productive or just waiting for the weekend.

Based on a 10-year study of 24,000 people in over two dozen corporations, Tribal Leadership (Collins, 2008) by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright examines the attitudes of tribes and shows leaders how to coach tribe members into higher levels of teamwork.
Tribes operate at one of five stages:

  • Stage one is characterized by deep hostility, potentially ending with violence, but is very small (only about 2 percent of American professionals).
  • Stage two accounts for 25 percent of workplace tribes; its hallmarks are shoulder-shrugging apathy and a feeling that nothing employees do matter.
  • Stage three dominates, with 49 percent of workplace tribes. This stage says “I’m great,” which may sound good at first, but this stage breeds “lone warriors” for who winning is all and who hoard information.
  • Stage four tribes say, “We’re great.” Members share core values, work cooperatively, and have a common adversary like a competing firm. These are 22 percent of workplace tribes. Stage four is “the zone of tribal leadership.”
  • Stage five: A mere 2 percent of tribes get here, where chief values are “global impact” and the potential to make history.

The authors, all partners in the management consulting firm CultureSync, offer coaching tips specific to each stage.

 


Hector was a bank branch manager. When the bank opened locations in the Latino community, it transferred him to one of those locations. Managers over Hector’s head assumed that since he was Latino, he would fit in well at the new branch and be familiar with Latino culture.

Wrong. Hector didn’t speak Spanish and wasn’t very interested in Latino culture. He left the bank because management had given him an assignment that didn’t fit his skills or his interest. The root problem: Bias. Managers’ assumption cost them a good employee.

Author and diversity expert Sondra Thiederman aims this book at the “otherwise nice people” whose subtle biases affect the workplace daily. Making Diversity Work (Kaplan Publishing, 2008) is not for readers seeking help with blatant discrimination or looking for legal prescriptions. Instead, the book tries to uncover biases, positive as well as negative, and give readers concrete strategies for coping with their own biases at work.

Thiederman looks at how people of every race or in any group have biases, sometimes including biases about their own race, gender, or group.
Steps for dealing with subtle bias include:

  • Learn to observe and evaluate your own thoughts and behaviors. Form “bias spotter partnerships” with others so you check in on each other’s actions and watch for biases.
  • Figure out which biases are causing the most problems in the workplace, such as the bias that cost the bank an employee when Hector left.
  • Identify common kinship groups at the workplace, bringing people together around shared interests, characteristics or goals.
  • “Shove your biases aside,” admitting and controlling your biases so they no longer affect decisions.

Workplaces are settings for what Thiederman dubs “gateway events” that spark dialogue, such as an inappropriate act or joke or a false accusation of bias. These events open the workplace to diversity dialogue, and she offers organizational and verbal ideas for getting those discussions going.

 

Members of a virtual team may never meet each other, but are expected to fulfill common goals. To meet those goals, virtual teams have to get past challenges of distance, time, technology, leadership, culture and trust—each of which gets detailed treatment throughout this book, designed both for reading and for quick reference.

The Handbook of High-Performance Virtual Teams (Josey-Bass, 2008) offers detailed case studies that show how real-life virtual teams operate in different industries. The case studies share practices, processes, tools and strategies of these teams.
Edited by Jill Nemiro, Michael Beyerlein, Lori Bradley and Susan Beyerlein, the book gives a brief summary of the benefits of self-managed, virtual teamwork, from greater employee involvement and increased empowerment to improved customer loyalty and increased profits.

Leadership in a virtual team, without face-to-face contact, is tough, and one author looks at how to manage change in the virtual team while another looks at barriers leaders encounter in “motivating, coordinating and developing” these teams.

Other chapters include virtual-team variants on developing problem-solving processes, dealing with ineffective meetings, increasing creativity, assessing team performance and making the business case for virtual teams.


 

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