5 November 2018

Employees don’t want a boss, they want a coach

Performance management is getting a makeover. No, scratch that. It’s undergoing a major structural renovation.

Performance management is no longer fit for habitation. Why? Because as one business writer succinctly says, “it’s a ‘rite of corporate kabuki’ that restricts creativity, generates mountains of paperwork, and serves no real purpose”.

Gone are the days of yearly reviews, standardised performance ratings and death by form-filling. Continuous feedback is where it’s at.

Strong words. But what do the stats say?

Well, there’s a disconnect. A massive 74% of employees have a formal performance review either annually or less than once a year. However, more than 90% of employees would prefer their manager to address mistakes and learning opportunities in real-time. With feedback being rationed to just a few times a year the opportunities for growth and everyday learning are limited.

Gallup’s Re-engineering Performance Management paper sums up the case for change nicely: “Because the workforce evolves, so too does your workplace”. But there’s much more in their paper. We know you don’t always have the time to plough through a paper, so here’s a snapshot:

In a nutshell…

Employees don’t want a boss, they want a coach. A winning workplace reimagines traditional managers as performance coaches. Managers account for their own strengths, their employees’ strengths and those of their team. They are empowered to truly coach and develop their teams so they focus on strengths and engage employees in both their role and their contribution to the bigger picture.

Why does performance management matter?

The stats say it all:

  • Employees who clearly know what is expected of them at work are 2.5 times more engaged.
  • Employees who can link their role to the organisation’s goals are 3.5 times more engaged.
  • Employees who are involved in creating their performance expectations are 3.6 times more engaged.

Given that employees need “well-defined expectations and goals to perform with excellence” these stats pack a punch.

The shift from performance management to performance development

Traditional approaches to performance management do not effectively motivate employees. Only 21% of employees strongly agree that their pay and incentives motivate them to achieve their goals. So, if it’s not about pay, what is it about?


Employees want:

  • Opportunities to learn, grow and develop
  • Work that aligns to their personal sense of purpose
  • A manager that cares about them
  • A coach, not a boss

The Gallup model for performance development

To shift towards a culture of continuous feedback and growth, Gallup recommends that managers:

  1. Establish expectations – they must be clear, collaborative and aligned
  2. Continually coach – dialogue should be frequent, focused and future-oriented
  3. Create accountability – it should be achievement oriented, fair and accurate, and developmental

The whole cycle should be delivered in a way that is strengths-based and engagement-focused.  This is where the role of ‘performance coach’ comes in. Managers support employees to identify their strengths and to spend more time working on the things that they naturally do best. This will elevate performance conversations to a meaningful, personalised and purposeful interaction with real value.

So what?

Gallup sums it up nicely:

“The future of work is being shaped by extraordinary changes in technology, globalization, and overwhelming information flow. Workers are asking for something different. They want a coach, not a boss. They want clear expectations, accountability, a rich purpose and especially ongoing feedback and coaching.”

Our take on things

Your people want coaches, not bosses. We love this! In fact, two in-house coaches have recently joined team Synergy. Here are their top tips for having great performance conversations:

  1. Coach your coaches: Support managers to feel confident about having performance conversations.
  2. Always go back to purpose: Connect employee’s individual performance to your mission, vision and values so that they understand the contribution they are making.
  3. Establish expectations from the outset: How regularly will you have these conversations? What are you each accountable for?
  4. Encourage employee voice: Support employees to feel empowered in their performance journey by saying less and asking more.
  5. Keep it simple: Make the performance process simple so that there are no barriers to engagement.

How can Synergy help you?

For those wanting to move away from performance management and towards performance development, our in-house coaches can support your managers to have more meaningful conversations, create an environment that’s rich in feedback and support everyday learning.

There are a range of coaching opportunities that you can choose from:

  • 1-2-1 – we’ll spend time with managers face-to-face and coach them through their workplace opportunities and challenges supporting them to have better conversations with their team/peers.
  • Group coaching – we will work with groups and/or teams to deliver a shared coaching experience and improve communications skills.
  • Telephone calls – we can schedule in a series of coaching calls to support managers in their daily activities.
  • Workshops – we can deliver bespoke workshops to help you and your team grow.
  • Planning sessions – we can brainstorm ideas and get creative about your communications challenges, coaching you to find the best solutions.


Want to talk with us about coaching? Get in touch hello@mccannsynergy.com.uk

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