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The next boss should be more of a coach than a commander

INTEGRITY BEAT - Henry J. Schumacher (The Freeman) - January 15, 2021 - 12:00am

Up to early 2020, no matter how much the office changed, the image of the boss endured: Someone who put in years climbing the ranks or leapt between companies, propelled by triumphs in revenue growth. The best at charming new clients or closing deals.

The manager with the final say on team objectives and your performance review. The person who could say without a hint of sympathy, “Yeah, I’m going to need you to come in on Saturday.”

Is it time for that boss to go extinct at the beginning of 2021?

Cost-cutting measures first implemented during the financial crisis and then during the pandemic environment of last year mean that the average boss today has twice the number of direct reports as a manager in the early days—a trend that management experts predict will continue after the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, an increasing number of tasks that once ate up a manager’s time, such as auditing and approving expense reports, has been automated.

And as the conditions under which the boss operates have shifted—fewer managers, more reports, less administrative work—a new model is emerging. This boss is a coach, not a dictator; a mentor, but not necessarily because of experience with sales or programming. Where previous leaders may have sought to stand out, these managers excel at fostering collaboration. It is possible they will be younger than you are, with less industry experience! Can you handle that?

Going forward, managers will be less technical experts and more social-emotional experts, to help employees navigate the culture of the organization. Bosses in previous generations tended to be excellent individual contributors who were promoted to management positions so they could teach teams. It was a model that functioned effectively as long as the rate of change in the workplace remained low.

With technology such as automation and artificial intelligence expected to change our working environment, work will continue to become more about idea generation and developing talent. Without the need to devote as much time to business tasks, managers will increasingly focus on coaching employees and providing emotional support, bridging the work/life expectations of various generations – with special focus on millennials and centennials.

These people do not want to be told what to do, they expect to be encouraged to solve problems and moving the company forward as entrepreneurs, or rather as intrapreneurs.

As the role of the manager shifts from authority figure to nurturer, winning workers over on everything from the company’s performance record so far to tomorrow’s focus on digitalization, data management, providing sustainable products and services, etc. will gain importance.

The changing job description of a boss and increased expectations from workers means a different type of employee will be considered management material. Those with highly developed social abilities, including the capacity to interact with an unfamiliar person effectively, good listening skills, real-time processing skills, will pull ahead.

This will prove especially true in virtual environments, where the ability to gain employee trust and engagement over digital platforms will become crucial. Undergoing digital transformation, the question comes up: do I use technology to try to do my best to create a great workplace or do I use technology to get all the analytics and control someone’s professional life?

While management training has traditionally focused on educating leaders to run the business, increasingly it needs to be geared toward training executives to manage through, and in some cases drive, rapid change. The tools it takes to achieve that are often the tools of a coach and less the tools of a commander.

Having been a ‘commander’ before, I have to admit that I like these changes. What about you? I am interested in your feedback. Contact me at hjschumacher59@gmail.com

GROWTH
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