How does coaching improve new manager transitions?

During the course of completing my thesis, ‘Developing a Coaching programme to facilitate transition into a managerial role: A Black African Perspective’ a work-based research project I undertook to earn my Master’s in Coaching from Middlesex University, I reviewed many studies which highlight the benefits of being coached during the transition into a new role.

My previous article in this series explained the myriad of challenges that people face when they take on a new managerial position, from grappling with a new organisational culture and feeling isolated, to not having the essential information and connections to successfully do their work.  Difficulties with navigating these transitional challenges frequently derail new managers leading to a high rate of failure, at great cost to both companies and talented individuals.

Coaching is a helping profession focused on guiding a person towards greater competence, self-awareness and self-confidence.  Coaches serve as catalysts for change, encouraging their clients to see and act differently so that they can achieve their goals and be successful.  Coaches support growth and development, assisting their clients in practising and gaining new skills.  A successful coaching experience results in the client learning the techniques to coach themselves.

In my study, I set out to gain insights into the coaching experiences of new Black South African managers.  My respondents had all been engaged in a coaching intervention within six to twelve months before or after their appointment into a managerial position.  I wanted to discover what they thought about being coached and how the experience had impacted upon them.

As it turned out, they were unanimous in their views that their coaches were key assets to them, and it was clear that the coaches had helped in a range of ways to empower these new managers to deal with their transitional challenges.

The coaches had helped the new managers to clearly identify the information that they were lacking to do their jobs, and worked with them so that they could ascertain how to get it.  They encouraged greater self-awareness of skills shortfalls and helped plan skills-building interventions.

Coaches also played a valuable role in clueing new managers into the unwritten rules and codes of behaviour embedded in organisational culture.  My study revealed that this is particularly important In South African context where new Black managers are disadvantaged by coming from backgrounds that were a world away from corporate South Africa.  This leaves many of them unschooled in the nuances of organisational culture and vulnerable to making blunders that draw negative perceptions and alienate them.

The coaches also played important roles as motivators, supporters and champions, breaking through the isolation that new managers experience.  One respondent commented:  ‘…she restored my faith in myself because she believed in me; and another said: ‘…really motivational, he helped me to believe in myself’.

These findings validate my belief that corporate South Africa needs to strategically manage the transitions of new managers in order to increase the likelihood of their success.  It is far from the common case that companies provide their new managers with access to coaches and mentors.  What would help is if basic coaching skills were included in the required skills-sets for line managers and human resources managers.  This would embed coaching skills in the organisation, and ensure that if the new manager cannot access a professional coach, they at least have the benefit of in-house coaching skills.

To this end, I  developed a bespoke, modular ‘How to coach your managers in transition’ training programme with the specific aim of teaching line and human resources managers the basic skills of coaching.

Should you wish to discuss this in more detail, please feel free to contact me at 021 419 4800 or email me at