Learning & Development, Talent

The Growing Importance of Coaches as Bosses

There are many, often competing opinions of what a manager’s key function is in the workplace. Some see a manager’s primary role as facilitating the top-down transfer of direction and company policy. Others see managers as vehicles for eliminating obstacles, allowing staff to complete their work as efficiently as possible.

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But these are very tactical understandings of a manager’s role, and they leave out an important long-term strategic element.

The Manager as Talent Development Catalyst

Many argue that a fundamental element of a manager’s job is long-term employee development. As the thinking goes, managers are successful when they help their subordinates become successful. This might mean helping them advance within the organization and out of the manager’s team to bigger and better things. It might even mean replacing the manager one day!

While managers’ being enforcers of company policy and protectors of productivity may be a necessity well into the future in some workplaces and industries, many observers see an ongoing shift of the manager’s role as a coach and talent development catalyst. This is due at least in part to the impact of technology on the nature of the modern economy.

Technology Drives Changes in Management Role

Successful companies are those with the brightest minds and greatest ideas. “With technology such as automation and artificial intelligence expected to replace nearly 70% of a manager’s workload by 2024, according to research by Gartner, work will continue to become more about idea generation and developing talent,” writes Kathryn Dill in an article for The Wall Street Journal. “Without the need to devote as much time to business tasks, managers will increasingly focus on coaching employees and providing emotional support.”

The next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk might be toiling away in an office (or a home office in the COVID age) under a boss so preoccupied with tactical-level productivity that his talents and potential contributions to the organization are squandered. The manager who can squeeze an extra few widgets per day out of a team is not necessarily the same manager who can develop raw talent into a corporation’s future CEO.

Elevated Roles Lead to New Opportunity

While ensuring productivity and enforcing company policies will always be important goals, they are gradually losing their status as the most important goals for managers in many organizations. Instead, managers are seen more as talent developers than as task masters. This means the type of employee elevated to a management position is likely to continue to shift, and those striving to climb the corporate ladder should consider where coaching fits into their skill set.