Business owners and managers are often focused on a company’s financial performance, return on investment and other monetary indicators of business success. Intangible investment in human capital can commonly be overlooked as it can be difficult to measure improvements, or any direct increase in outputs. However, employee effectiveness is critical to the performance of all business processes.
There are numerous approaches that can be used to increase the effectiveness of employees, of these the athlete-centred and employee-centred approaches are summarised below.
Using the sports field as an example, an athlete-centred approach has been proven to develop exceptional gamesmanship and understanding. Although you might not view your colleagues as a sports team, significant improvements can be made by investing time in staff development. Managers have a great opportunity to lead from the front and pave the way for a more effective organisation by creating a learning, rather than telling, work environment. To achieve this, managers need to view themselves more as teachers than autocrats. This allows employees the freedom to make errors and gives managers points to correct and teach from, developing a greater understanding of the problems at hand.
Graham Henry has an active focus on empowering the rugby players he coaches, giving them more responsibility, rather than using a dictatorial decision making style. An important aspect of this is having a senior leadership team available to help set the tone of the group for situations both on and off the field. By allowing the senior leadership team control of almost all aspects of the team, the athletes have greater buy in and acceptance of team decisions.
Business owners could take a similar approach and create high performing teams to adopt an athlete-centred approach in business decision making processes.
The employee-centred approach relies on managers to empower their staff to take responsibility for their own work outputs, and make their own decisions.
A nurturing environment must be created for this ‘employee-centred’ approach to be successful. A ‘teach, don’t tell’ coaching style is a core principle. Managers who avoid telling employees what to do, and instead test their understanding of topics through the use of leading questions, enable employees to develop their decision making ability and technical skills and still think through the problem themselves. The managers still ‘teach’ the employee in areas where there is a lack of knowledge, but the questioning style helps the employees broaden their knowledge and retain responsibility for their outputs.
Good managers will move between this ‘teach don’t tell’ style of coaching, to a more prescriptive style as required by the situation.