In the face of rapid, disruptive change, companies are realizing that command-and-control leadership is no longer viable. As a result, many firms are moving toward a coaching model in which managers coaches workers and facilitate problem solving.

There was a time when people began successful careers by developing expertise in a technical, functional, or professional domain. And doing your job well meant having the right answers. If rise up the ladder and eventually move into people management, you had to ensure that your subordinates had those same answers.

As a manager, you knew what needed to be done, you taught others how to do it, and you evaluated their performance. Your goal was to direct and develop employees who understood how the business worked and were able to reproduce its previous successes.

Not anymore! Rapid, constant, and disruptive change is now the norm. In the twenty-first-century managers simply don’t have all the right answers. To cope with this new reality, companies are moving away from traditional command-and-control practices. They are now shifting towards a model in which managers give support and guidance rather than instructions. In this model employees learn how to adapt to constantly changing environments in ways that unleash fresh energy, innovation, and commitment.

As a result the role of the manager is becoming that of a coach.

This shift is emphasized…

  • by firsthand observation in small and large companies;
  • by ongoing research on how organizations are transforming themselves for the digital age;
  • by the expressed need in leadership skills that ecutive students and coaching clients want to cultivate in themselves and throughout their firms; and
  • by the money more and more companies are investing in training leaders as coaches.

Increasingly, coaching is becoming integral to the fabric of a learning culture—a skill that good managers at all levels need to develop and deploy.

One the one hand coaches are hired to help executives build their personal and professional skills. And that work is important. One the other hand the need is growing for ongoing coaching by coaches within the company – creating a true learning organisation. Coaching is is therefore more and more seen as a work that all managers should engage in with all their people all the time.

This conception of coaching represents an evolution.

Coaching is no longer just seen as a benevolent form of sharing what you know with somebody less experienced or less senior. It’s also seen as a way of asking questions so as to spark insights in the other person. As Sir John Whitmore, a leading figure in the field, defined it, skilled coaching involves “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.” The best practitioners have mastered both parts of the process—imparting knowledge and helping others discover it themselves—and they can artfully do both in different situations.

It’s one thing to aspire to that kind of coaching, but it’s another to make it happen as an everyday practice throughout the many layers of an organization. At most firms, a big gap still yawns between aspiration and practice. And the only way to bridge this gap, is to develop coaching as an individual managerial capacity, and then on how to make it an organizational one.