From “Rinse-and-Repeat” to Performance Coaching

by Stephan Hagelauer

How Top Workplaces Have Redefined the Manager Role 


Back in the day, the role of manager was well understood. Businesses had standard operating procedures, and managers supervised the employees doing the work. Whether they were part of the industrial revolution or the service economy, managers performed similar enforcement functions. They made sure their direct reports could do their jobs—and do them over and over again with great consistency until they were told to do otherwise.

I call this the “rinse-and-repeat” form of management. And it worked well to help employees develop specific skills, follow processes, and meet business metrics. The problem is, everything has changed.


Welcome to the cognitive economy

Today’s global cognitive economy requires workers to solve new problems in an environment where technology continuously transforms and disrupts old ways of doing things. New-generation advances are quickly leapfrogged by next-generation advances. And the pace of change continues to pick up speed.

The very nature of the workplace is changing too, bringing new challenges to employees and managers alike. It’s no longer enough for employees to rinse-and-repeat their work. And it’s no longer enough for managers to supervise a set of standard operating procedures.

Nowadays, employees need to understand how their work contributes to broader organizational goals. They need to identify problems and opportunities, think creatively, and develop new ways to make things better. And because of this, managers need to coach more than supervise, becoming a catalyst to bring about and accelerate continual learning and innovation.

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Why too many managers struggle to succeed

The path to management follows a common route. Individual contributors who excel climb the career ladder. Their skills and expertise are their superpowers, and they know how to work independently to deliver results. But now they are tasked with managing people, and that requires a different skill set altogether.

Most managers come to their new role without any training on even the fundamentals of modern management practice or self-managing teams. At best, they’ve had a good manager who can be a role model. And at worst, they’ve had a poor manager who has passed on bad behaviors.

Managing people is never easy. Each team has its own dynamics, personalities, tenure, and demographics. At times, managing people is like herding cats, with individuals going in multiple directions and reacting in different ways. Being a manager is no longer the position of authority that it once was, so it’s no surprise many managers find themselves longing for the old days.


Performance coaching is the key to success in today’s workplace

Effective management requires flexibility and good people skills. Managers need to shift and adapt their communication style to the individual, noting how they respond to different forms of communication and interaction.

They also need to know each individual better than in the past, understanding their intrinsic motivation on the job, their personal challenges, their likes, and interests. The better managers know their employees, the better they can determine the employee’s fit with organizational needs and identify what skills require development.


So who should you promote as managers?

To build a high-performing culture, it’s important to recognize and promote team members who show potential for performance coaching as well as a passion for helping others reach their full potential.

Be on the lookout for managers who are stuck in yesterday’s frame of mind. These are managers who supervise but don’t coach, those who only accept the narrow-minded, rinse-and-repeat type contributions – and who kill off ideas (and morale) as soon as they blossom.

The key to success for today’s manager is no longer defined by knowledge of standard operating procedures. Instead, it has to do with the manager’s ability to cultivate and develop the individuals on their team. This means recognizing each person as an individual and understanding how to help them reach their full potential. Just as important is understanding what that full potential can mean for the individual, for the team, for the manager – and for the organization as a whole.