Business management theories have been evolving over the past several years to support a new way of conducting business. Quite often we interface with multiple organizations, suppliers or customers to implement a new safety regulation, produce a product or improve a process. The way we work with our new Generation X and Y team members has also impacted our management style.

One of the best examples of a successful coach is Mike Holmgren, who last year led the Seattle Seahawks to their most successful season since their infancy in 1976. Holmgren’s team went to Super Bowl XL in Detroit in February.

While Holmgren’s job is considered a traditional “coaching” role, in fact it is the ultimate command-and-control organization model. He has direct control over all of the coaching staff, managers and players. In essence, he’s not just coaching, he’s directing and managing.

Transitioning from “smoke stacks”

Businesses would do well to adopt a similar “coaching” management model and apply it successfully to conduct our business. Too many of us instead function as “smoke stacks,” vertically integrated organizations that put together plans, make decisions, and implement processes and projects by ourselves within our own vertical smoke stack. For the most part, everyone involved has a direct boss in the decision-making and implementation process.

Our business management models have transitioned, and quite often we now work on teams across those traditional “smoke stacks” and do not have direct control of the resources working on these other teams. When leading or working on these teams, quite often there is little direct authority, and success is derived from implied authority, positional authority or authority derived from respect. This requires utilizing coaching as a management method. The old command-and-control methods of management are sometimes unsuccessful in this new teaming environment.

New breed of employee

It is important to acknowledge that some of the team members do not necessarily have the same outlook as you or other team members. A great share of our workforce is still made up of Baby Boomers, a generation that is, by and large, submissive to authority, and loyal to their job and company. Comparatively, Generation X-ers tend to be more self-reliant, more apt to question authority, and do not necessarily accept decisions made by superiors. They generally believe in themselves and are loyal to teams rather than the organization.

Our youngest workers — Generation Y, those born after 1976 — are generally team-focused, do not need close supervision and are able to work independently. They also prefer to customize their work life to support their personal time and interaction with family and friends.

You’re a team member

A successful coach must introspectively perceive one’s self more as a team member that is leading the effort, rather than the traditional boss role directing the effort. And the most successful coaches are continually cognizant of their teammates’ outlook on life and work. Some of the tools and methods successful coaches use include:
  • Use and follow previously agreed-to team decision methods;
  • Allow all to participate in discussions;
  • Do not be dictatorial;
  • Encourage having fun;
  • Recognize (privately and publicly) people’s efforts;
  • Allow whining and then come up with a fix;
  • Fix what can be fixed;
  • Listen to each other;
  • Be humble and value others;
  • Learn from your mistakes;
  • Look for ways to help others;
  • Carry forward what you have learned.
For the coaching management style model to be successful the members being coached must also adopt it. They should respect the coach and not be disruptive to the team’s activities. Remember, this is a team effort.

Not always in control

As a safety professional, you are not always in direct control of the resources to implement safety improvements, implement new regulations or ensure regulation compliance. Generally, those resources reside in other organizations within your business such as facilities, manufacturing and operations. So a coaching model of working with other team members will be much more successful than the old command-and-control “do it because I say you have to” model. You will be much more successful, and also reduce the stress, as you “coach” your improvements through implementation.

Sidebar: Sounding like a coach

Coaching is not all direct action or interaction with team members. A manager’s style is often reflected in how employees communicate with each other. If employees are using some of the following phrases in their communication, it’s an indication of good coaching:
  • “Thanks to you”
  • “What a great team”
  • “What a great job”
  • “I want to give you some insight”
  • “I hope your team”
  • “Inspire others”
  • “Find ways to overcome challenges”
  • “Not everyone is in a full-time leadership position”
  • “Almost everyone takes a leading role at certain points”