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From Policing to Coaching

Updated: Dec 18, 2023


In our ever-changing business landscape, successful leadership extends far beyond simply enforcing rules, I've observed the shift from a policing mindset to one that emphasizes coaching and nurturing discretionary performance, particularly in supervisory roles. This blog post delves into the limitations of traditional rule enforcement and the transformative power of a coaching approach in achieving performance excellence and cultivating a positive organizational culture.


The Shift in Leadership Dynamics

Traditional 19th-century leadership models focused heavily on supervisory roles as rule enforcers and are becoming obsolete. Today's dynamic work environment demands a more versatile leadership approach, one that adapts to various situations and goes beyond mere rule enforcement.


Understanding Command-and-Control

While a command-and-control leadership style may be necessary in specific scenarios, such as dealing with deliberate and widespread policy violations, it should be used sparingly. Discipline should be reserved for serious infractions where rules are blatantly disregarded. To foster sustainable performance and cultural excellence, leaders need to inspire, delegate, and coach, encouraging employees to pursue excellence and personal development.


Encouraging Intrinsic Motivation

Achieving true performance excellence involves fostering behaviors that are intrinsically motivated, not solely driven by external enforcement. Recognizing that adherence to rules and procedures might not always be instinctive, effective leaders strive to understand the reasons behind deviations from expected behaviors. They approach such situations with empathy and inquiry, rather than immediate disciplinary action, addressing the root cause rather than merely treating the symptoms.


Probing for Understanding

When encountering deviations from expected behaviors, informed leaders seek to understand the underlying reasons through empathetic dialogue, asking critical questions like:

  • Are there misconceptions or a lack of understanding?

  • Have the desired behaviors not yet become habitual, requiring further support?

  • What obstacles might be hindering optimal performance?


Embracing the Coaching Role

Transitioning from a policing to a coaching mindset in supervision involves recognizing that focusing solely on outcomes is insufficient for sustainable management. An overemphasis on results can inadvertently lead to manipulation and compliance without genuine commitment. Instead, leaders should inspire performance, align efforts with organizational objectives, and foster a culture that actively seeks success. Coaching plays a pivotal role in this transformation, offering guidance and support to unleash employee potential.


Inspiring Performance Excellence

The goal is to create a work environment where employees are motivated not by fear of consequences but by inspiration and alignment with organizational goals. Coaching is instrumental in achieving this, establishing new social norms that are organically developed and reinforced within the team.


In conclusion, adopting a coaching approach in leadership is essential for unlocking performance excellence and nurturing a robust organizational culture. It challenges supervisors to go beyond traditional rule enforcement, embracing the complexities of motivation, performance coaching, and empathetic leadership. Through this approach, organizations can inspire their workforce to achieve higher levels of performance and foster a culture of proactive achievement and growth.

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