Employee Engagement and the Importance of a Business Coach

by Edward Henkler on March 6, 2013

I’ve worked in a variety of industries, starting with ten years of service in the nuclear power Navy, then extensive experience in large cap biopharma.  In recent years, I have focused my energy on business coaching, start-up support, and assisting individuals in transition.  Based on the advice of friends, family, and colleagues (not necessarily in that order), I have decided to formalize my efforts, including launching a website.  As has been the case throughout my career, my overarching goal is to help others, whether it is an individual in transition, or a business which is not realizing its potential.

It is my firm belief that most of the key questions any organization needs to address can be answered by their employees.  The secret is engaging the employees in ongoing dialogue to uncover the information.  Two predominant approaches to organizational change are discussed in Beer and Nohria’s book “Breaking the Code of Change: Resolving the Tension between Theory E, and O of Change”.  Theory E focuses on systems and processes and tends to be owned by senior management and external consultants.  It might be considered the traditional approach to managing change and perhaps it worked in the past.  I think chances of success are much less likely today, even in military and other hierarchical settings.  One of my former bosses remarked that he had blocked more initiatives as a middle manager than he would ever successfully implement as the CEO.  It is doubtful that he aggressively worked against the initiatives; he just placed them very low on the priority list.

High performing organizations engage everyone in a way that delivers “discretionary performance”.  This is the “above and beyond” component that exceeds expectations and is the hallmark of top organizations.  It can only occur when every member of the organization has a common vision and is pulling in the same direction.  If you agree with this philosophy, then you tend to be a Theory O proponent.  Practitioners of Theory O recognize the value of organizational structure but focus their attention on creating internal change agents.

Regardless of your beliefs, I would strongly recommend a book by Matthew Kelly, “The Dream Manager” (see the “I Recommend” widget in my sidebar).

The Dream Manager

It will reinforce the value of Theory O and might make the Theory E constituency consider alternatives.  This is one of the most powerful books I have read recently and I like it both for its simplicity and for the recognition of a simple truth.  Most would agree that employees are obliged to do what the business owner asks, as long as it is legal.  Unfortunately, far fewer leaders recognize that they have an equal obligation to help their employees realize their dreams.  When the dual responsibility is recognized, success is nearly guaranteed.

If you’ve read carefully, you might think I’m suggesting there is no need for business coaches.  That is not the case and will be the subject of my next post….

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