Increasing Productivity and the Power of Coaching and Feedback Conversations


If you are a manager of people you are already a coach whether you like it or not

“Being a coach to your team is inevitable. You can do it well, or you can do it badly. What you can’t do is avoid it.”

All managers are coaches – but not all managers know this and are good at it. And so I thought I would share a few insights learned along my professional journey that has improved my own performance as well as that of those I’ve worked with as a transformational coach

Coaching is a MUST – Your people are your most important and valuable asset

I’ve found that regular coaching and feedback conversations are rare in luxury brands. For many, coaching simply isn’t part of what managers are formally expected to do, and many don’t see it as an important part of their role.

Coaching and giving feedback enables your people to make the best use of their experience, activating the knowledge they have.

If you are leading through the old traditional model of ‘manager as expert,’ you are the team leader and are supposed to be the one with the answers. If a problem is encountered, the individual relies upon the manager’s expertise and experience. They are expected to provide the solution. This approach often doesn’t work as the solutions are not those of the employee and therefore not owned, supported, and driven by them.

Shifting from manager to coach puts people in the driving seat of their own performance.

Managing v coaching

  • A coach spends more time listening and asking questions, while a manager spends more time speaking and giving directions
  • A coach invests time in observing, while a manager makes assumptions
  • A coach uncovers issues to get to the immediate problem, while a manager takes the quickest route to deal with the surface symptoms
  • A coach supports employees in developing their plans, whilst a manager gives them the plan and expects them to follow it

Managing is all about telling, directing, authority, immediate needs, and a specific outcome. Coaching involves exploring, facilitating, partnership, and long-term improvement, and may lead to many possible outcomes.

It seems easier and more practical to ‘manage’ than to coach. But it’s worth it. Research and anecdotal evidence show that manager coaches have more engaged employees, and get better results.

What is your current approach? It is now time to ask yourself – am I more of a manager, or a coach? What would your employees say?

Feedback is central to coaching

Traditional management tells employees what to do and feeds back only when something goes wrong.

Coaching is about helping employees to reach their goals for the future. Feedback is about helping them understand what prevents them from reaching their current goals. Coaching is about encouraging the individual to perform at their best. Feedback is about highlighting the optimal behavior. This change to coaching mode involves a significant change in how we provide feedback.

Data supports the claim that more frequent feedback is a proven method for increasing employee engagement, which improves results. In addition, the younger generation, which now makes up most of the workforce, demands it.

Providing meaningful feedback enables the individual to grow and will encourage them to look at their challenges and gaps and identify their strengths and achievements. One core challenge for manager coaches is to provide constructive feedback that will not demotivate.

Managers need to take into account their overall relationship with their team. If there is a high level of trust in the relationship, feedback will be welcomed as a supportive opportunity to be learned from. If trust is low, suggestions for improvement may be resented or rejected.

Coaching helps build trust. It encourages managers to ask instead of telling and see people’s strengths, rather than their limitations.

What’s the payoff for your brand?

Brands spend a great deal of time, effort, and money implementing programs to increase and maintain employee productivity to increase sales. Look at any organization’s educational focus going back over the past year, and you’ll see where they have focused – rolling out e-learnings, holding webinars, sharing lists of suggested books to read – all with the aim of increasing employee efficiency and effectiveness.

Instead of telling people how things should be done, effective coaches ask their teams how they think things could be done. They help them see alternatives, reflect on mistakes, and find room for improvement, helping them think through problems independently. This empowers the individual to create their own vision of what their best self looks, sounds, and feels like.

The pandemic is expected to leave long-lasting purchaser shifts with more clients willing to buy online, and therefore it will be increasingly important for our teams to evolve and adapt. Using the power of coaching and feedback conversations to create elevated, consistent, and personalized experiences, (whether in person or digital) will enable luxury brands to move from mere survival to thriving and flourishing.

I have held several conversations with managers and leaders of luxury retail brands, sharing their concern for the many employees enticed away by competitor brands offering improved incentives and opportunities to join them. We noted that the fundamental driver for most resignations was the lack of growth and development opportunities. Coaching and feedback conversations can significantly impact retention, employee satisfaction, and performance.

Key coaching skills

The goal of a coach is to build awareness, responsibility, and self-belief within the coachee.

1. Listen deeply

2. Read your coachee

3. Reflect on what you see and hear

4. Ask the right questions

5. Provide constructive feedback

These skills reflect what I hear that employees want from their managers:

  • To listen – no, really listen.
  • See situations from the employee’s point of view, not theirs.
  • Be patient with employees while they learn.
  • Avoid writing the employee off the first time a mistake is made.
  • Avoid taking themselves so seriously.

To be a great boss means accepting responsibility for developing that person’s performance and growth.

So the days of the “manager as expert” are gone and the days of “manager as coach” are here. We can either resist that change and stick to the management methods largely formed in the nineteenth century or accept the challenge and develop a coaching mindset and skills. The great news is a coaching approach will both make a difference and be appreciated by your team.

‘What we focus on, we move towards.’

Now is the time to ask yourself: “Which of my old ways do I want to leave behind, which do I want to keep and build upon?”

Tracy Palmer-Scott
by Tracy Palmer-Scott

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