Coaching: Basic Managerial Skills; V4 Issue 3

Did you know that to be truly effective as a manager apart from the skills of managing and leading you also need to master one another valuable skill? This skill is Coaching. By being a Coach you can support your subordinates in their learning, and enable them to develop the skills, knowledge and attitude necessary to successfully deliver to their job responsibilities and goals. Coaching does not mean simply correcting today's problem. It means preventing the problem from resurfacing. As a manager, you can be an effective coach to your subordinates, by following a few simple tips.

Tips for Coaching


  • Coach the individual, not the group: Coaching relationship is built one-on-one and not in a group. Treat every team member as an individual and take time to learn their unique needs and unique set of strengths. Be in tune with his/her personal aspirations and interests. Capitaliz on his/her strengths. Use tailor made coaching approaches. For example determine your coaching method based on an individual’s learning style or preference for informal/formal learning methods.
  • Practice active listening: Good coaches listen completely. They resist the temptation to give instant advice or answers, even if they know them. They give people time to get to a point fully, and only then attempt to work out a solution. They know how to draw more out of people by offering encouragement while listening to them. They say things like “That’s interesting. Can you tell me more about that?”
  • Ask questions to facilitate learning: Ask questions, not to gather facts but to elicit solutions, feelings, ideas and new thoughts and to help people open up. Asking your subordinates questions challenge them to think harder and more broadly about issues, thereby enlarging their perspective and improving their reasoning skills. Questions can generate better solutions. Good questions are neutral rather than judgmental or critical. They help people see new angles on issues and explore new options for dealing with them. This means you should avoid closed questions, that contain the answer or which end discussions prematurely. Some examples of good questions are… What is causing you concern? How would you like to approach the problem? Who else should we include? Is there another way to look at this?
  • Provide constructive feedback: Provide clear, constructive and timely feedback in a manner that encourages learning. Catch people doing things right and praise them. Do not shy away from honest feedback about things that need strengthening, but give critical feedback in a non-threatening manner.
  • Facilitate developmental plans: Support your team members in identifying development gaps and making development plans. Regularly monitor and review developmental plans. Engage in development and career planning dialogues with team members. Make them aware about the different areas where they can contribute to the organization and at the same time meet their career aspirations.
  • Guide by sharing personal insights, learning, and experiences: Take every available opportunity to transfer your knowledge to your team members. Look for teaching moments. It could be a meeting or an email. Narrate your personal experiences or a success story. Model the behaviours you wish to instil in others.
  • Stretch team members without causing them to fail: Push them to do better. At the same time don’t break them by pushing too hard. Remove barriers to learning and find creative ways to encourage skill development. Create opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge. For instance on the job learning, job rotation, challenging assignments etc can be excellent opportunities for individuals to reach their potential. Determine clear performance objectives and milestones based on mutual agreement. Leverage strengths of individuals rather than worrying about their weaknesses to accomplish the set objectives.
  • Be available when the employee needs advice, information, decisions, or support in problem solving: Having taken on the role of a coach you should make a conscious effort to make time for coaching.
  • Use coaching when appropriate: Using coaching when deadlines are tight or a crisis has arisen may not be appropriate. Precious time may be lost. However, if you do not use a coaching approach when a team member has made a mistake, the learning opportunity will be missed and the mistake may be repeated.
  • Don’t take the coach’s hat off: Lastly remember coaching should not be an event in your schedule. It should be a continuous process.

A Motivation Theory: Job Characteristics Model: Management Funda; V4 Issue 3

Do you agree that typically a motivated employee is a productive employee? Imagine then if as a manager you can design jobs such that it makes your people motivated. Would you not have a very powerful tool for enhancing your team productivity? Over the years a lot of people have developed different theories to explain what motivates a person at work. Two such people were Hackman and Oldham. They developed the Job Characteristics Model; a motivation theory which identifies five job characteristics impacting an employee’s personal and work outcomes.

Understanding the Job Characteristics Model

According to The Job Characteristics Model the presence of five core job dimensions ensures three psychological states. These psychological states in turn influence desirable work outcomes like quality of work, job satisfaction etc. Let’s look at them in detail.

Critical Psychological States 

The five core job dimensions stated below result in three different psychological states.

  1. Experienced meaningfulness of the work: The extent to which people believe that their job is meaningful, and that their work is valued and appreciated.
  2. Experienced responsibility for the outcomes of work: The extent to which people feel accountable for the results of their work, and for the outcomes they have produced.
  3. Knowledge of the actual results of the work activity: The extent to which people know how well they are doing.

Core Job Dimensions

  1. Skill variety: This refers to the range of skills and actsivities necessary to complete the job. The more a person is required to use a wide variety of skills, the more satisfying the job is likely to be. However, far too many might be overwhelming, too few, may prove boring. Jobs that require employees to make decisions and solve problems will usually be more satisfying than jobs with tasks that are routine and predictable.
  2. Task identity: This dimension measures the degree to which the job requires completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work. Employees who are involved in an activity from start to finish are usually more satisfied. For example, writing an entire report would be more satisfying than just formatting it.
  3. Task significance: This looks at the impact and influence of a job. Jobs are more satisfying if people believe that they make a difference, and are adding real value to colleagues, the organization, or the larger community.
  4. Autonomy: This describes the amount of individual choice and discretion involved in a job. More autonomy leads to more satisfaction. For instance, a job is likely to be more satisfying if people are involved in making decisions, instead of simply being told what to do.
  5. Feedback: This dimension measures the amount of information an employee receives about his or her performance, and the extent to which he or she can see the impact of the work. The more people are told about their performance, the more interested they will be in doing a good job. So, sharing production figures, customer satisfaction scores etc can increase the feedback levels.

The model says that internal rewards are obtained by individual when he/she learns (knowledge of results) that he/she personally (experienced responsibility) has performed well on a task that he/she cares about (experienced meaningfulness).The more these psychological states are present the greater will be an employee’s motivation, performance, satisfaction. The model is depicted graphically below. 

Hackman and Oldham’s Job Characteristics Model

You can also see in the figure above that the links between the job dimensions and the outcomes are moderated by the strength of the individual’s growth need. This means an individual with high growth need is more likely to experience the psychological states when their jobs are enriched ie., the scope of the job is expanded. And they will respond more positively to the psychological states when they are present.

Applying the Job Characteristics Model

So how can you use this model? Well, you can tweak the design of the existing jobs of your team members. You can even design new jobs such that the job holders experience greater job satisfaction and deliver results. More specifically you can do the following:- 

  • Combine tasks to increase skill variety and improve task identity. For instance make a person completely responsible for recruiting for a vacancy rather than for just sourcing of appropriate profiles for the same.
  • Assign larger, more significant tasks to people, so that they feel connected to and accountable for results.
  • Get people to see how their performance is contributing to the performance of the department, division and organization. Link their goals with the organization goals.
  • Increase participation of your team members in decision making, and delegate more responsibility in order to improve autonomy.
  • Open channels of communication to improve the frequency and quality of feedback.
  • Give your team members knowledge of the results of their work. For example get an electronics engineer who assembles a radio to also test it if it operates properly rather than getting only the quality control inspector to test it.
  • Share feedback from customers, clients, and other stakeholders with your team members.
  • Provide opportunities for providers of a service to meet the recipients of the service.


Apart from job characteristics there are other factors also that influence job performance. But you can surely make a start by designing the job effectively to motivate your team members. Just remember one important point though. When you are redesigning a job be sure to truly enrich the job and, not just give more work for people to do. So go ahead and try your hand at some designing and design some jobs that people will love to do and will do well.


Employee Engagement Practices Quiz : Activity Corner; V4 Issue 3

Google was founded by 2 mathematicians Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They owe their stupendous success to a culture of innovation and creativity. They realized in their early days that it is employee engagement that can set them apart from the thousands of other technology companies. Free, healthy and well cooked food became a key ingredient of their employee engagement strategy. Guess what they did to celebrate the day the company went public. No, they did not have a series of senior management speeches about its vision and bright future, but a free ice cream station for employees. 

If you are looking for more inspiration on employee engagement, you don’t have to look very far. Many Indian companies have initiated interesting employee engagement practices. See how aware you are of them.

  1. This is an Acronym for a wealth generation option given to employees under holistic compensation philosophy. This seems to be back in action, as the domestic information technology (IT) industry is witnessing an upsurge in attrition rate. Indian IT companies like Infosys, which had put this on the back burner during the global slowdown, are understood to be revisiting it now.
  2. Between 2000 and 2009, the Adi Godrej group had a young executive board (YEB) which worked closely with the group management committee. The Mahindra group has sustained this concept for eight years. It gives young people the liberty to engage with problems and aids lateral thinking. This initiative exposes top management to a young team that innovates and thinks differently.
  3. This concept is related to making employees co-owners. The Future group of companies headed by Mr. Ashok Biyani is acquiring talent like Mr. V. Vaidyanathan of ICICI Prudential Life, by giving them a stake in the business they will be spearheading.
  4. In this initiative, the company has periodic discussions with the employees to understand any issues/apprehensions faced by them. The discussion also focuses on what makes them stay within the company, the reasons why employees wish to continue working for the organization. This gives the company a chance to do more of those things that employees enjoy. Patni practices this.
  5. A lot Indian of companies today are committed to contributing towards the betterment of the community and society at large. Activities such as the Blood Donation Camps, Christmas Day celebrations with underprivileged children etc develop among the employees, a pride of association towards the company, encouraging them to become responsible citizens.This is about having a contract between business and society, which allies profitable companies with healthy communities because what happens to societies happens to business. What is this employee engagement tool?
  6. “____________is about capturing the essence of an organization in a way that engages current and prospective talent. It expresses an organization’s ‘value proposition’—the entirety of its culture, systems, attitudes and employee relationships, providing a new focal point for the company.” Manmohan Bhutani, Vice President, People and Operations, Fiserv India.
  7. This feedback is provided to an employee by subordinates, peers, and supervisors. It also includes a self-assessment and, in some cases, feedback from external sources such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. This kind of feedback for Vineet Nayar, the CEO of HCL Technologies is posted on their intranet for all employees to see. He does not believe that all wisdom percolates downwards and believes in bottom up accountability. Even presentations at HCL Technologies are posted on their intranet for everyone to see and comment.
  8. Many companies have started using this for recruitment. For recruiters this low cost tool offers them a broad perspective about the candidate. It tends to bring forth certain traits and personalities of a candidate which may not be reflected in their resume. It also widens the talent pool for the employers and also fastens the recruitment process. It increases the brand visibility of the recruiter. From the applicants’ perspective, this helps them gain deeper insight into the company about certain facts and information which may not be readily available on the company website.


Unraveling and Practicing Employee Engagement: Feature Article; V4 Issue 3

Understanding Employee Engagement

Does Employee Engagement seem like another buzz word to you? And yet you must be experiencing the presence or absence of it every day at your workplace. Employee Engagement is nothing but involving an employee’s mind and heart completely when he/she is at work which in turn enriches the employee and the organization. It is about an employee experiencing high job satisfaction while contributing effectively to the organization. Employee Engagement has been defined differently by different organizations doing research in this area as given below.

I personally like the definition provided by Tim Rutledge, owner and publisher of Mattanie Press and author of ‘Getting Engaged: The New Workplace Loyalty’. He says‘truly engaged employees are: attracted to and inspired by their work (‘I want to do this’), committed (‘I am dedicated to the success of what I am doing’), and fascinated (‘I love what I am doing’).’

Levels of Employee Engagement: 

In a study conducted by Towers Perrin in 2003 representing the views of more than 35,000 employees in U.S companies it was found that there are following types of employees. 

  • Highly engaged: A small percentage of employees freely give extra effort on an ongoing basis. The opportunity for an organization lies with this small group of people, who can become role models for their peers, helping build the kind of environment and work experience that does engage greater numbers of people.

  • Disengaged: An equally small percentage of employees who have “checked out” from their work constitute this group.

  • “Moderately” engaged: The remainder of the employees ie, roughly two-thirds forms this group. The challenge lies with this group. Left to their own, these employees could easily become disengaged, causing a dramatic fall in productivity and morale. Strengthening this group’s level of engagement is the most critical task virtually every employer faces.


Benefits of Employee Engagement and its evolution

Hewitt has been conducting Best Employers studies around the world. Their research shows that Best Employers excel at employee engagement. As a result they enjoy a bigger pool of talent from which to select employees, lower employee turnover, lower absenteeism rate, increased customer satisfaction, higher economic returns, and greater sustainability in the face of business challenge. And Best Employers are better positioned to take advantage of business opportunities and weather business cycles effectively.

Prior to the 1990’s ‘employee surveys’ were focused on employee satisfaction. However it was found that there was no guarantee that satisfied employees would contribute more to the organization. The concept of employee engagement was developed in response to increasing globalization. Global competition forced businesses to become more flexible in responding to employee needs. There was also a rising interest in employee engagement due to the dotcom bubble burst in 2000 which caused the economy to dip and created unemployment. Then came the Millennials, a new generation of workers who demanded more from their employer than just pay. During the recent recession many organizations have had to cut costs, lose staff and demand more from their remaining employees. Technology continues to revolutionize not only how work gets done, but also how people access their work and each other. As the economy changes and employee needs evolve, employee engagement becomes more and more essential in increasing productivity while satisfying employee needs. 

What drives Employee Engagement and how can you drive it?

Frederick Herzberg observed over 40 years ago that the same employees who complained about poor working conditions, such as cold, dirt and dim lighting were quite happy to work on their cars in a dingy, dusty garage at home. So there was something else which was driving engagement. In fact there are several factors which drive employee engagement. Let us look at how as a manager you can help in creating employee engagement in your team by doing your bit in each of these factors, which come to think of it is quite a bit.

  1. Relationship with manager and Managerial support: Very often when employees leave an organization, they are leaving their manager. It is not dissatisfaction with the company but dissatisfaction with the manager that causes them to resign. So it is important that you develop a strong and positive relationship with your team members to ensure high levels of engagement in your team. Which means you need to be engaged yourself to engage others. If you are highly stretched at work and don’t energize yourself, you will not have the energy to initiate or sustain engagement efforts. As manager you need to provide your team with required direction and resources to support work processes and activities. Ensure employees balance between work and home life. Be supportive of the engagement initiative while monitoring the work-life balance of employees. Highly engaged people run the risk of burnout by becoming too eager and too passionate about their work.
  2. Role clarity: This factor refers to whether employees know what is expected from them. As their manager you are the best person to provide this clarity by defining clear and specific goals. Also make them understand how their goals relate to company goals and make them understand how their unit/department contributes to company success. This line of sight between individual actions on the job and broader company objectives is important for engaging an employee. Helping employees clearly understand the mutual responsibility and accountability is at the heart of an effective employer/employee relationship.
  3. Challenging work: Being able to do something interesting and meaningful helps create a sense of personal inspiration and accomplishment, leading to pride in one’s work and one’s company. There are certain things you can do to help promote a more stimulating and challenging environment for your subordinates. Encourage people to take initiative, be open to change, tolerate uncertainty. Coach and develop people’s skills, and hold people accountable for their performance. These become even more important where the work itself is relatively routine work.
  4. Performance feedback and recognition: Regular, specific performance feedback is a powerful tool to engage people. When one knows where one can improve one is more actively involved in doing something about it and reaches ones’ goals. As important as pay and benefits are in attracting and retaining people, they are less important in engaging people in their work. Though pay does not drive engagement, any form of recognition for good work does. So, offer recognition for employees who excel or who demonstrate a strong passion for their work and organization.
  5. Career development opportunities: Employees look at their jobs and careers as more than a means to gain money. By working they hope to gain both professional and personal skills. Training and coaching is important to achieve this. Get to know your employees as well as their goals and aspirations, so that together you can develop a clear path for advancement and opportunities for growth. Ensure that high performers in your team advance in the organization.
    Not everybody speaks well and not everybody can put people at ease. These are talents unique to individuals. Identify the talents of your team members and provide them with work opportunities where they get to use these talents. Being good at a job bolsters confidence and ensures both the organization and the employee achieves individual and collective goals.
  6. A sense of ‘team’: This refers to the camaraderie, intimacy and the ability to be oneself that one experiences at work. Have a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Foster a sense of community and team work. People’s positive emotions are strongly influenced by the people they work with day to day, by collaboration, teamwork and shared goals, and by a sense of a purpose in work. Emphasizing team goals can be of help here.
  7. Communication: Effective communication is not just about disseminating basic information. Rather it is providing context, commentary and ensuring a two-way dialogue. Employees want to know what management thinks and believes and how it plans to act. And they also want forums to give their input. Communication means not only articulating a vision for the future but also being honest and forthright in dealings with the workforce. Its part of creating the environment of mutual trust, accountability and responsibility that’s important in engaging people and winning discretionary effort. Engage employees through direct communication by involving them in important decisions and keeping them informed of new developments or changes within the company. According to the Institute of Employment Studies (IES), the main driver of engagement is a sense of feeling valued and involved. Listen to employees and act on their suggestions. Just listening and not acknowledging, responding or acting on what is being heard can damage credibility and engagement.
  8. Control: This refers to the freedom to make decisions relating to one’s job. Employees should have appropriate decision-making authority and appropriate decision-making input to be truly engaged. People are much more willing to accept increased risk if they perceive they also have control over decisions relating to that risk as well as relevant information and tools to make good decisions. If you consistently keep your team members fully informed, you are providing them the necessary foundation for them to behave responsibly and accept accountability for making their own decisions. Even when workloads are heavy, being able to control the flow and pace of their work can relieve pressure on employees. So can a feeling that they can turn to managers for resources and support when they need it.
  9. Leadership: A clear vision from senior management about future success and senior management taking steps to ensure company’s long-term success are important in driving engagement. You need to understand and share this vision and action plan with your team. Leadership’s interest in employee well-being also helps increase employee engagement. As a manager you can keep your team updated on what the leadership team is doing to take care of employees. Also don’t miss conveying their message if they specifically ask about a person’s well being. I know every time the MD asks about my team member and I tell her about it how thrilled she looks.
  10. Company credibility: The reputation of a company as an employer, as a corporate citizen and as an industry leader also creates engagement. This determines whether employees take pride in working for the company. Organizations that proactively manage their reputations also enjoy higher levels of employee engagement. Employees distance themselves from the business when they believe their company does not have a good reputation. By talking positively about the company and its practices and by correcting any wrong negative perceptions that employees have about the company, you can contribute to employee engagement.

    Fairness is also important in creating credibility. This refers to acting with equity in sharing rewards, being impartial while hiring and promoting people, being fair in people practices and policies and how well employees are treated in terms of pay and benefits compared to similar organizations. You can ensure fairness in your areas of accountability ie, while making hiring, promotion, performance rating decisions.


You must have figured out by now that building employee engagement is a process that never ends and is a lot of hard work. All the employee engagement drivers are related to the kind of culture and work environment a company creates and nourishes over time. It takes commitment, consistency, trust in employees’ judgment, strong leadership practices and programs that align with and support the desired culture create to create a meaningful and emotionally enriching work experience. Most importantly it takes strong day-to-day management. Yes you, as a manger, are an important factor. You will be the one who will set the tone for your team, taking cues from leadership and the prevailing culture. So, understand employee engagement and practice employee engagement for the risks of not doing so are very high.


  1. ‘Motivating and Retaining Top Talent through Employee Engagement’ August 05, 2008
  2. 'Becoming a Best Employer'
  3. 'Working Today : Understanding What Drives Employee Engagement. The 2003 Towers Perrin Talent Report’