Moving from Boss to Coach


Your staff will work harder and stick around longer when you take a teamwork approach.

It’s always tough to be the boss. This has never been more true than today, when restaurant industry jobs are plentiful and even your best employees may look for new opportunities. Being in charge means getting employees to do the work you need while keeping them motivated. It requires you to move from boss to coach, because coaching people to success beats the alternative—bossing them into failure.

Being a boss and being a coach are very different from one another. A “boss” operates a lot like a bully, applying a selfish “I/Me/My” mentality. The inward, “my way or the highway” approach stifles motivation. The work may get accomplished, but morale suffers.

When you’re a coach, you turn the focus outward with a “Let’s/We” approach that calls for teamwork. A coach is still in charge, but doesn’t give orders. Instead, there’s two-way dialogue where goals are explained so each team member understands how his or her role fits in the plan. Achieving success pushes employees to perform in ways that benefit them and the business.

Supervisors make it or break it

According to LinkedIn’s “Why Good Employees Leave,” the immediate supervisor is the No. 1 reason people stay in an organization and the No. 1 reason they leave. That means having a great team has less to do with money, perks and training, and more to do with how people are treated and how valued they feel.

Whether you are a “boss” or a “coach” can make all the difference. The Gallup Business Journal reports that 75 percent of workers who voluntarily left their job did so because of the bosses and not the position itself.

Happy employees not only stick around, they get things done. If you don’t believe the supervisor/worker relationship matters, think back to the best boss you ever had. He or she was probably more like a coach, making a difference in your life by focusing on lifting you up and making you better.

By contrast, think about the worst job you ever had. You likely didn’t quit the job, you quit your boss. 

Get everyone in on the action

Why do people quit their jobs? Employers today still think it is all about wages, job security, promotions and working conditions. Yet study upon study reveals employees value full appreciation for their work. Those on your staff want to feel “in” on things. 

If they don’t feel like part of the work family, with a supervisor who is sympathetic and able to listen to personal problems, offer guidance and build confidence, then there is little incentive to stay.  

Instead of explaining why people quit their jobs, let’s take a look at why Gallup says people commit to their work. Here are the top 10 reasons people stay:

  1. They don’t want to give up on their supervisor. 
  2. They feel like part of a collective team with co-workers and the supervisor.
  3. They have a strong employee-manager bond.
  4. They don’t want to leave, start at the bottom and earn respect all over again.
  5. They can’t find elsewhere what they have in their current job.
  6. They are kept engaged in their career development.
  7. They like having “trust” as a living core value.
  8. They believe in their company and their work.
  9. They are unwilling to pay the price of separation.
  10. They are able to focus on their work and feel they are fairly compensated.

Try your hand at coaching

If you’re experiencing a revolving door of employee comings and goings, check yourself at the door. Are you a boss that people are quitting? Or are you a coach that people are embracing?

Either way, there’s always room for improvement. The key is knowing how to move from being a boss to becoming a coach. Here are seven helpful tips:

  • Decide to do it. Look in the mirror and become the boss you would want to have.
  • Listen twice as much as you talk. You’ll never hear good ideas if you’re not listening.
  • When you talk, be engaging. Ask the who, what, when, where, why and how questions to create discussion.
  • Allow the team to decide sometimes. It reaffirms that you’re all in it together.
  • Remember that often the best way to achieve your own success is to help others achieve theirs first.
  • Reward the result, not the effort. You want to win, not just play well. Keep everyone’s eyes on the prize.
  • Inspire trust by showing trust.

Every workplace may be different, but true leadership is a constant. We need fewer bosses and more coaches. With this prescription, you can start to be a coach—the mentor who builds a successful team shaped by mutual respect, talent and high-level performance.

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