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How Coaching Can Create Better People Leaders

Published about 1 year ago • 5 min read

For this week’s Workplace Intelligence Newsletter, I interviewed Jack Prevezer, COO and Co-founder at EZRA Coaching, a leading global virtual coaching provider. In his role, Jack leads EZRA’s strategy, with responsibility across product, customer experience, operations and EZRA’s innovation and behavioral science hub, EZRA Labs. Having spent the early part of his career in consulting and venture capital, Jack has more than 15 years experience working with large scale organizations, developing strategies that drive growth and transforms 20th-century businesses to meet the digital needs of the 21st century.

As a leading global virtual coaching provider, EZRA delivers individualized leadership coaching to advance and develop workers at every level – because coaching should be accessible to everyone, not just to the C-suite. Through its global network of over 2,000 world-class accredited coaches, EZRA has helped thousands of companies and teams across 87 countries quantifiably improve performance, employee retention and promotion rates. Companies using EZRA today include AstraZeneca, Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz, Spotify and Thomson Reuters.

In our conversation, we discussed how coaching can be immensely beneficial for managers looking to be more effective leaders and increase employee engagement and retention. We also explored the skills that managers need to focus on to maximize their impact. Read on for Jack’s insights about this important topic

1. People managers have endured a lot of major challenges over the past three years, such as the pandemic, the Great Resignation, record low employee engagement and mental health struggles. Why is coaching effective in helping people manage through change?

What makes coaching so powerful is how it uses concepts and data backed in behavioral science to help leaders navigate difficult work situations and bridge the “knowing-doing” gap. We find that traditional “learning” instruments may teach leaders the theory of leadership and transformation, but coaching plays a critical role in helping to apply these learnings in practice.

Coaching is also effective because it's highly personalized: a coach can contextualize an individual’s development. The way we consume technology is increasingly personalized – think Netflix or Spotify – and the modern worker expects the same when it comes to their professional development.

When it comes to people leaders, coaching can help them lead change, master key competencies like influence and communication, manage motivation and understand how to deal with competing priorities. We’ve seen that when challenges arise, leaders with dedicated coaches are better equipped with the tools and the support systems needed to prioritize their staff and address concerns. They’re able to successfully drive employee retention and maintain career growth for their teams instead of turning to layoffs and hiring freezes.

For example, we worked with leaders at Nestlé to help their high-potential leaders navigate remote and hybrid work environments in response to the pandemic. Through the implementation of EZRA, we saw their leaders were better able to lead through change, build resilience, overcome burnout and think more strategically.

2. You recently assessed over 10,000 professionals to measure the impact of coaching across 35 behaviors. What behaviors did you find most and least improved by coaching and how should companies react to these results?

We developed EZRA Measure, a behavioral science-based assessment tool that for the first time in the professional coaching industry has made it possible to trace and quantify behavioral competency growth.

Using EZRA Measure’s framework we were able to conduct this assessment, which was the largest study of its kind, and determine that prioritization (28%), managing conflict (22%) and collaboration (21%) were the most improved behaviors by coaching.

Conversely, areas where we saw the least improvement through coaching were goal setting (9%), leading for inclusion (8%) and customer focus (7%). That said, even these increases show a promising ROI on the power that coaching can have.

These results make it possible for companies to bridge skills gaps by developing what we often see as “soft skills” or behavioral competencies that create more effective managers and teams.

Whether it’s communication skills or managing and development competencies, companies can identify the level of improvement they want to see across specific behaviors and implement a bespoke coaching program that will further embed and sustain learning and development that tracks towards overall goals.

3. Our recent study found that managers impact our mental health more than both doctors and therapists. How can coaching managers create healthier and more effective employees?

Though eye-opening, this finding may not be entirely surprising for many managers and employees, especially as we continue to see the boundaries between work and life continuously blurring. Seeing from an objective perspective the impact that people leaders can have further demonstrates the need to acknowledge employees as unique individuals each with their own unique needs and motivations.

It’s important to recognize that professional coaching is not the same as counseling or mentoring. At EZRA, the individual really drives the engagement. Coaches are there to guide individuals to grow through personal discovery and help them apply their learnings to their experience and role.

In this way, coaching can help managers not only develop the skills they specifically need to be effective leaders for their teams but to adopt a coaching mindset as well. By remaining curious about their employees in the same way coaches are about their coachees, managers can use their influence to help employees not only identify their unique sources of stress and burnout but take action to combat stress and improve overall well-being.

Again, at the end of the day, it goes back to bringing humanity back to the workplace and showing employees they are valued on an individual level.

4. What can companies do to close the manager skills gap, and can you share any examples of companies that have successfully done so?

As we’ve seen from case studies with clients across industries, bringing in coaching support measurably helps managers develop and improve specific competencies where organizations see crucial gaps.

For example, PVH – the parent company of iconic fashion brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger – engaged EZRA when they noticed retention and engagement issues among staff in frontline managerial positions for the very first time. Recognizing that going from an individual contributor to a people manager as one of the most difficult transitions in someone’s career, we created a coaching program for their new people leaders resulting in improved retention and engagement of associates and enhanced people management skills. An impressive 92% of participants said their EZRA coaching had a “significant impact” on their professional development.

Similarly, through our work with General Electric, we were able to help evolve GE’s longstanding commitment to leadership development by embedding key principles in line with the organization’s mission. Through pairing coaching with existing L&D programs, their leaders measurably improve competencies including communication skills, strategic thinking, conflict management and a customer-first approach.

5. In the next five years, how do you see the role of the manager changing and how should they prepare for the future right now?

The future of work is rapidly evolving and it won’t slow down anytime soon. Organizations with leadership and a workforce able to remain agile, innovative and open to change will be the ones that come out on top.

What does this mean for managers? It’s up to managers to foster a culture where the employee experience is paramount and workers feel empowered to share their ideas, collaborate and have the tools to remain resilient.

While much of this is already in motion, over the next five years, people managers will need to focus on developing and implementing data-driven strategies to create positive and engaging work environments that attract and retain top talent. This will involve understanding the needs and motivations of employees and create personalized career development plans to chart progress. They will also need to develop strategies to attract and retain a diverse workforce and create an inclusive work environment that fosters innovation and creativity.

It's scientifically proven that coaching can lay much of the foundation for what organizations will need to thrive in the near future and it’s our hope that EZRA can be a part of that journey.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic!

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