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If you’ve ever watched a Little League baseball game, then you probably know the coaches have a much bigger job than just keeping track of which little kid is up to bat next, and encouraging players to round the bases before they reach home plate. The coaches know how to read their players. They calm the overexcited ones, try to bolster the confidence of the timid kids, and keep their eye on a half dozen things at once. They also remember to reward their team for a job well done.

Workplaces are not so different than America’s favorite pastime. When it comes to leading a diverse group of employees, there are differences between “managing” and “coaching” them, as well as a variety of ways to encourage productivity and motivate people on the job. Leaders always have the option to work on being more collaborative as opposed to simply giving directives. Coaching for motivation and success will take a little more effort, but can yield much greater results.

Managers and coaches are not one in the same, but good managers can and do play an effective role as coaches for their employees. One factor is key: Coaching relies on open communication between managers and employees, meaning managers have to be willing to invite their employees to share their opinions, and then give them the respect of listening to them. Only then will they understand how to coach and support each individual.

Coaching can be seen as an essential function of an effective manager. Here are some easy ways to make sure you are hitting the mark.

Set A Good Example

Promoting a positive work environment starts at the top in any workplace, and managers play a vital role in setting the tone in an office. Treating people with respect, and making sure you take the time to speak to each person during the course of the day, even if it’s brief, reinforces the sense of teamwork you need for a group to function effectively.

Keeping an upbeat attitude creates a good atmosphere. Managers who encourage cliques, play favorites among employees, or ignore certain workers send the message that not everyone is valued. Setting a good example in your workplace means modeling the kind of behavior that you want your team to follow.

Establish Attainable Goals

When employees are working toward a common goal, whether it’s hitting a specific performance level or closing an important deal, you will find that they want to do well and succeed. But when the goals are murky, or keep changing, it can be discouraging for them. Employees are not sure what they are striving for, and they may decide it’s the manager’s fault for not giving them clear directions.

Have meetings with your employees on a regular basis to discuss their goals, and track what progress they are making. These can be team meetings or one-on-one sessions, depending on the work being done. If employees hit a roadblock, listen to their concerns, then discuss options for getting the work back on track. Give them constructive feedback, and make sure they feel like they have been heard.

Empower Your Employees and Give Them Autonomy

If you’re given to micromanaging your team’s every move, this is where you need to learn to let go. Empowering your employees to have a say in how they do their jobs – then giving them the trust and autonomy to prove they can do it well – means easing the tight grip you might have on their daily work tasks. Instead, stay focused on the bigger goals. If they are making their goals, and are reaching them by working in a way that feels more efficient to them, you’ve hit on a win-win scenario for your employees and yourself as a manager.

Make sure to ask for their perspective and opinions. This goes back to keeping those lines of communications open. Listening to your employees shows you value their opinion. Taking their ideas and allowing them to implement them in a way that lets them do their jobs to the best of their abilities will motivate them to succeed.

Have a Flexible Work Environment

Making small changes to create a flexible work environment is another way to coach your team on to success. Flexibility fosters employee productivity, happiness and job satisfaction. Here are a few ways you can make your workplace more flexible and still meet your goals

  • Give your employees the option to work from home a day or two a week
  • Offer flex hours, which might include earlier or later shifts
  • Limit meetings
  • Set up a clear outlet for employee feedback

Provide Them With Opportunities for Personal Career Development

Most employees want to feel like they are working toward a higher career goal. They want to know their manager is invested in their personal career development. Smart managers will use this as a motivational tool. Encourage your employees to take advantage of continuing education opportunities. Have them search for seminars or training sessions they’d like to attend and put in a request that will detail how these activities will help further their skill set. If they are committed to deepening their education, they can bring new insight into their work and benefit the company.

Recognize Hard Work and Provide Incentives

Everyone likes their hard work to be recognized, and managers know employee recognition and incentives can be a great motivator as you coach your workers toward success. Make sure to provide recognition for a job well done. This could be kudos and applause given at the end of weekly team meetings, a shout-out delivered via email to someone who completed a tough project or, as a more personal touch, a handwritten note delivered to someone’s desk letting them know how valuable they are.

Pay raises and bonuses are one clear way to reward hard work. But incentives don’t always need to be monetary. If your team is working on a large project for a client and pushing to meet a production goal, consider rewarding employees with an extra day or two of vacation time when they finish. Movie tickets, gift cards to a nearby coffee shop or restaurant are also great tokens of appreciation. Some managers like to send gift boxes to employee’s homes to keep the accolades private, but others like to leave small gift baskets on workers’ desks as a more personal touch. Some ideas of what to put in those are gift cards, boxes of chocolate, a bottle of wine or their favorite beverage, and some personal care items. Try picking items most people would love to receive, like G&H Nourish+™ hand cream, which can leave skin feeling moisturized for up to 24 hours. Or if you know the employee has an active lifestyle, tuck in assorted flavors of XS™ Sports Twist Tubes, which can turn their water into a refreshing drink that delivers a combination of B vitamins and selenium.

Once you’re invested in being a coach versus just a manager, you’ll see the difference it makes in how you can motivate your team. By giving them clear goals, then offering them the autonomy and flexibility to reach them, you will be ready to celebrate your group’s successes.