Dec 14, 2016
The Boss As Super Coach
The younger generation are the future and they want a different type of boss. That boss has to be a new model - persuasive, able to sell the WHY of the job, razor focused on building the team member’s careers, a brilliant communicator and personal coach. A snap really – probably be able to knock that lot off before lunch. Well maybe not.
In Japan, they are not making as many members of the younger generation as they used to, so what they want becomes very critical to the boss’s ability to meet the demands of the organisation. The over 65 age bracket in Japan is currently accounting for 33.45 million people, whereas those under 15 are only 15.88 million. That youth number will continue to decline.
Meeting their expectations means survival, because if you are losing them to your competitors, then you will run out of having enough staff to run the business. You can see it now in construction companies, convenience stores, even sushi restaurants in Tsukiji, all having to find non-Japanese young people to do the work.
Japanese youth will be in high demand and the ability of their boss to satisfy their requirements will determine their longevity with the company. Are these bosses up to the task though? It doesn’t appear to be the case. Japanese government statistics (always old in Japan - the latest survey was 2013) show that 32% of young graduates are quitting their jobs within the first three years. This isn’t going to improve.
How skilled are the current crop of middle managers in Japan at coaching. Pretty lousy I would reckon. Why would I say that? There is almost no leadership training in Japan for middle managers apart from OJT (On The Job Training). This effectively means the flawed systems of the past are faithfully transmitted to the next generation, without any insertion of modern professionalism. If your mentor was really skilled, then you were exceedingly lucky, but that batch is few in number.
The boss super coach needs to identify what are the skills needed in the team. There are many possibilities so prioritisation is essential. The person being coached, together with the boss as coach, picture the desired outcome. What is the skill gap to be closed and what does success look like? The goal must be owned by both sides.
Attitude is vital. People are different though and what triggers desire for improvement in one, may not work in another. What the boss thinks is exciting, may underwhelm the under 30s team members. Is the trust in place? How well does the boss know the team members? If the boss has invested the time to know their staff, then coaching them becomes easier, because they can identify their respective interest triggers.
The key resource needed for coaching younger people tends to be the boss’s time. This is in critical short supply usually, which is why so little coaching gets done in the first place. There is a chain reaction that starts with the boss’s time management ability. This is rarely a strong suite for middle managers in Japan. The super coach has mastered time management and prioritisation, so they can live more in Quadrant Two (important but not urgent) rather than Quadrant One (important and urgent) of the classic time management structure.
The ability to spend time reinforcing the strength of the company brand, explaining the Why behind what we do around here and applying attention to developing the skills of the younger team member are the keys. This means having the bandwidth for identifying, explaining and demonstrating the skill required. It means coaching the practice of the skill rather than abandoning the young to their own devices. The latter approach usually fails and so their self-confidence gets hit hard, limiting their appetite for doing more or trying new things.
The idea of recognising results only at the end is flawed, but that is how most people do it. Young people are constantly coming out of their Comfort Zones, so they need instant feedback on two things: what they are doing well (good) and how their can improve further (better).
Recognising their baby steps and partial successes is vital to embolden them to keep going, to keep facing what they see as the black tunnel ahead full of risk and potential career obliteration. Rewards should definitely come at the end and if we know them well enough, then we will know what type of recognition most resonates with them.
The modern boss in Japan has to become a super coach and give the young people in their charge, all the things they themselves should have received on the way up but never did. Unfair, yes, but we can’t keep shortchanging each successive generation and expect we will be making consistent progress in our organisations. The time is now and we have to see some significant changes in the role of today’s boss.
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About The Author
Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan
In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.
A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcast “THE Leadership Japan Series”, he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.
Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.