Much has already been written on the subject of “The executive as coach” and the need to develop employees to meet the challenges of our accelerating world. Too little of this seems to me to have been implemented in organizations so far when it comes to the systematic and constant development of employees. In my experience, the topic of development either pops up rather periodically during appraisal interviews or when the topic of optimization/development becomes virulent due to mistakes/insufficiencies in the team and then disappears quietly and secretly from the agenda again after the first quickly implemented measures due to the multitude of other points to be dealt with.

In the following I would like to outline the “HOW TO”, the implementation for a sustainable, constant and systematized development of employees in companies in three steps.

So what does it take for managers to focus on the development of employees parallel to their strenuous, constant change-driven workday?

1. Role understanding as “coach” [1] and trainer

Well, first of all, a certain understanding of roles is required: the manager must realize that he can gain significant advantages as a “coach” or player trainer of the team (also by himself and with him). Not only that the players on the field become more independent and responsible if – to use sporting terms – the coach does not run onto the field and take the ball away from the players to shoot it into the goal. They will also become more resourceful in their player moves if they know that they can do their own game. What to do for the player trainer/coach: First and foremost, resist the urge to go out onto the field and take things into their own hands when the game is not going well. He/she must get an idea of where the individual players stand in the team in their overall competence (professional AND social). Where there are strengths and learning areas in the interaction on the field and, based on this, create a training program with each individual person. This must then be brought into a system (with the support of HR), so that this can be followed and lived in everyday work.

2. Methodological Competence

Just like a soccer coach, a manager needs methodological competence on the subject of personal development in addition to his professional competence. This primarily involves solution-oriented conversational leadership techniques that need to be practiced in learning settings. These coaching techniques, to bring the employee to his solution by asking questions, are the central key, so that he/she also recognizes: I myself can do it and can develop solutions! Coupled with the above-mentioned understanding of the role of the manager, this leads to a process of greater confidence in things and from this arises strength and motivation!  Without this methodological competence, the manager quickly develops a kind of evasive behavior: “I talk to my people a lot anyway. How can someone who has not learned this be able to act well, e.g. when it comes to self-confidence/insecurity? This would be like making a swimming instructor a soccer coach, since he or she has already been involved in sports.

3. Structural support of HR through “development talks”

Many HR professionals say that the appraisal interview is often only a compulsory exercise and does not produce the desired results. Revivals are tried in countless attempts. The old Indian saying “If your horse is dead, get off” would perhaps be wiser to heed.  Instead of the annual appraisal interview, so-called development interviews could be introduced. These are much shorter and focus on two concrete points for the further development of the employee – based on the above picture of the player trainer, where his team stands in terms of competence (professional AND social). There is a shorter “main interview” (incl. parts of the appraisal interview such as career planning) and subsequently (2 – 3) evaluation interviews per year. These evaluations can be estimated to last 10 – 15 minutes on the store floor, for example, and thus do not take up any more time than the (outdated?) employee interviews. Companies that already live this report a strong acceleration, significantly more personal responsibility and independence of the employees with increased satisfaction in the team.

If you are interested to see more: Here you can find two short videos with feedback from managers on

[1] “Coach” under quotation marks, since of course a manager can never act neutrally like a professional coach. This is rather to be seen more in the sense of supporter and sparring partner.

Mag. Günter Rothbauer, Coach & Facilitator