Managing Others: Are you a consultant, a connector, a cheerleader or a coach?

Raven Freeman
July 11, 2018

According to a study by Gartner, only 40 percent of employees believe their managers help them develop the skills they need for their current role.  Do you know where you stand?  Are your employees counting you in the 40% or 60%?  If you’re not sure, you’re probably among the majority of managers who take a reactive approach to development, primarily helping staff to navigate complex or urgent situations.  While this type of in-the-moment problem solving is necessary, managers who take a more proactive and skill-based approach to staff development experience greater overall staff satisfaction.

The 60%

It is a common misconception among managers that their primary functions are to delegate and evaluate.  However, managers who truly build capacity in and through others are those who also count professional development among their core responsibilities,something easier said than done.  Both new and experienced managers face the challenge of balancing their individual responsibilities and development needs with the needs of the team.  The key is

to think of manager and staff relationships as symbiotic and ideally mutual, where both parties benefit.  While it requires extra effort upfront, taking the time to develop your staff will ultimately free you up to do other things and help the entire team get further faster.

Identify Your Management Style

Taking this proactive, capacity building approach requires intentionality and action on the part of the manger.  Start by asking yourself the question, are you a consultant, connector, a cheerleader or a coach?  When thinking about which of these categories is most applicable to you, consider your leadership style, professional experience and bandwidth.  Understanding how you tend to approach staff development can help you identify potential blind spots.  Hint: You don’t have to limit yourself to one type or be all three to everyone.  It’s possible to be a connector for some staff members and a cheerleader for others. In fact, that is what the very best managers do – they adjust their style to meet the needs of their people.

Bandwidth is not addressed directly in any of these categories, because let’s face it is a challenge for all managers.  Whether you’re a coach, connector or cheerleader, you’re probably stretched thin.  Still, there are many ways to take proactive steps on staff development that don’t require a ton of time.

  • Consultant – Your technical experience aligns with your direct report’s job function. You are seen as the “expert” and often find yourself telling your direct report what to do/how to do it. Giving explicit instructions comes easy to you, whereas teaching requires more thought and effort for you.
  • Coaches– Your professional experience and work style align with that of your direct report. The relational part of your job gives you energy and you enjoy one-on-one problem-solving with your direct reports.
  • Connectors- Your professional or technical expertise may differ from your direct report’s functional area of ownership. You don’t have the answers to all of your direct report’s questions, but you’re excited to connect them with someone who does.
  • Cheerleaders- Your direct report has a clear vision for success. He or she just needs room to run and a thought-partner along the way.You are a hands-off manager and love giving others room to chart their own course.

Take Action

Through our work with more than 50 non-profit and school clients, EdFuel has identified three Peer Learning Communities (PLCs) that give both managers and direct reports the development boost they need.  The PLCs are held monthly during the school year and led by an expert facilitator who guides the participants through a series of skill-building and peer sharing activities.  Over the course of the PLC, participants are either building their capacity to develop others or charting their own course for personal and professional growth.  The three PLCs are differentiated for people with a variety management styles and levels experience.

  • The Art of Coaching is great for natural coaches who want to translate their instincts around coaching into strong management practices or for someone who is a consultant or cheerleader and wants to learn how to provide more direct development support in the form of coaching.
  • Management Essentials is the perfect PLC for coaches, or a connector, who want to take a more holistic approach to people leadership, not only coaching direct reports but also creating opportunities for exposure, learning how to manage low performers and creating space for on-the-job training. Management Essentials is for people with direct reports.
  • Emerging Leaders is for people with indirect management responsibilities, ranging from connectors to cheerleaders, who want to explore their leadership style and practice management skills like giving effective feedback, managing up and facilitating job-embedded development.

2018-2019 PLCs start in September 2018 and registration is currently open.  To register for a PLC click here or email Kerri-Ann Nesbeth at for more information.


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