How coaching can fill the gap left by retiring Boomer managers

Though the economy is stalling many retirement plans, there are still a whole lot of empty management holes being left behind retiring boomers.  

As experienced managers retire, companies face the challenge not just of replacing them, but of bringing their replacements up to speed efficiently and effectively.  In many cases, Boomer’s replacements, often Millennials (people born after 1980) are a little like Prince Charles – busy with their own day to day work while the real boss hangs on to control.  So what happens when the manager, or the Queen, leaves the throne empty?  How do we prepare the new ruler to fill those well-worn, sensible shoes?

Prince Charles has it easy compared to the Millennial workers in companies today.  Here’s what I see::

  • Boomers hold intellectual property of the company in their heads and often take or are given little time to pass it on before they leave.  Most companies have neither the human resources nor time to document and transfer that knowledge to the next generation.
  • The knowledge boomers have can be learned but not easily “taught”.  There are very few affordable training courses in “how to do your boss’s job”.  In addition, much of it was learned “on the job”, an opportunity Millennials typically don’t get until after the retirement party is over and everyone has gone home.
  • Many of the things the boomers do as managers were things they learned in the pre-computer or pre-Web 2.0 world of corporate communication and teamwork.  Some of those things could be done better or more efficiently with a little imagination and time to experiment.  Given the chance to experiment in a safe environment with support, the new managers may float the next killer management approach.

Here’s an interesting clip from an article in

“Many managers are promoted into managerial roles because they exhibited strong performance as technicians. The shift from technical to strategic is often tough, and it’s no wonder that a 2001 Harvard Business School study found that nearly 40 percent of new managers fail within their first 18 months. Unfortunately, many organizations provide no formal development for new managers and no refresher training for existing managers or high-potential employees.”

SOURCE: JJ Thakkar, Capital H Group, the Woodlands, Texas, March 8, 2006.

This situation isn’t inevitable.  There is a great opportunity to bring in a business coach or coaches to help with targeted, goal-oriented, individualized development.  A coach can work directly with a new manager, focusing on exactly what he or she needs in order to be successful, providing a structure and focus to keep development on track, and the kind of encouragement and support that many companies simply don’t have time to provide.  

Additionally, an external business coach can bring objectivity to the new manager’s role.  A good coach can ask questions that help the new manager identify hidden opportunities that the company or the new manager may not see because they are too close to them.  Finally, a coach can create a structure for accountability and help the new manager track goals to achievement.  

The advantages of three months of weekly reviews with a coach on individualized management development topics, over a one or two-day generalized training course that typically has no follow-up, are clear: prepared

managers ready to take the throne when the time comes.

Coaching may be the next “killer app” for companies dealing with generational knowledge transfer.


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