Making the transition into management or a position of responsibility for the first time isn’t always easy. Dominic and Laura Ashley-Timms of performance consultants Notion may be able to help


Rarely are we formally taught how to behave differently when we’re promoted to a management position, although our responsibilities may be larger and the decisions that we have to make are more impactful. Most of us find that we’re on a steep learning curve as we begin to adjust to our new role, and our style tends to rely still on our experiences and lessons learnt from those who have managed us. 

To begin to address changing our behaviour, we need to recognise how we typically respond in different situations.If people come to us with problems, and we continually solve them, guess what? They’ll keep bringing us more problems. However, if we start to gently, subliminally indicate to the other person that we believe they have it within them to answer those questions themselves, and can help them to take action to resolve the issue, not only does it build their confidence, but they quickly begin to change their behaviour too.

Through a process of exploration, we can start to review different circumstances and begin to see ourselves engaging with our direct reports in a different way from our typical command-and-tell response.

These were the behavioural concepts that needed to form the first part of the STAR® model.

We recognised that managers needed to stop. They needed to think. Instead of responding immediately by directing people, and recycling their previous knowledge, their ingrained behaviour needed to change in a way that might invite new and possibly better answers. It shouldn’t rely on the overstressed manager simply taking on the work themselves. They needed a technique for sincerely enlisting the help and perspective of the people who were coming to them for answers. It had to happen in the moment, and it had to happen seamlessly in the course of real-time conversations.

And the best way for managers to accomplish all of this was by pausing to reflect on what a better outcome could be from the situation with the other person and then asking simple, provocative questions. By deftly prompting their colleague to explore the situation and possible solutions themselves, managers could help them to define the next steps that they could take.

The answer, it turns out for most circumstances, is actually a question.

The STAR® model is a simple four-step model for adopting an Operational Coaching™ style of management:

• STOP – step back and change state
• THINK – is this a coachable moment?
• ASK – powerful questions and actively listen
• RESULT – agree on next steps and an outcome from the conversation

Instead of changing the behaviour of the person we’re coaching, all four steps of the STAR® model focus on changing our behaviour as managers by training us to Stop, Think, Ask, and get a commitment to the Result. The STAR® model allows us to tune in to the conversations and situations we encounter every day and use naturally formulated questions to stimulate others to think in different ways, determine new actions and then carry them out.

While this on-the-fly coaching takes just a few moments, the effects can be profound: better solutions emerge, our colleagues are invested in carrying out the actions they’ve committed to and we’ve saved valuable time that we can now use to plan, manage and coach even more people. 

The STAR® model is already being used with outstanding results by managers and leaders at every level in over 40 countries including FTSE and Fortune 500 companies like National Express, Mitchells & Butlers, Sainsbury’s, BT, Jewson and Hitachi. 

The impact of the STAR® model caught the attention of the UK government who commissioned a large-scale study, designed and independently evaluated by London School of Economics. The study measured the impact of leaders and managers from 62 organisations across 14 sectors learning to apply the STAR® model in their day-to-day interactions over a period of six months. 

The outcomes were remarkable, with those who followed the programme spending 70% more time using an Operational Coaching™ style of management leading to higher levels of organisational recruitment, improved staff retention and increased skill levels across nine management competencies. These included communication skills and handling challenging conversations and a 74 times average learner return on investment.

Dominic and Laura Ashley-Timms are the co-creators of the STAR® Manager programme, co-founders of performance improvement consultancy Notion, and co-authors of The Answer Is A Question, published
by TSO and available in paperback, priced at £19.99.

The book has been shortlisted for a Business Book Award 2023.


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