Bosses should examine their management style to know whether they are coaches or referees, according to human resources consulting firm Development Dimensions International (DDI).

While coach-managers proactively help employees before they are in a position to make a mistake, referee-bosses wait for the mistake to call a penalty and tell employees what they should have done instead. It may be much easier to see a mistake and correct it, said DDI, but people learn better through success than through failure.

If managers want to become proactive coaches, they have to know their employees well enough to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how to challenge them with new assignments. Bosses should open the dialogue by asking how the employee plans to handle a given task; then the two parties should discuss the plan together. Once the project is under way, the manager should regularly check in to make sure the employee has the necessary resources and is making progress.

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