The workplace is changing. Here’s how you can prepare your organization for the future.

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I was having a conversation with the head of a local technology company recently and she asked me an interesting question.

She said they were going to start their long-range strategic planning during the second half of this year, and wanted to know what I thought were the most important skills her managers would need in the future (2020 and beyond).

I told her I thought she should train every manager how to be a great coach and teach them how to act like an internal consultant.

Here’s why I said that.

Train managers how to be great coaches. The pace of technological innovations is occurring at such a rapid speed that there’s almost no way for a manager to be the resident expert on a specific topic. That, and when someone is in a people management role, there is less time for the person to use their technical expertise on a daily basis, so their technical skills usually won’t stay as sharp.

This means the people managers of the future will need better coaching skills. They will need to understand how to hire great people, run Agile or Scrum project teams made up of people with highly diverse skills, and successfully work with people who are even smarter than they are. Doing this will require the ability to coach individuals and teams in ways that will harness the collective intelligence and areas of expertise and take it to new heights.

Multiple studies have confirmed the need for managers to be good coaches, and this will become even more important as we look to the future. Because the workplace is changing, the character and makeup of people managers will need to evolve, with more emphasis being placed on outstanding coaching skills.

Teach managers how to act like internal consultants. When companies downsized to control costs during the recession, the number of directs reports into managers increased (span of control). Even the average number of direct reports to CEOs increased, doubling from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s.

This trend of increasing numbers of direct reports into people managers will likely continue in the workplace of the future. That’s because new technologies are allowing managers to stay in contact with employees (even remote employees) more easily — and because some organizations believe a higher number of direct reports gives managers a more comprehensive view of the company.

What this means for people managers of the future is that they will need to learn how to act like internal consultants, able to quickly assess situations, determine action plans for improvement and scope projects to understand resource needs.

It also means people managers will need to teach those on their teams how to do the same — act as internal consultants. People managers won’t have the bandwidth to dive into daily minutia or minor issues, so they’ll need to teach others how to analyze situations, determine options and bring recommended solutions to them, instead of problems.

Bottom Line: To prepare your organization for the future, teach every people manager how to be a good coach and how to act as an internal consultant.

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at