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The Manager as Coach

“Organizations with senior leaders who coach effectively and frequently improve their business results by 21% as compared to those who never coach.”– Bersin by Deloitte

Wouldn’t we love it if our employees came to us with solutions rather than problems? However, the expectation that they will is inherently flawed. If a manager demands that approach, then an employee with a problem and no solution won’t go to them; the problem doesn’t get solved and the manager doesn’t know it exists. As Alan Mullaly, ex CEO of Ford once said, “You can’t manage a secret.”

So maybe, if the real driver is development and we want employees to solve their own problems, then coaching might be the answer.

Imagine that tomorrow you will get the opportunity to work with the Country’s most successful business coach. Imagine that she will be fully paid for by your Company and you can have as many sessions as you like. The only commitment you have to make is that you will try to get as much as you can from those sessions.

What would you talk about? Your aspirations? The barriers you need to overcome? How you would like to improve things at work? Your relationship with your manager? Your insecurities? Also, your new coach would come to you with no preconceptions, no experience of you, no view of your capability, no vested interest in the outcome. Spend a few minutes before reading on to imagine how this conversation might go.

Now imagine that, at the last minute, the coach can’t make it, so your manager offers to take the session. How different will it be?

When we coach as managers, we are adopting just one of many roles that we might play in our relationship with an employee. teacher, advisor, monitor, director, briefer, captain, disciplinarian and emotional supporter. In fact, if you start behaving like a coach, will they wonder what on Earth is wrong with you?! If we want our employees to be open and creative, it might take time before they feel safe. So here are my top tips for coaching as a manager.

Declare Your Approach

If you are not a natural coach, or are new to the methodology, share what you are doing and why you want to try this approach. If you are using a model such as “GROW”, explain it to the coachee.

Tell Yourself “It’s all Just Information”

When you coach, your team member will make suggestions you may not agree with, or come up with solutions you feel are inefficient. Learn to listen. Do not counter with “yes, buts”, just take the information in and ask questions about it. Ask them the implications, or what they think the barriers might be, or even whether they can think of other ways to approach it. But do not scupper their ideas – make a commitment to go away and think before reacting.  After all, it’s all just information.

Start on Neutral Territory

Begin with a tangible issue that you don’t already know the answer to. Perhaps let them bring the issue to the table. Ask about their biggest frustration, or one thing they’d like to change.

Don’t Coach When You Should Be Directing

Outside of ego, there is nothing undermines coaching more than bad timing. Trying to coach someone who does not yet have the competence or knowledge to find answers will lead to their humiliation and your frustration. If they don’t know, tell them, don’t try to coach it out of them.


Giving and receiving feedback on the outcomes the coaching process as well as the results they achieve will not only help you to hone your coaching skills, but will also develop the mutual trust required for more successful coaching interventions, after all, we all want the same things – We all want to be good managers and be managed by good managers, and we all want better results for ourselves and the people that work for us.

To find out more about our courses or about our coaching services, call us or download our coaching course outline


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