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How managers can become good coaches

Managers are placed in positions of influence and responsibility on the basis of skills and abilities. However, being accountable for the performance of others makes people management a larger component of the manager’s role. It’s then important that managers are equipped to guide their people. Effective coaching is key.

If coaching is not a feature of your team, it should be. And if you are already coaching, is it time to assess how effectively you’re doing it?

Ask yourself these three questions:

Is coaching expected of managers?

Hitting targets and meeting KPIs are all expected in most roles, managers included. In the hustle and bustle of taking care of business, coaching often falls quite low on the list of priorities. This is one of the reasons why managers do not have effective coaching skills. It’s not treated as a priority and an integral part of a manager’s role.

But doing so could have real benefits. A recent Gallup report notes that focusing on employee performance development (instead of waiting for poor performance and then ‘managing’ it) improves the quality of work, productivity and leads to better business outcomes.

Ongoing and effective coaching plays a huge role in the continuous improvement of employee performance.


Do managers know what coaching involves?

There are many misconceptions about coaching. Some think of it as maneuvering people. Others believe it’s the same thing as teaching. But coaching should really be about helping the coachee to find their own way.

Tennis is an interesting lens to view coaching from. The all top players have coaches. Tennis, in contrast with other sports, lacks coaching interaction during the match. There are no pep-talks, the athlete is left to perform and the coach simply looks on in encouragement. What’s the point? Coaching isn’t about telling someone how to do their job, it’s about empowering and guiding them to make the right decisions come crunch time.

In fact, Sir John Whitmore, a leading figure in executive coaching, defines coaching as, “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them”.

Coaching can be done externally, where a consultant is brought in to help the coachee, or internally, where the direct manager of the coachee supports their improvement. It can also be conducted informally, not following a set structure or schedule but still demonstrating coaching skills in the way the conversation is carried out.


Are managers equipped with the skills to coach?

Because coaching isn’t weaved into the fabric of expected managerial duties, it’s likely that most managers lack the skills needed to be an effective coach.

Managers do well to invest in training on skills that support coaching. Tips include:

  • Active listening
  • Asking effective questions
  • Assist employees to set clear goals
  • Aim to instil accountability based on fair and accurate evaluations

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