Management Essentials: Why Managers Should Be Like Coaches

July 30, 2021

You may not be a professionally trained coach, but if you enjoy helping others develop and are curious about their challenges and opportunities for growth, chances are you’d be a good manager.

Today, be it long-term career development or navigating daily workplace issues, employees look toward their managers as coaches for help. However, while most managers with good intentions do attempt to act as a coach to their team, many are actually performing a form of consulting where they simply give their employees advice or solutions.

What coaching is really about is being more like a guide who can let their coachee arrive at solutions by themselves, for themselves. 

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is more often helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” — John Whitmore, author and founder of the GROW model of coaching

Why being a manager-coach matters

When managers have a good coaching relationship with their employees, their employees show higher levels of motivation and greater ownership and responsibility for their work. 

As for managers themselves, these coaching relationships are great for building confidence around their management skills, especially for first-time managers who might experience self-doubt. Coaching is a great opportunity for managers to build trust within their team and gain a deeper sense of their employees’ thoughts and feelings so as to motivate them more effectively. 

At the same time, managers who coach also contribute to nurturing a culture of growth within their organisations, leading to lower turnover and higher employee motivation and engagement. After all, when people feel listened to and supported in their development, they’re more likely to feel that they and the work they do matter.

In a study by Gartner, employees who reported to managers that can coach effectively were 40% more engaged and 20% more likely to stay at the organisation than employees with less effective manager-coaches.

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If you find yourself guilty of being a “consultant” manager to your employees, that’s OK. Research has shown that managers can unlearn bad practices and pick up good coaching skills in 15 hours (but you’ll need to keep practicing it to hone them, of course).

Here are three things you can do to kickstart your journey as a better manager-coach.

Ask good questions. As tempting as it may be, giving answers to your employees’ troubles is only a quick-fix. Instead, try asking them powerful questions, which challenge their thinking and engage their problem-solving skills, will accelerate their long-term growth.

Listen and empower. When coaching your employees, they will give a lot of input and ask many questions, especially during your 1:1 meetings with them. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say and understand their perspectives.

Coach in the moment. Unsurprisingly, people enjoy learning casually and on-the-spot as opposed to formal training sessions in a conference room. Whenever you see an opportunity to teach employees something new, have a quick conversation about it or schedule some time to go over it as early as possible.

If you want to learn how coaching fits into the bigger picture of effective management, check out the NewCampus Management Essentials Sprint, a 5-week online sprint aimed at helping you develop essential modern-day management skills alongside a group of diverse peers.