Managers as Coaches – How to become a better leader

Business Coaching and career development are integral parts of every manager’s job. Studies show that managers who provide mentoring, coaching and feedback to their employees, help them develop skills, improve performance, define and realize career goals, but also they tend to have more successful and productive teams. Successful Managers/ Team Leaders listen carefully and provide plenty of opportunities for learning and growth to their team members. Coaching is one of the best ways to develop and retain valuable employees.

When we say that Managers can coach, we don’t mean on the job training. It’s not even managing. It’s less about directing the work and more about helping someone succeed. James Flaherty writes “Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others “, meaning that it is a way of working with people that leaves them more competent and more fulfilled, so that they are more able to contribute to their organizations and find meaning in what they are doing.

Below, you can identify ways to develop your coaching skills as you work with your employees to help them develop and succeed.


  1. Frequent coaching meetings with employees

Coaching is about building relationships and that takes time. For coaching to work well, it has to happen regularly. It’s important to spend time coaching both strong and weaker employees. Managers often concentrate on the employee who needs remedial attention in contrary to the stronger performers who don’t seem to need any help. That’s a misallocation of managerial resources. You must meet often with all the people you manage, individually and as a team, so that you establish trusting relationships. You might hold a coaching session with an employee for any number of reasons, such as to build communication skills, build a specific skill or change a pattern of behavior, help someone adapt to a new process or practice, improve performance and productivity, help an employee overcome a problem or improve working relationships. You can also look for opportunities to coach people in unscheduled ways by making yourself available when the occasion arises. Keep in mind that coaching can take place in many ways and via different channels, face-to-face, call, email.


  1. Improve your coaching skills

Successful Managers encourage, support, and offer guidance and advice. Above all, they are patient, calm, good and trustworthy listeners. They take a genuine interest in the people they are managing and ask lots of questions that are tailored to each individual’s particular situation. A successful manager/coach offers ideas and advice, but doesn’t tell the other person what to do. Here are questions to ask yourself as you look at your own coaching skills:

  • Are you a good listener?
  • Are you patient with people who know less than you?
  • Do you know what each of your direct reports does best? What each needs to focus on?
  • Are you interested in seeing people succeed and do even better in their jobs?
  • Do you make time regularly for coaching sessions with the people you manage?
  • Are you comfortable delivering praise as well as constructive suggestions?
  • Are you open to feedback from your direct reports?


  1. Plan and prepare ahead of a session

While a good coaching meeting may feel like an informal conversation, in fact, its success rests on the Manager having planned and prepared ahead of time. Here are some ways to prepare:

  • Schedule time for coaching sessions into your calendar.
  • Draw up a list of questions to ask at the coaching session. Ask questions that are specific and tailored to the particular person and set of circumstances. Open ended questions are best. Here are some examples of open-ended questions you might ask:

– How do you think the project is going?

– What has worked well for you on this project? Why?

– What obstacles have you had on this project?

– What support or resources do you feel you need?

– What do you see as the goal of this project? Has the goal changed since you started?

– How will we measure the success of this project?

– What accomplishments can you point out so far? How were those achieved?

– What do you see as the next steps?

– What have you learned so far?

– What skills have you used? What skills do you wish were stronger?

  • Discuss and agree on goals and learning objectives. You might ask your employee, “What should our goals be for these meetings?”
  • Draw up a plan. For example, if the plan is to coach an employee on how to use a new database program, have all the tools and information you will need on hand to achieve the plan. This might include a detailed summary of process steps for the person to follow as s/he learns and practices with the new database.


  1. Provide helpful, constructive feedback

Constructive and ongoing feedback is what helps people learn and keep on learning. Here are suggestions on giving productive coaching feedback:

  • Start by asking for permission to give feedback.
  • Focus on specific ways to improve skills and performance. Provide feedback on a specific area of concern rather than generalizing.
  • Focus on people’s strengths, not weaknesses, when giving feedback.
  • Be direct and straightforward when giving honest feedback and coaching.
  • Always offer feedback with tact and sensitivity. Focus on the work and on specific issues. Feedback should never be personal. Avoid labels.
  • Give timely feedback.
  • Make sure the person has understood the feedback.
  • Provide ongoing feedback. “Coachable moments” occur every day – moments that offer opportunities for learning.
  • Discuss next steps after giving feedback.
  • Follow up. Did the coaching session or sessions achieve the desired results? Follow up to ensure that there has been positive change, learning, or progress.
  • Acknowledge and reward successful coaching results. Celebrate successes, progress, and achievements.


  1. Employees’ career development

Helping employees to stay challenged and keep growing – are important parts of every manager’s job. Career development is a two-way commitment that employees and employers make to each other. The employee commits to acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to stay valuable to the company, and the employer commits to supporting the employee by offering opportunities for development and growth. Growth doesn’t have to mean a move up the corporate ladder. It can mean offering employees opportunities for broadening their current skills so that they continue to feel challenged and marketable in a changing economy. Make time for career development conversations with employees. During these conversations:

  • Ask about people’s career aspirations.
  • Ask about job satisfaction.
  • Help the employee think about steps s/he can take to achieve career goals. Think of ways that growth and developmental challenge can occur within the employee’s current job position. Perhaps s/he could work on a new initiative or high-stakes project, or work more with senior managers.
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of learning opportunities on the job. On-the-job development should be part of every employee’s development plan. Provide ample opportunities for job shadowing, apprenticeships, mentoring, and other learning situations to help people broaden and expand skills.
  • Help employees find other ways to develop new skills, either through further training or education. Promote continuous learning. Encourage employees to look for development opportunities outside the company by attending seminars, classes, workshops, or maybe pursuing a degree. Provide reading lists, if relevant. Urge employees to take training classes offered within the company. Offer employees the chance to coach or teach other employees.
  • Encourage people to take responsibility for their own career development. Career development isn’t solely a manager’s job. Employees also have to take an active role. When you coach, encourage employees to assume more of this role themselves.
  • Delegate more. It’s one of the best ways to develop employees.


Developing your team

The ultimate goal of business coaching is to build a stronger team. To do that, you must coach both the individuals you manage and the group.

  • Encourage coaching and mentoring among team members. Help people find opportunities to coach one another.
  • Suggest ways that people can work together on projects in order to share skills and advance learning.
  • Encourage a team culture of knowledge and information sharing.
  • Be intentional about giving floor time to all members of your team.
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