11 Coaching Skills That Make a Great Manager (+ Free Training Plan)
Most managers misunderstand what coaching is. Let alone know the skills required for it.
Bob Bannister, Founder of iManagePerformance (a Professional Training and Coaching platform), says, time and again, he works with managers who will say, 'Yes! I coach'. But their definition of coaching is mentoring.
In this post, we will clear up the confusion around what coaching is and what specific skills a manager needs to coach employees.
Then, we will further dig into how to develop coaching skills in managers.
🏋️♂️ What are coaching skills?
Before jumping into coaching skills, let's talk about coaching first.
Coaching is a long-term approach where managers invest in the growth of employees by having a vision for their career path and helping them clear the obstacles on the way.
It is often confused with mentoring.
Mentoring is quite directive, where the employees go with a problem to a mentor, who tells them what they would do in similar situations or give suggestions. Employees draw inferences and inspiration from the suggestions. Mentoring is a short-sighted approach for quick fixes.
On the other hand, a coach helps employees find the answer rather than serving it on the platter.
👀 Discover the differences in depth between coaching vs. mentoring.
Coming back to what are coaching skills.
Coaching skills are a set of interpersonal and communication abilities that enable individuals, often in leadership or managerial roles, to guide, support, and empower others toward personal and professional growth.
These skills are essential for helping individuals:
- Enhance their performance.
- Overcome challenges.
- Achieve their goals.
Coaching skills help managers form a partnership with employees to promote their growth.
For example, the ability to set goals is a coaching skill that managers can use to define employee growth plans.
Another coaching skill is powerful questioning — asking the right questions to employees, which makes them introspect.
🌟 11 Coaching skills your managers cannot afford to ignore
Building work relationships
Coaching is going one layer deeper than regular work conversations. The first skill any manager needs to go that deep is the ability to build relationships. In coaching calls, team members open up about their weaknesses, struggles, dreams, and more. To have such discussions, the team member has to have a genuine relationship with the manager where they trust them.
Managers can build relationships with team members by:
- Showing an interest in getting to know them
- Connecting regularly via one-on-one meetings and informal chats
- Having an open-door policy for better communication
- Offering help
- Appreciating team members for any significant contribution
"The most important thing in coaching is communication. It's not what you say as much as what they absorb." Red Auerbach, a professional basketball coach and executive"
So the next evident and essential skill: communicating clearly and effectively.
Managers regularly set expectations and provide feedback. For both these aspects, managers must be able to share their thoughts in a way that makes sense to team members. Sadly, miscommunications are pretty common.
A Loom report shows businesses in the US lose $1.85 billion weekly due to miscommunication.
Managers can improve communication with team members by:
- Being specific in every ask.
- Staying approachable at work.
- Having frequent conversations.
- Asking for feedback.
Coaching is less about speaking and more about understanding the team member — carefully listening to what they say, reflecting on it, and responding.
Domonique Worship, Coach and Co-CEO at FORTE Collective, says: "Coaches practice listening at a deeper level, and we must be attentive to all the information we draw from our senses, including sounds, words, images, feelings, energy, and body language."
As coaches, listening is an interaction rather than a passive process. Therefore, it is vital for building trust, improving communication, preventing misunderstandings, and encouraging a deeper connection.
A few ways managers can become better listeners are:
- Developing a habit of listening to understand and not listening to respond.
- Being present in conversations. No parallel emails, slacks, or thinking of the upcoming client presentation.
- Clarifying rather than assuming by asking questions like, "Here's what I'm hearing…is that right?", "In other words, is this what you meant"?
- Not judging the conversation as a manager but being neutral and responding as a coach.
As coaches, managers have to listen and understand their team members' perspectives which could be completely different from their own. And for that, they need emotional intelligence. It is the ability to understand and manage one's emotions and also of those around them. It gives managers the empathy to put themselves in team members' shoes and relate to what they're going through.
A lack of emotional intelligence can also come in the way of coaching. Katie Stoddart, Leadership Coach, says managers who can't handle stress will pass it on to their team members in coaching sessions.
So managers should work on assessing their own emotions and what message they are putting across.
Managers can become more emotionally intelligent by:
- Becoming self-aware of their emotions.
- Inviting constructive feedback.
- Using one-on-one meetings to understand team members.
- Listening without judgment.
As a coach, managers do not give team members any answers straight away but help them find an answer. How do they do that? By asking thoughtful questions. Questions that invite introspection or make team members brainstorm solutions.
Examples of a few powerful questions that make team members think more are:
- What is getting in the way?
- How can you approach that differently?
- What are the possible next steps?
Managers can ask better questions by:
- Asking more open-ended questions.
- Adding follow-up questions based on answers and letting the conversation unfold.
- Avoid giving answers as questions. For example, X worked for me in a similar situation. Did you try that? This question is leading and doesn't provoke thinking. The better question is: What are the possible solutions?
Michael Sonbert, the Founder and CEO at Rebel Culture, says:
"Coaches need to know what success looks like in any given scenario. To be clear, they don't necessarily need to be experts themselves, but they do need to know what it looks like when done well. Just like an Olympic coach wouldn't ever be better than the person they're training, but they do know things about breathing, body positioning, and mindset that the people they're coaching might not."
As coaches, managers solve present issues and think of possible avenues where an employee can grow and what success will look like. For this, goal setting, the ability to set clear goals, is essential: it helps to create a plan of action.
Managers as coaches can ace goal setting by:
- Keeping the long-term vision in mind while creating goals and further dividing it into smaller tasks or milestones.
- Verifying if goals are SMART(Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
- Keeping goals aligned with the company vision.
- Documenting goals to monitor progress.
➡️ Why not give a cheat sheet to your managers? Share our complete guide on setting effective performance goals and our carefully curated selection of development goals examples.
Leaders and managers do have a vision/goals on what success would look like when they coach their employees.
For instance, a product manager who understands the business end-to-end can further grow and grab a C-suite role via coaching.
But having a vision and helping team members connect to it or motivate towards it are two different things.
Here is where storytelling comes in.
Carol Evans, Corporate consultant and Business coach, reveals that a coach who is an excellent storyteller can help team members envision where they are and where they can be. And how important they will be in the company's future. It motivates team members to take action.
Managers can tell engaging stories by:
- Understanding their audience.
- Adding enough context to a story by leading with facts or examples.
- Humanizing the story by speaking around emotions team members can relate to. For example, how things will look like when they achieve X goal.
- Making it action-oriented by having a takeaway that provokes action.
When stories are not enough and team members need that extra push. Then persuasion kicks in. Persuasion is influencing another person's beliefs or behaviors. This skill helps managers convey their ideas so that employees buy into them and become more aligned with their vision.
Three ways managers can be more persuasive are:
- Leading conversations with facts.
- Establishing urgency of the task.
- Stating outcomes and possible benefits of action.
Facilitating learning and development
In the end, managers-as-coaches are helping employees learn, so the crucial coaching skill is the ability to create an environment that enables continuous learning and development.
Leaders and managers play a crucial role in developing a learning culture.
They can promote learning by:
- Creating learning and development plans with employees and keeping track of them (i.e., offering support when needed).
- Designing assignments that encourage experimentation, reflection, and learning.
- Giving priority to continuous learning and ensuring team members have time for it.
Ability to give (and receive) feedback
As a coach, managers are supposed to give effective feedback to team members for their improvement.
Feedback helps team members achieve their goals.
Managers should also ask for feedback to check if their coaching is helping team members.
Here are the four points managers can keep in mind for giving effective feedback:
- Being specific and not rambling by trying to say something nice and following up with feedback. Constructive feedback is not harmful and doesn't require any sandwiching between compliments.
- Keeping feedback timely, neither too much nor too less.
- Maintaining feedback as a two-way conversation where team members can ask follow-up questions.
- Watching out for the tone while communicating feedback.
Team members from diverse backgrounds have different issues. And to coach them, managers need to understand their problems.
Kim Crowder, a Workplace strategist, says: "Someone from a historically ignored background experiences specific challenges at work. A leader who cannot understand those imposes further harm."
On top of it, we all have our unconscious biases. Unconscious bias is an assumption or belief that exists in the subconscious mind. Two common unconscious biases are gender bias and ageism.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion(DEI) training helps managers uncover their biases and make employees of different gender, races, abilities, ages, religions, sexual orientations, and other diverse backgrounds feel comfortable in coaching calls. It also ensures they can understand varied opinions and thoughts from a diverse workforce.
➡️ Looking for the right way to track the coaching skills of managers? Our free skills matrix is just what you need.
🌱 How to develop coaching skills in managers?
Here are three simple must-do steps to kick-start a coaching skills training program.
Firstly explain what coaching is to managers and how this training will help them. This step ensures managers get the purpose of the training and make the most out of it.
Roll out training
Once managers understand the expectations, it's time to roll out training. You can conduct workshops or launch courses for all coaching skills.
Lastly, take feedback from managers if the training is helpful and do they expect any improvement. You can also take employee feedback to track if they are benefiting from their managers' coaching.
➡️ Looking for more guidance? Check out our detailed guide on planning an effective coaching skills training program.
🏆 5 Ways effective coaching will benefit your organization
NTUC Learning Hub did a study, Coaching Industry Insights, to assess the challenges and impact of coaching in 2022.
The study highlighted the following benefits of coaching:
- 70% agreed that coaching improves employee performance.
- 64% said coaching enables employee potential.
- 59% stated that coaching increases employee engagement.
- 59% agreed that coaching improves employee leadership skills.
- 57% pointed out that coaching promotes effective communication.
We will now look at each benefit in detail on how having managers who are coaches contribute to it.
Improves employee performance
A manager-as-a-coach regularly works with employees to ensure teams move in the right direction and remove roadblocks. They also assist employees in solving problems.
All of these actions contribute to better employee performance.
Enables employee potential
A big task of any manager-as-a-coach is empowering team members to solve problems independently.
For example, If an employee goes with a problem to the manager, they would ask, "What all options have you tried, and is there any alternative left?" This approach invokes employees' awareness, encouraging them to solve problems independently.
Besides asking questions, manager-as-coaches also set goals for employees with a long-term vision. It encourages employees to stop limiting beliefs and find their true potential.
Increases employee engagement
Managers as coaches help employees perform their roles better. So, firstly, employees have assistance whenever they are stuck. Secondly, they also have a coach who helps them focus and continue growing in their role.
Improves employee leadership skills
Managers who understand coaching lead by example.
Employees have reference points for handling similar situations based on how they saw their managers tackle them.
Promotes effective communication
Communication is a big part of coaching. It becomes a forum for employees or managers to have those usually avoided tough conversations. Managers can give feedback and discuss expectations. Employees can also discuss their issues and struggles. Coaching facilitates open communication in the workplace.
➡️ Still not convinced about the power of coaching? Discover 19 more incredible benefits of coaching in the workplace.
➡️ Develop your managers’ coaching skills with Zavvy
If you're ready to upskill your managers' coaching competency, Zavvy can be a great tool to help you get started.
- Zavvy's external training library has 1000+ cherry-picked third-party courses on hard, soft, and coaching skills. One training provider cannot fulfill every requirement, so we have collaborated with 30+ providers like Udemy, Coursera, edX, Maven, FutureLearn, and more. Find the best training courses on every coaching skill on our platform.
- Looking for a one-stop solution rather than digging through 10s of courses for each coaching skill? Assign Zavvy's power skills training to your managers. It is a six-month live and expert-led program covering all major skills for leaders. The best part? We can customize the training as per your organization's needs.
📅 Request a demo today to learn more about how we can provide a custom solution suited best for your organization.
What are effective coaching skills for managers?
Effective coaching skills for managers are essential for fostering employee growth, engagement, and high performance. By incorporating coaching into their management approach, managers can support their team members in overcoming challenges, developing new skills, and achieving their full potential.
The essential coaching skills for managers are the ability to build relationships, goal setting, active listening, communication, powerful questioning, emotional intelligence, and the ability to give (and receive) feedback.
What are the 7 qualities of an effective coach?
An effective coach is:
- a patient listener;
What are the four key coaching skills?
The four core coaching skills every leader needs to develop are:
- Active listening involves paying close attention to the coachee, using open-ended questions, and showing empathy to build trust and rapport.
- Power questioning helps the coach understand people's needs and perspectives, encourage reflection, identify challenges and opportunities, and develop solutions.
- Giving feedback includes providing specific, actionable, and timely constructive criticism to help the person being coached identify their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
- Goal setting involves helping the coachee identify their objectives, create measurable milestones, establish accountability mechanisms to track progress, and stay focused and motivated.