Manager-as-Coach: How to Help Your Managers Become Effective Coaches
Kevin, a new joiner in the team, goes with a problem to his manager, Ross. But, instead of guiding Kevin, Ross tells him a shortcut solution directly.
This situation happened not once or twice but many times over.
Three months have passed by, and Kevin is still not working independently. Whenever something comes up, he either runs to Ross or gets stuck.
That happens with traditional leadership, where most managers only direct but never coach. Even if they have all the answers and share them with their teams, they end up with underperforming team members.
And this is not just a general observation.
There is also legit proof: Google researched what makes an effective manager. No surprises: coaching was at the top of the list.
Food for thought: Are you helping your managers gain coaching skills?
If this concept is fairly new to you, we will dispel the mystery today. Keep on reading to understand:
- What is the manager-as-(a)-coach mentality, and how it will positively impact your company culture.
- Why do companies need more managers who are coaches in the first place?
- How you can help your managers ace the coaching skills and build high-performing teams.
🤝 What is employee coaching?
First, let's start with the basics: What does coaching employees mean?
Employee coaching is a process where employees closely work with their direct manager to improve current job performance.
- Sharing feedback.
- Enabling role and goal clarity.
- Offering ongoing support.
- Recognizing progress and achievements.
The support and guidance from their leader not only help them excel in their current role but also outshine future challenges.
Two common ways of coaching are one-on-one meetings for individual discussions or sharing feedback and group classes on any specific topic. With employee coaching, you will encourage people to grow and gain more self-awareness and autonomy at work.
➡️ Do you think regular feedback is the same as coaching? Think again. Discover the difference between coaching & feedback.
💼 What does a manager as a coach actually mean?
Is a manager as coach a new management or leadership style discovered in leadership books?
Is the manager as a coach the new way to get results?
Franziska Kroll, Culture Manager at Collato, says:
"Ideally, a manager or team lead is the team's coach. Much like in sports, they help their team to thrive as a group but also help every individual member/ player to reach their full potential. Coaching can and needs to happen on many different levels.
At the team level: Collaboration, group dynamics, communication, shared vision, shared values.
At the individual level: recognize your potential, personal growth and development, health, skills (soft/ hard), and challenge limiting beliefs."
Franziska summed it up beautifully.
Coaching is not an out-of-the-blue expectation from managers.
In an ideal world, managers not simply dictate but help individuals grow via coaching.
So, if Ross was the right manager, he won't give shortcut tips to Kevin but guide him to reach the answers, enabling Kevin to learn new skills in the process.
Let's see the difference between the approaches of traditional managers and managers who understand they are also team coaches.
In short, the old-school managers are more authoritative in their approach, whereas the managers with a coaching streak are more supportive.
👯🏿 Why is coaching important for managers and employees?
Why is this conversation about coaching important in the first place?
The advantages of coaching are two-fold. It helps the employees first, and business benefits slowly trickle down.
Here are the advantages of coaching that your individual team members will avail.
Contributes to employees' (and managers') development
By grooming employees, managers contribute to their growth, and those managers who can groom talent are a treasure to the organization. If you look at it closely, it's a win-win, helping both parties.
By coaching employees, managers also develop their skills, especially their soft skills (like listening, effective speaking, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and more).
Brings better alignment between team members and managers
Traditional management methods are more reactive, where managers answer questions when required, and team members are left to figure out things on their own.
On the contrary, with coaching, there are regular one-on-one meetings and more dedicated time to bring the entire team on the same page. And companies are taking the coaching route to boost team alignment.
Case in point: Genetech, an American biotechnology company, faced hundreds of layoffs, survived a massive merger, and was burdened with HR complaints from every department. Employee morale was at an all-time low.
That's when they invested in a coaching program.
As expected, coaching brought a 50 % improvement in employee communication and collaboration and a 10-12 % increase in employee satisfaction.
Strengthens workplace relationships
Who are you more likely to trust? Someone who hardly understands you or someone who invests in you?
Most likely, the second one. It's simple human psychology.
With dedicated time for coaching calls, managers and employees have time to understand each other's goals.
A coaching conversation should also make time for water cooler topics and getting to know each other's interests. It sets the right base. As a result, direct reports will slowly start trusting their leaders and working collaboratively.
Fosters a learning mindset and growth culture
When a manager shifts the talks from simply getting work done to excelling, the entire employee mindset also changes.
Learning and continuous growth become a part of conversations.
Managers provide adequate guidance and solve issues employees might be facing. They also help them get better opportunities.
Performance appraisals can become developmental evaluations
Twitter is filled with tweets on how much employees hate annual performance appraisals. Prove your worth once a year, or worse, get to know you were doing it all wrong that day.
It hits like a truck.
Coaching gives a much-needed spin to appraisals. The entire process shifts from annual performance appraisals to continuous developmental evaluations where the manager:
- Discusses goals and objectives.
- Aligns employees with company goals.
- Communicates strengths and weaknesses (and how to overcome them).
- Finds skill gaps and helps with training and support to improve.
Appraisal systems are essential to increase organizational efficiency and to ensure that individuals perform to the best of their ability.
The entire appraisal system moves positively by shifting it towards regular developmental evaluations.
🔮 Discover the latest employee performance evaluation trends (Spoiler alert: Coaching is already creating buzz.)
🕵️♂️ Why do organizations need managers who are better coaches?
Eventually, business benefits count, and below are the advantages coaching can bring to your organization.
Support the distributed workforce
Bill Catlette, an Executive Coach and Partner at Contented Cow Partners, says: "The rise in the distributed workforce is pushing managers to coach from the sidelines."
As a result, a continuous need for managers who can coach employees and help team members gain more autonomy will keep increasing.
Better company performance and customer service
Remember Genetech, the biotechnology company, which observed a 10-20% increase in employee satisfaction through coaching?
They also marked a 12% increase in customer satisfaction. As they say, happy employees mean happy customers.
Company performance improves if happy individuals perform at their best and bring in satisfied customers.
Higher levels of employee engagement
When companies invest in employees, employees engage back with their best work. And it reflects in both individual and team engagement.
Does it sound too good to be true?
Here is the social proof. Linda Shaffer, Chief People and Operations Officer (CPOO) at Checkr, shared:
"Having managers embrace the coaching approach at our organization created a culture of trust, collaboration, and employee engagement that resulted in higher performance, morale, and productivity. Our teamwork and collaboration KPIs increased by 2%."
Improve employee retention
A GoodHire survey revealed 82% of American workers would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager.
When you help your manager become a better coach, you retain the potential workers who would have left the job.
➡️ Worried about the rising resignations? Learn 25 best practices to retain your top talent.
Create a great work culture
As per LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2022, "opportunities to learn and grow" was one of the top factors of a great work culture.
When you shift towards people enablement and start coaching employees, you create an environment where people want to work.
🤯 What stops managers from becoming coaches?
Despite all advantages, what stops managers from taking the coaching route?
Here are the roadblocks they face on the way.
Lack of time
Managers already have a lot of different tasks on their plates. On top of it, frequent one-on-ones, constant staying in touch, and feedback to coach employees are another set of tasks. All of it takes time.
Even if a manager starts coaching, staying consistent remains a big challenge.
Tip: Define a system that makes coaching tasks like one-on-ones, feedback, and learning a part of all employees' day-to-day activities.
Lack of coaching skills and experience
A Gallup study says only two in 10 people have some characteristics of primary managerial talent.
However, they can function at a high level if their company invests in coaching and developmental plans.
Dealing with different team members with so many different personalities is an art.
Unfortunately, not all managers have those skills.
Tip: Train your managers to polish their people management skills, and then focus on how to coach. This step is essential for building a great coach.
Resistance to change from team members
The resistance is not always from the managers' side alone. You can find team members staying away from one-on-ones, looking for shortcut tips, and not entirely investing in learning. It only makes the managers' work more difficult.
Tip: Set up a system for coaching and bring all your employees on the same page. Promoting a growth mindset is of utmost importance to ensure everyone embraces coaching.
Managing difficult conversations
When we last checked, there were over forty courses on Udemy(an online learning portal) for managing difficult conversations. And that's just one portal alone. Apart from it, numerous books, lectures, and workshops are available online on tackling tough conversations.
Undoubtedly, people find it tricky.
Performance management, being honest about strengths and weaknesses, and conflict management are tough conversations managers must face when coaching employees.
If not equipped to handle these situations, they might avoid them altogether. Needless to say, this strategy is far from ideal.
Tip #1: Plan a workshop with your employees on having difficult conversations.
Tip #2: Leading with facts or data, not emotions, is one standard method for handling tough conversations. However, there are many more systematic and objective ways to have tough conversations, which you can cover in the workshop.
Darren Desrosiers found himself in a spot where an employee did not accept his feedback. It was a tough conversation, but rather than avoiding it, Darren took it methodically and suggested the team member get input from other stakeholders
➡️ Find how to diagnose poor performance and give a negative performance review positively and constructively.
Difficulty maintaining objectivity
Sometimes, a team member needs a manager who can direct and not coach, especially if it's an urgent task.
Of course, the manager may connect and guide them later.
Plus, you need a manager and not a coach for a performance evaluation.
Knowing when to coach and when to direct is essential. Managers struggle to strike this balance and assess when to choose which path.
Tip: Bring your managers together as a cohort and share sample situations. See how they react to it and accordingly guide them.
💪 5-Step system to help your managers become effective coaches
Throughout the conversations of challenges faced by managers, there were two repeated words: systems and training.
Coaching is a really broad term.
You can tell someone to become a coach, but how do you train them and bring a system into it?
We have got you five steps to help your managers become better coaches and, with it, more effective leaders.
Step 1: Find coaching frameworks that work for your teams
A coaching framework is a model which guides through the coaching conversations.
Why do you need such a framework?
When you bring together two people on a "coaching call," and they don't have a clear idea of what to discuss, chances are they end up talking about last night's football match or a client escalation.
A model brings a step-by-step system on how to take coaching conversations.
Two models which we highly recommend are:
The GROW model originated in the late 1980s as a model for executive coaching. It's a simple four-step system to conduct a coaching session.
Here's a quick overview of all four steps to conduct a coaching call in GROW Model:
- Goal: Defining the purpose of a coaching conversation beforehand.
- Reality: Establishing the current situation.
- Obstacles /Options: Finding potential issues and strategic challenges and options to make progress.
- Way Forward/Will: Defining the way forward through mutual agreement.
At the end of the call, the manager and team member have collectively assessed the situation, and the team member gets action items for further progress.
Managers can use the GROW model in routine one-on-one conversations or check-ins with team members.
AOR(Action, Observation, Reflection) coaching is a three-step system to accelerate employee progress. Each step expects them to answer a question that will put their efforts in the right direction.
The questions at each stage are:
- Action: What did you do?
- Observation: What were the results of your work?
- Reflection: How do you look at it now? Where did you do good, and what are the areas of improvement?
AOR coaching is a perfect model for performance/developmental evaluations.
The first two questions help to assess the team members' performance. The last question brings a good closure to the conversation highlighting some areas of improvement.
Step 2: Define a base system for coaching
Define a process and tech setup for your coaching program. Answering the below questions will help you design your program.
- How often do managers connect with team members, and how will they connect?
- How can a manager assign training to any team member? Do you have a learning portal for it?
- How will the manager track the team member's learning progress? Is there an option in the learning portal to track the progress
- How will team members be rewarded?
Tip: You can define base guidelines but keep them flexible so different managers and their team members can mold them per their requirements.
Step 3: Coaching skills training
Now you have all the base systems in place, it's time to bring the coach to the ground. You can train managers in three phases.
Phase 1: Introduce the coaching framework, the entire process, and the tech setup.
Tip: Help your leaders get familiar with tools for one-on-one meetings, learning portals, feedback, and recognition systems.
Phase 2: Roll out individual training or workshops on active listening, handling tough conversations, goal setting, and giving constructive feedback.
Phase 3: Bring managers together as part of a cohort where they practice different coaching situations, like giving critical feedback, discussing weaknesses, and more.
➡️ Looking for more tips to enable managers to become coaches? Check out our in-depth guide on coaching skills training.
Step 4: Bring the entire team on the same page
If you think after training managers, you are ready to go. Then you might be missing one important step: Onboarding all the team members.
Explain the entire process and tech setup to avoid resistance from team members.
That's it. You are good to go. Launch the program by setting clear expectations with managers and team members early on.
Step 5: Take feedback regularly
Your coaching program is up.
You did an elaborate launch call, trained multiple managers, and brought the entire tech setup to live.
But now what?
You can't track every day if someone is coaching their team member or directing them.
💡 But there is a solution.
You can conduct routine pulse surveys and improve systems and training based on feedback.
➡️ Design your entire coaching program with Zavvy
We have discussed the need for building systems and tech setups to have an effective program throughout the post. While it may sound complex, we have good news for you.
We can take the busy work off your plate.
Effortlessly start your coaching program using Zavvy by:
💪 Launching the prerequisite training for managers with our manager training software
Managers not only get leadership training, but they also get advice or nudges ahead of moments like one-on-one meetings with their direct reports.
So, you'll seamlessly integrate coaching skills training into your leadership development program.
Better coach: checked ✅. Better leader: also checked ✅.
🌱 Kickstarting the entire coaching program with our Learning Management System (LMS)
What's the most pressing task in the coaching approach? Setting those frequent one-on-ones and keeping a tab on progress.
- Zavvy makes it simple for you. It finds the right time in those multicolored calendars and blocks time for one-on-one meetings.
- Every one-on-one meeting has a check-in form where managers and their direct reports collaborate on the agenda, write action items, and add notes. Such documentation makes it easy to follow up in the next one-on-ones. Managers can also decide to choose a focus question for each meeting with a direct report rather than touching on many adjacent points.
- Managers can further suggest or assign resources like training or a task like shadowing someone from another department.
Managers can assign training to team members
- Keeping a tab on progress is also easy. Managers get a consolidated view to see where team members are on their action items. They can also jot down in case the meetings reveal fresh insights - they can choose to do so in a private note form that only they will have access to.
No need to spend days or months on 10s of tools integrations.
Help your managers become effective coaches and launch your coaching program with only one platform.
Book a demo with one of our experts today.
Why should managers be able to coach?
When a manager also coaches, every team member reaches their full potential. It results in improved work performance and employee engagement. Coaching is also a way to say they care, resulting in increased trust.
How does a coach act as a manager?
You cannot use the words coach and manager interchangeably. Managers are supposed to coach team members as they lead a team but not every coach is a manager. For example, some coaches focus on leadership, speaking, etc., and help individuals with these skills. However, they are not managers leading the team.
Can a supervisor be a coach?
Yes, a supervisor can guide employees and help them develop.
Coaching also brings better alignment between supervisors and employees.
What are some qualities of a coaching leader?
The five essential qualities of a coaching leader are goal-oriented, active listening, strong communication, empathy, and positivity.