Managers play many critical roles in an organization’s ecosystem. Beyond passing information between leadership and individual teams, managers serve as the most important driver of employee engagement and motivation. Employees rely on their managers for day-to-day guidance, career development, and to set the tone for team morale. Company leaders rely on managers to distill critical information down to their teams and keep them motivated.
As a result, coaching is one of the most important management functions. In this article, we’ll explore how coaching differs from managing. We'll also share some tactics you can utilize to help your managers become more effective coaches.
What is management coaching?
Coaching vs managing
There are a variety of different management styles, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of delegating rather than coaching. Traditionally, managing has been defined as a directive and authoritative role to oversee and drive employees toward a specific outcome. Coaching is different from managing but can serve as an instrumental approach to the management process.
While coaching has the same objective as managing, the approach is more focused on helping individual employees develop their own critical thinking skills through learning. In other words, coaching is about guiding rather than telling.
The importance of coaching employees
Adopting a coaching approach has many benefits. For one, helping direct reports identify solutions themselves develops their problem-solving skills so they can better address challenges in the future. This equips them with the tools to tackle increasingly larger projects, rather than stay in their lane, and advance within the company. While this helps individuals grow and engage, it also benefits the company by creating more specific expertise and better employee retention.
There are a variety of frameworks to help managers learn the fundamentals of coaching. While this article isn’t designed to deep dive into any of these methods, here are a few to get you started with a wider training program:
The GROW model – Goal, current Reality, Obstacles, Way forward
The OSKAR Coaching Framework – Outcome, Scale, Know-how, Affirm + Action, and Review
Micro-learning - Short, daily activities, spaced repetition, and experiential learning.
5 coaching skills for managers
Whether or not you’re ready to implement a formal training program for management coaching, the primary skills remain consistent across all approaches and are available as a resource to you. We’ve outlined five essential tactics to help you integrate key coaching principles into your organization.
1. Asking questions
Asking questions ensures individual contributors feel understood, helps clarify their thinking, and enables them to take ownership of problems. When managers shift their approach from solution-mode to coaching-mode, employees are empowered to identify potential solutions themselves rather than simply doing what they’re told. Ask open questions to engage your team and make them feel more included in the decision-making process.
2. Active listening
Managers can't be listening if they're talking, so make space for reports to steer the conversation. Tune into what your direct reports have to say, avoid distractions, and watch for more subtle cues. Actively listen by focusing on what is being said rather than your inner dialogue. This will help build deeper connections between managers and their reports to drive greater impact across the organization.
3. Growth mindset
Foster a growth mindset within your team by asking questions that focus on the process instead of the end result. Be curious and hold back your own opinion to create an environment where everyone can comfortably learn and explore. This enables individual contributors to sharpen their critical thinking skills and prepares them to make better decisions while needing less guidance in the future.
4. Career development
Understand the career goals of your direct reports, and identify opportunities to give them projects that can help them toward those goals. Look for opportunities to advance reports in the company. Use regular 1-on-1 meetings as an opportunity to track the progress your reports are making and recognize their accomplishments.
The best way for a manager to become a better coach is to continue learning and growing themselves. No matter your level of experience, there are always opportunities to develop your own skillset. In an ever-evolving world of work, it’s critical for managers to stay on the lookout for self-improvement opportunities. Whether you start small with daily micro-learning opportunities or tackle a larger training program, good managers should always be learning.
Coaching: the key to innovation
With a coaching mindset, your organization will see greater growth and innovation. Individuals who are encouraged to identify solutions, rather than follow orders, will feel a greater sense of pride in their work and move your organization forward in new and unexpected ways.
The key to supporting successful coaches is providing digestible training with real-life applications. Learn how Skills Coach can help you build a team of coaches at all levels.
Build a team of successful coaches
See how Skills Coach uses behavioral science and spaced repetition to help managers create new habits.