Managers play many critical roles in an organization’s ecosystem. Beyond passing information between leadership and individual teams, managers are the most important driver of employee engagement and motivation. Employees rely on their managers to guide them through the day-to-day, to help their career development, and to set the tone for team morale. Company leaders rely on managers to distill critical information to their teams and keep them motivated.
As a result, coaching is one of the most critical 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.
Coaching vs. managing
Though "coaching" and "managing" are often used interchangeably, they are two different concepts.
Traditionally, managing has been defined as a directive and authoritative role to oversee and drive employees toward a specific outcome. Examples of management include hosting meetings, ensuring teams meet deadlines, and keeping track of direct reports' progress.
Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on helping people develop new skills and reach a new level. It's a form of partnership that encourages collaboration. Together, the manager and direct report work together to figure out the next step in the direct report's career journey.
In other words, coaching is about guiding, whereas managing is often about 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 and advance within the company. Moreover, this 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 doesn't dive deep into any of these methods, here are a few to get you started:
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.
Five coaching skills for managers
Whether or not you’re ready to implement a formal training program to help managers develop coaching skills, the primary skills remain consistent across all approaches – paid or not. Below, we’ve outlined five essential tactics to help you integrate fundamental 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.
Encourage managers to ask open questions to engage their team and make them feel more included in the decision-making process.
2. listen actively
Managers can't be listening if they're talking, so make space for reports to steer the conversation.
Encourage managers to tune into what their direct reports have to say, avoid distractions, and watch for more subtle cues. Actively listen by focusing on what is being said rather than one's inner dialogue. This will help build deeper connections between managers and their reports, which will drive more significant organizational impact, too.
3. Adopt a growth mindset
Foster a growth mindset within teams by asking questions that focus on the process instead of the end result.
Train managers to be curious and hold back their opinions. This will 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. Focus on career development
Managers need to understand the career goals of their direct reports and identify opportunities to give them projects that can help them toward those goals. Additionally, they should look for pathways to help their direct reports advance in the company.
Regular 1-on-1 meetings are a particularly great opportunity for managers to track the progress their reports are making and recognize their accomplishments.
5. Keep an eye on self-improvement
The best way for a manager to become a better coach is to continue learning and growing themselves. No matter their level of experience, there are always opportunities to develop their skill sets.
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 more extensive 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, helping 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.