Once upon a time, managers were bosses. They were expected to lead by enforcement or coercion (the old carrot and stick management method). Today, things are changing for the better.

Managers are transitioning from authoritarian models of leadership to coaches that offer support and help. Of course, that transition isn’t always easy, and it can be challenging for managers to make the shift successfully. Below, we’ll touch on some critical considerations to help your managers not only become coaches but to coach more effectively.

How to Transform Managers into More Effective Coaches

Show Them How It’s Done

Managers usually have their own boss who they look to for leadership. However, whoever manages the managers must also be on board with the idea of coaching rather than “being the boss”. When your managers have their own coach, they can learn by example rather than trying to include nebulous ideas and concepts in their day-to-day routines.

Getting the coaching mentality baked into your culture from the top down offers quite a few benefits. One of those is that all managers have someone they can look to as an example of what they should strive to be. Another is that the entire company culture will evolve to be more positive, creating better outcomes for everyone.

Explore Different Coaching Styles

Let’s face it – your managers have a lot on their plates already. It’s so much easier to say, “Do it this way because I said so,” than it is to sit down and have an actual conversation with an employee about how and why something needs to be changed. You can change that paradigm by implementing preexisting coaching frameworks based on different styles and for varying situations.

Not sure what that means? Here are a few examples of how coaching might change depending on the employee, situation, or need:

  • Coaching through Change: This style of coaching is all about building stronger relationships between the employee and the coach, or even between the employee and other employees. It’s ideally suited for onboarding new hires but also works very well when an employee is transitioning to a new team or adding new responsibilities.
  • Quick Connects: For managers to coach their teams successfully, they need to know how everyone is doing both professionally and personally. Quick connections are super-fast, informal chats that allow the manager to find out how their team members are doing and what needs to be done to support them.
  • Check-Ins: A vital part of coaching rather than managing is to make check-ins a recurring part of the process. These are more formal than quick connect meetings and should be scheduled weekly (monthly at the most) to provide guidance and coach on reaching goals, supporting the employee’s needs, and setting priorities.
  • Developmental: Developmental coaching is an important part of performance management and should be combined with learning and development initiatives to help employees become their best selves at work and in their personal lives. This should be a supportive process, not a punitive one.

Of course, developing those coaching styles requires more than just knowing that they exist. Your managers also need the skills to do their jobs correctly. In the next section, we’ll outline some of the most important ones.

Make Sure They Have the Tools Needed

For many managers, coaching isn’t something that comes naturally. To help them do their jobs, we must help them build the right skillset. What skills are necessary, though? There are a few that play a critical role, including the following:

  • Active Listening: You’ve heard about active listening before, but the meaning can be muddied. It means being engaged in what the employee is saying and how they’re saying it. Active listeners can digest what’s being said aloud, combined with body language, to really take in the full message, digest it, and then respond appropriately. It’s about listening to understand, rather than listening to respond.
  • Open to Feedback: Managers must be open to feedback on their performance. If they’re not, it closes the door to coaching. Employees should feel safe providing feedback to the manager, without worries about reprisals or any sense of discomfort.
  • Able to Guide: To coach employees, managers must be able to provide guidance on what’s going wrong, where, and why. Positive, constructive feedback is the only way to help address situations and bring them to a successful conclusion. Negative, destructive feedback does nothing good. The goal here is to foster a positive environment and help employees to do their best work all the time.
  • Emotional Intelligence: To be an effective coach, managers must have high emotional intelligence. They must be able to understand what their team members are feeling and communicate with them appropriately.
  • Communication: Finally, coaches must have strong communication skills. This applies to both verbal and nonverbal communication. Coaches must do more than just give directions or reprimands. They need to guide by asking the right questions, anticipating employee needs and learning how to provide support how, when, and where their team members need it most.

Train Them to Coach

Having the skills we discussed above is just part of the equation. You cannot just drop a manager into a coaching situation and expect them to sink or swim (they’ll almost always sink). Instead, they need to build familiarity with those skills by practicing them. Your learning management system (LMS) is a great way to begin introducing these skills to your managers and helping them transition into coaching.

With Coaches, Everyone Succeeds

Coaching is all about development. It’s about helping your employees realize their full potential and become their best selves. When you help your managers learn to become coaches and to guide employees forward, everyone succeeds.

However, you cannot achieve this without intentionality. Take a long, hard look at your organization. How skillful are your coaches? How badly is your performance management strategy failing you? What can you do to help your managers transition to being coaches?

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