Transforming Managers Into Coaches

In today’s knowledge and skills-driven economy, the days of command and control leadership as the standard of managing people are becoming obsolete. In the past, a manager that also acted as a coach was a rare find. Now, being a coach is a necessary quality that all managers must possess in order to develop and manage high-performance teams. If a manager wants to truly become an effective leader, he or she must first develop the ability to coach others. From the organizational point of view, if managers fail to adopt the coaching mentality, it is unlikely that the organization will be able to reach its full potential and achieve long-term sustainable people development results.

Although many managers believe they are already acting as coaches, feedback from employees reveals a major disconnect. While most managers rate their coaching skills highly, a Gallup poll found that only 1 in 5 employees strongly agrees that they are managed in a way that motivates them to improve. A study cited by Harvard Business Review compared the coaching skills of 3,500 managers and executives by comparing how leaders rated themselves versus how their direct reports rated them. Twenty-four percent of managers significantly overestimated their coaching skills, rating themselves as above average while their employees rated them in the bottom third of all surveyed. Above all, this misalignment between how managers perceive themselves and how they are perceived by their employees says a lot about how most company leaders approach development.


What makes a good manager?

If you think back to the best manager you ever had, chances are, that person is someone who saw your potential when no one else did, or who motivated you to excel and develop in your role or career. The most memorable conversations with this manager likely didn’t happen during annual performance reviews. Rather, they occurred during daily work interactions, and more specifically, during coaching moments. “Managers” tell their employees what to do; “coaches” ask questions and offer support to facilitate development.


What is coaching and why aren’t my managers doing it?

In a nutshell, coaching is the act of helping others to improve their performance. It is a combination of helping to correct poor performance, improve existing skills, and develop new skills. Coaching in itself is a skill that does not come naturally to most. An appointment to a managerial role can be a shock to many employees. After all, many times people are promoted to manager roles because they are good at doing their own jobs and not necessarily at teaching others how to do their jobs. Thus, in order to implement this key element of a learning organization into your company, you need to establish the infrastructure and culture to facilitate the transformation of manager to coach and facilitate their development along the way.

There are three essential reasons why your managers aren’t already acting as coaches. The first is that they don’t understand the value or importance of coaching, or they don’t feel like it is something that is expected of them. Coaching should be a key element in your organization’s culture and part of every manager’s job description. Your managers need to know that coaching isn’t just another HR fad, but rather a valuable part of their own and their team’s development and success. Another reason your managers aren’t coaching is that they don’t possess the skills to do so. As mentioned above, being a coach isn’t an intrinsic personality trait. The best coaches are the ones that actively practice and develop their coaching skills. Lastly, your managers aren’t coaching because they perceive they don’t have time. You can combat this misperception by emphasizing that coaching is not an extra job duty, but a way of approaching and preforming all of their other job duties.