4 ways good managers can become great coaches

Many people can remember a childhood coach that shaped who they are today. Maybe it was a little-league coach who helped develop skill in sports, or a school tutor who saw their potential and helped them fulfill it. As we mature in life, coaches might become less frequent, but they are no less important to our development.

In the workplace, having a good manager is similar to having a good coach. A coach looks out for their team members and works with them to cultivate skills and reach goals. Managing people is about more than delegating tasks and keeping the team on track. As HR Expert, Seema Desai says, “You have someone's career in your hands, and it’s your job to take that seriously and encourage their growth.” For managers, being a good coach might come naturally or it may be a skill they need to learn. Here are four ways managers can incorporate coaching skills into day-to-day interactions with team members.

1. Use one-on-one meetings for development

One-on-one meetings are an important part of the team member-manager relationship. It’s where team members get individualized attention and the manager can be a good coach. Being a good manager means finding the right balance of developing team members on an individual level and keeping the team on track to meet goals. Using open-ended questions during one-on-one meetings is a way for managers to learn more about their team members’ goals for development. Examples you can experiment with include: What work-related skills would you like to improve? What areas of your work do you feel most/least confident with? What area of the company would you like to learn more about to contribute to your development?

2. Encourage team members to problem solve proactively

For reasons of time or skill, managers can sometimes feel a need to solve people’s problems for them. Good managers challenge people to come up with solutions rather than using their managerial status to make executive decisions. While this may initially mean a slower path to a solution, it contributes greatly to people’s personal growth and development. Culture Amp Insights Strategist Chloe Hamman says, “Asking someone how they might solve a problem forces them to focus on the situation more closely than if they had been given an answer.” This exercise can even change the way our brain processes being asked to do something differently (like problem solve). We tend to be more motivated to follow through with ideas that we have come up with ourselves.

3. Find a balance between teaching and facilitating

The key to coaching is knowing when to teach and when to facilitate. Teaching typically involves telling, or giving someone answers based on your knowledge. Facilitating is more about asking questions to help someone come up with their own answer, helping them be proactive. Good managers can do both, and know when to use one or the other. There are times where you will need to share some expertise and teach, and others when you need to only ask questions and facilitate self-discovery.

3. Give effective feedback

Effective feedback is timely, specific and focused on future behaviors. This is true whether the feedback provided by managers is positive or critical. Good managers also take the time to prepare for giving feedback and are conscious of how the mindset of the receiver will influence how feedback is accepted. When managers give team members feedback they can learn from, they’re more likely to view the feedback process positively and grow as a result.

When managers are good coaches at work, their team members thrive. Our eBook, 11 Essential Traits of Great Managers explores how Google uncovered the traits of great leaders at their company and how Culture Amp built on those learnings to establish 11 Essential Traits of Great Managers.

The eBook includes modern organizational psychology research and insights from Culture Amp customers on how to keep and develop good managers. Get the free ebook here.  

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