When managers become coaches

As a manager, you’re key to the organization’s ecosystem. Your role goes far beyond overseeing projects and passing information between leadership and your team. In fact, the qualities of a good manager are one of the business’ key drivers of employee engagement and motivation. Employees often rely on their managers for daily guidance, development opportunities and to set the tone for the team. It’s about “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them“. And when management fosters good company culture in this way, revenue sets to increase by up to 4 times.

But according to Workhuman.com, 93% of managers need training in coaching their employees. In fact, 48% of new managers didn’t receive any training at all when assuming this new role. So how can we practically be the best managers we can be: motivating our teams, create a welcoming work environment and achieving better results? We’ve rounded up 4 ways you can try out with your colleagues to hone your coaching skills.

1.  Actively listen

When you actively listen and question your team, without judging them in any way, you’re practicing non-directive coaching. It’s one of the keys to being a good manager: an opportunity to highlight the person’s wisdom, insight and creativity, with the aim of giving them the tools to cope with challenging situations and resolve problems on their own. It’s an especially important element at the moment, where we have all gone through the collective transition of the pandemic. In fact, our recent research shows that 36% of employees have something they want to say to their managers and colleagues (Lifeed, 2020).

Active listening allows you to see the greater context and viewpoints of individuals within the team. It’s also a great way to aid problem solving, as it allows you to consider all the options thoroughly. 77% of Lifeed users found that listening in this way often improves the situation that they find themselves in (Lifeed, 2020). Not only does it offer a fresh perspective on your team’s work and challenges that they face, but it also strengthens the bond and boosts trust between you and your employees.

2.  Look for growth potential

Just like you’re learning how to coach, your team are learning how to excel in their jobs. So it’s important to adopt a growth mindset. In their book, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense, researchers Jeffery Pfeffer and Robert Sutton claim that people who don’t believe that intelligence can grow will tend to see performance as a measure of ability. The opposite is also true: managers that adopt a growth mindset will see poor performance as an opportunity to apply more effort or learning to that area.

Take this as an opportunity to stand alongside your team. In your 1:1 meetings with them, ask them reflective growth-directed questions, such as: “What could you do differently next time?” or “How can we build on this approach to your work?”. Then assist them in setting goals to put those findings into action. This approach encourages individuals to actively think about their opportunities for development, which in turn will motivate them into action. It’s the same approach that runs throughout Lifeed training programs, and the results are clear: 90% of Lifeed users feel more motivated as a result of it (Lifeed, 2020).

3.  Take time to reflect 

Once you’ve listened, it’s time to digest and reflect on that new information together. Scientific studies have shown that self-reflection helps transform experience into knowledge (Gilbert & Trudel, 2001).

Of course, for the manager, a bit part of this reflective journey lies in exercising empathy muscles. In a recent survey, 51% of Lifeed users said that empathy is best shown through putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (Lifeed, 2020). Perhaps it’s a case of recognizing and acknowledging the multiple roles that a person holds, or how their experiences may change their perspective on a situation.

You can also encourage such reflective practice with your team through informal chats about project progress and performance. 89% of HR leaders agree that on-going feedback and check-ins are key to successful outcomes (Forbes, 2019).

4.  Work on your own development

Self-improvement is not only about recognising where you can improve, it’s about modelling continuous learning and development to your team too. It’s something that’s at the heart of our Lifeed programs. Our studies show that it boosts involvement with the organization by 73% (Lifeed, 2020). When it comes to self-development, it’s important to be intentional. Perhaps it’s a case of extending your reflective time to identify behavioral choices oriented around the skills you want to develop, and then intentionally working those behaviors and opportunities into the rest of your week. It’s natural for us to behave in ways that feel good and familiar. But true learning happens when we embrace the unknown.