The Manager As A Coach

They’re the latest buzz words and happening thing at the moment. You can see them creeping into job advertisements, job descriptions, workplace language, personal and organisational expectations – the words being coach, coaches and coaching. Not the from-here-to-there-transportation variety, but the from-here-to-there-professional-practice sort.

The most common response I’ve heard is that coaching staff requires only simple common sense – anyone can do it and it doesn’t require much thought, skill, abilities or experience. I’ve heard it said that coaching and managing is the same – you just tell people what to do, right?

I know from both my own and others’ experiences, that there are big differences between the roles of manager-as-manager and manager-as-coach. An important aspect of a manager’s role is to coach others – but not every manager is equipped to do so. Coaching does require both a particular focus and approach, as well as particular skills.

Some of the differences between managing and management coaching are:

Management Management Coaching
overall control, instructs, directs, allocates encouragement to find own answers, advises,  requests, challenges�
manages actions, takes corrective actions� develops an individual’s skills, strengths, capacity; aims to bring out their best to enhance performance�
big picture, multiple projects, tasks, outcomes (the what by when), numbers of staff� focus is on an individual, their role, responsibilities, specific work- the what by when, the who they are and how they are personally & professionally�
little in-depth time with each staff (pressure of workloads)� dedicated time available to focus on the individual – their professional development needs; professional standards and practice; specialised instruction; sharing information, perspectives�
able to provide rewards or sanctions� no control over the outcome – it’s up to the individual�
‘is there’ for numbers of people� ‘is there’ for the individual, wants them to achieve, be whole and balanced

So what does a manager need in order to be a coach others? 

An A+ Warrant of Fitness  – The manager-as-coach must be a first-rate role model to others. This means having excellent management skills, high professional and personal standards, a balanced personal and professional life, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, a proactive, action-orientated approach, a breadth of working and life experiences, personal discipline and stickability, the ability to listen, lead and guide others; the ability to give perspective and support…….the list goes on.

A commitment – This means allocating dedicated, protected time to coach each individual. It means formalising the arrangement with times and venues and ensuring that there are no distractions, interruptions or competing priorities. If you want the best from others, then give your best to them – your full attention, energy, commitment and expertise

Preparation – This is an essential. Coaching someone well isn’t as automatic as drawing breath, so before you begin, do some research. Read articles and books on coaching. Talk to people you know who have a coaching component in their work; talk to sports coaches and find out how they coach; talk to management coaches. Identify all the skills you need to be a coach and identify the areas you may need to strengthen. Enroll in a formal course. Ask colleagues for their assessment of your skills.  Develop a coaching framework; practise on a few willing and forgiving souls and ask for feedback. Know the differences in focus, approach and content, between the manager role and coach role. Spend time getting your own house in order. There’s no getting away from this one. It means tidying up or enhancing your own work practices and standards, your office, files, ways of working; getting up to date –  completing work, eliminating any ‘too hard’ baskets, the small jobs that only need to be finished off……do whatever it takes to be a credible role model to others.

Willing individuals – For coaching to succeed, you need to work with the willing,  not the reluctant, the disinterested, the forced participants. You will recognise the willing – they are open to the experience of coaching; they have a desire to reflect upon or improve their performance; they may wish to achieve particular things; they are prepared to work on particular issues; they are willing to contribute fully to the process; they are willing to try new things.

One-to-one coaching is a most effective way to develop and support individuals in their roles. Managers need to develop their own coaching skills and learn how to help staff to be their best.  Managers need to consistently reflect the professional standards, attitudes and commitment wanted in the workplace.   Coaching, of both the transportation and professional practice variety, share something in common – good coaches move people forward in comfort, speed and style.  What are you waiting for?


First Published NZBusiness September 2002 �

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