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Coaching Skills for Managers

The importance of coaching skills in the workplace

Most managers will say that the most valuable assets their organisation has are its people. And they will genuinely mean it.

Coaching skills

And yet too many organisations fail to make coaching and mentoring for managers and by managers a priority. This means. Quite often a coaching programme for managers will exist, without any evidence of the same support being offered to team members, thus the chain is broken, and the chance to develop all staff is lost.

It’s a strange omission, one driven, perhaps, by a lack of confidence in a manager’s own coaching skills, and true enough just because you are coached yourself, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a gifted coach. We’ve all been taught in school, but as lockdown has shown us, we’re not all outstanding teachers.

Managers may know they need to give workplace coaching and might sing the praises of their own coach, but fear that they are not the people to do it – even though specific management coaching training is available.  Worse, perhaps, they view coaching activities for managers as simply a re-packaging of day-to-day management.

They may even hide behind other excuses – the most common being that they don’t have the time to do it. But coaching and mentoring is more than an added extra, it’s vital if your organisation is to grow and develop, and if you are to keep your best people. If the talents in an organisation feel that their career is developing where they are, they won’t feel the need to move on. If you feel you don’t have the time to coach, then you certainly don’t have the time to recruit.

Coaching isn’t just about developing the fast-trackers, it’s also about making sure that the core of your team, the solid citizens, are pushed to further development too, raising the standards across the board.

Everyone in the workplace can improve and it’s up to the management of an organisation to make sure they do, so that they can contribute and help it to grow and to adapt to constantly changing circumstances. Good coaching creates organisational resilience as well as growth – and that’s a hugely valuable commodity in the post-Covid19 world.

Management coaching training

The same logic applies to the managers who are to be the coaches. They will require the management coaching training and skills to ensure that they are the best they can be in that area of their role. The assumption that coaching is somehow ‘natural’ is erroneous. There are techniques and approaches which need to be learned to deliver effective business coaching.

Coaching 101: Coaching isn’t training

Group of people in a meeting

The first coaching skills a manager will learn is the difference between training and coaching. Training is an ‘event’ – sometimes delivered off-site – while coaching is a continued process. Training is likely to be an attempt to develop skills, but coaching can be more about behaviour – knowledge imparted through coaching is an attempt to deliver learned behaviour.

“A coach is trying to get someone to be their ‘best self’, and to utilise their talents in the way which benefits the company best, as well as themselves. Good coaching is an ego-free process which nudges the coachee into shifts in thinking and behaviour.”

Coaching skills for managers

Managers need to employ a range of coaching skills in order to recognise and drive home those ‘learning moments’.

  • Ask the right questions – Part of that is knowing what questions to ask someone. The right, open-ended questions create more productive, coaching conversations. They strengthen the personal relationships, build trust and allow the employee to feel that they have found the answer for themselves. Productive coaching is also ego-free…
  • Active listening – Part of the secret to good questions is good listening – hearing what an employee thinks about a situation, to understand what their starting point is. You can’t change the behaviours if you don’t understand what’s motivating them in the first place. You may, in the end, need to change some people’s opinions, but you won’t do that by simply dismissing them. You have to listen and, perhaps, persuade them to think differently. But the first step is to understand their perspective.
  • Actionable next steps – Each of those conversations should end with ‘next steps’. A coaching conversation isn’t for fun, it must lead to actions being taken. Those actions may be to reflect on lessons learned or it may be to change what they do. Make sure that those steps are clear to both sides – and the timeframe in which they are to be enacted. Clarity is key.
Photo of a group of people holding a sign that says 'We did it!'
  • Celebrate success – It’s also important to recognise and celebrate success. Getting an employee to feel good about their achievements, while remaining unsatisfied, is the way to move them from good to great. Throwing undeserved compliments their way doesn’t help – it’s supposed to be a thoughtful, not an indiscriminate process.
  • Always on – But it can be an opportunistic process. Not every coaching opportunity has to be planned, it can happen ‘in the moment’, emerging almost organically from conversations with colleagues. Learning to spot, and exploit those moments can vastly increase the coaching opportunities and running the conversations with the same open-ended questions, and concluding them with the next steps process.

Planned or spur-of-the-moment, it’s important that the coaching is a long term commitment – if your team see you’re invested in their future, they will feel invested in the company’s future. But that long-term commitment should also be to yourself – to commit to learning more about coaching, to keep your own skills sharpened and ready for a range of different coaching challenges

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