A quick guide to being a better coach

Coaching is not the same as giving advice.

by Caroline Boyd
Last Updated: 17 Jun 2020

Most managers instinctively know that coaching is a good thing to do, but it’s easier not to do it for a variety of reasons:

-- Managers simply don’t have the luxury of hours of coaching time for deep, meaningful conversations with multiple direct reports.

-- They know what coaching is but feel ill-equipped to do it properly and would therefore rather not try.

-- They think that they are already coaching but they’re actually just giving advice.

So why bother? And why now particularly?  

Managers act as the gatekeepers to the potential in the organisation.  If managers are not releasing that potential, helping people thrive and bring their best selves to their work then what exactly are they doing? 

Research points time and time again to the fact that employees who receive coaching are more likely to be engaged, feel more valued, apply more discretionary effort and are more likely to stick with the organisation.  

In fact, organisations who place coaching at the centre of their culture have been shown by Bersin and Associates to have a revenue 21 per cent higher than their competition.  

At a time when most employees are at home, many feeling isolated and disconnected, managers have an opportunity to do anything that can help their people feel more involved, more cared for and continuing to develop.

The good news is that it doesn’t take hours of focused training and experience to get up to speed with the most effective elements of coaching.  

Here are our top tips on how to coach as a manager and reap the benefits as quickly as possible:

1. Intent matters more than expertise. Coaching needs to come from a position of trust, a lack of pre-judgement and a true belief that the individual has the potential to grow.  Be open, tell them what you’re trying to do, take them on the journey with you.

2. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Great coaching questions challenge the coachee to think deeply, building their self-awareness and their ability to generate solutions. Allow silence, it gives space for deep thought and the chance to put into words vague ideas or feelings.

3. Focus on their desired outcome rather than their presenting problem. Help the coachee vividly bring to life what success looks like, what they hope to achieve and why it matters rather than wallowing in all the things that are wrong.

4. Empower individuals to try things out. We all learn through doing so be creative about how you enable your team members to experiment, make mistakes and learn within a safe environment.  

5. Build your coachees’ confidence and self-belief. Grab every opportunity to demonstrate progress and highlight strengths that can be used to address challenges.

6. Avoid offering advice or direction. Let go of the need to demonstrate your expertise and experience. Your goal should be to guide them to come up with their own solutions and actions.  If you feel like jumping in with your wisdom, think WAIT – ‘Why Am I Telling?’

Coaching should form a part of every conversation with team members.  It takes seconds to ask a powerful, thought-provoking question and the sense of being supportively challenged will push people out of their comfort zones and reap rewards.  

In every conversation with a direct report ask yourself, what can you do or say now to help the individual grow and develop?

Caroline Boyd is director of themanagerhub.com.


Image credit: David Rogers / Staff via Getty Images. (featured: England Rugby Union coach Eddie Jones with team captain Owen Farrell.) 

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