How to be a manager who coaches

Most of us like to be managed in a way which makes us feel both supported and given an appropriate degree of autonomy. Very few people would say they want to be closely supervised, and to be called a ‘micro-manager’ is rarely a compliment.

The level of autonomy allowed by a manager will depend on the experience of the employee and whether they are performing a task which is new or familiar. Managers who assess these factors successfully can adjust their delegation style to suit the situation, still ensuring that they provide clear instructions and follow up as required.

If you want to delegate in a way which gives your team members a sense of greater autonomy and also develops their skills, you may like to try using coaching.

Where coaching fits

Coaching techniques can fit within normal delegation and feedback processes. The basic premise of coaching for managers is to ask (and ask, and ask again) before you tell. A manager-coach believes in the potential of employees to find their own solutions. The coach’s role is to ask the right questions and help them get there.

When delegating you will need to do some ‘telling’ up front to ensure that your employee clearly understands what is required. Coaching techniques are used when the employee has progressed the task or project to a certain point and comes back to you needing assistance or feedback. If they have run into a problem and are asking for advice, resist the temptation of immediately telling them what to do. Ask them for a few options as to how the problem might be addressed, and which one they think would be preferable. They may come up with the solution you would have suggested, or an even better one which you hadn’t considered.

Coaching can also be used as part of giving feedback, whether it’s about a particular piece of work or in a formal appraisal situation. Before giving your views, ask the employee how they think they have performed, what was successful and what they could have done differently. You may be surprised by the level of insight shown.

When to coach

Coaching is not the right approach to every situation. It will be most effective with employees who are already competent in their roles, are interested in developing further and needing to be challenged. An employee who is in a new role or has just taken on new responsibilities will need more instruction and guidance. As their skill level increases and they become more confident, coaching techniques can be introduced.

There are also situations where you just need to give an employee the solution to a problem, because there may be legal issues or other important factors of which they’re unaware.

Outside of these situations, don’t be too quick to jump in with the ‘right’ answer, and try not to use questions which push the employee towards a particular solution. Open questions are more effective and encourage people to think more deeply, even if it takes longer.

If you haven’t used coaching with your team before and have a more directive style, it’s a good idea to warn your team members that you’re going to try this new approach. Otherwise they may be confused about the sudden change.

How the team will benefit

Coaching your employees to come up with their own solutions will help them build confidence and be ready to take on further challenges. Team members will feel that you are taking an interest in their development and helping them to progress.

The benefit to you as a manager is that your team members will develop their skills, be able to take on different tasks and require less direct management from you. You will also be providing a development opportunity to each person which is targeted to their particular needs.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use coaching techniques, contact us.