Fit for a Coach: 7 Critical Coaching Skills for Managers

Every manager in your organization is (or should be) a coach and needs key skills ‘top of mind’ in order to perform that coaching role in any given number of day-to-day managerial scenarios.

The impact of coaching on individuals in the workplace is well documented. For example, in the International Coach Federation survey (2016), 72% of respondents reported an increase in communication as a result of a coaching initiative; with 8 in 10 noticing an increase in confidence. Is this a nice-to-have or does it really affect the bottom line? Our own research indicates that organizations are 130% more likely to have stronger business results if they effectively prepare managers to coach; and that effective coaching increases employee engagement, productivity and customer service by as much as 39%.

These are impressive statistics, yet many of the clients we speak to still name coaching as a top skill gap. This prompts us to ask:

  • How much more effective would our client organizations be if coaching was ‘democratized’ or made more readily available throughout the company?
  • How do we enable our managers to be coach often and coach well?

In practical terms, it’s a challenging question. Where do we even start in upskilling them in such a broad capability as coaching others?

Let’s consider 7 critical skills that, if mastered, could transform how managers lead, motivate and support their people on a daily basis.

Imagine if your leaders were truly effective in:

1. Building trust

Leaders face incredible pressure in today’s business environment. New, often conflicting demands spawn complex problems that seem to require advanced leadership skills. Yet the heart of leadership remains the same: A leader must build the commitment and guide the efforts of others to achieve shared goals. This core skill depends on a leader’s basic ability to build trust.

Top tips for managers:

  • Remember that leaders inspire others as much by their actions as by their words. Demonstrate the “right” way for others to follow
  • Show others that it’s okay to take some risks. Treat unexpected outcomes as opportunities to learn and move forward
  • Adhere to ethical standards even when it is not easy to do so
  • Communicate the link between the day-to-day work and big-picture goals

2. Shaping a motivational workplace

Regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, culture, or life experiences, everyone shares three psychological needs: Competence, Relatedness & Autonomy. If leaders can create conditions that effectively support these needs, the organization will see sustained performance and results driven by internally motivated people.

Top tips for managers:

  • Adopt the employee’s perspective by demonstrating genuine interest, asking questions, listening attentively, and acknowledging feelings and inner experiences
  • Communicate in an informational way by avoiding controlling expressions (should, ought, have to) and sharing the ‘why’ behind decisions
  • Create opportunities for employee choice – taking a ‘red line’ v ‘flexible’ rule approach

3. Clarifying performance expectations

It’s no wonder that some days employees and leaders alike feel overwhelmed and are not quite sure where to focus next. To be successful in this environment, employees need to understand what’s expected of them, what success looks like, and where to apply their time and energy to create the most value.

Top tips for managers:

  • Establish why it’s important to talk about expectations now
  • Encourage the employee to actively participate through the conversation
  • Jointly evaluate the impact of key responsibilities, tasks, outcomes, and deliverables
  • Ask the employee what it will take to succeed

4. Giving needs based feedback

Employees gain internal motivation when their work allows them to satisfy their psychological needs, including the need for autonomy, simply defined as making decisions about their own activities. Yet organizations require employees to work within firm guidelines and timeframes. Tweet this

Top tips for managers:

  • Think about how you support the three key psychological needs (competence, relatedness and autonomy) in your team members
  • Act as a manager, but also a colleague
  • Make sure feedback is given through a two-way conversation that encourages the employee to offer solutions

5. Realizing talent in others

Employees have latent talents and existing skills we often fail to leverage. Turning these talents into capabilities by developing others to their fullest potential is a leader’s most important work and a pre-requisite to long-term organizational success.

Managers should recognize our human desire to:

  • Engage in interesting activities
  • Succeed at new challenges
  • Improve their competence
  • Demonstrate mastery

6. Offering rewards and recognition that build motivation

Many leaders assume that employees need external motivation. So they offer incentives – wage increase, bonuses, promotions – or threaten punishment for failure to perform. Yet 40 years scientific research confirms that there is more to sustained motivation and performance.

Top tips for managers:

  • Remember that offering rewards are just one tool for creating conditions that allow employees to satisfy their own needs; and should be used with care
  • Build long-term motivation by offering recognition – this can be much more powerful

7. Correcting performance problems

Correcting employee performance problems has always been a top leadership priority; however, in today’s constantly changing, filled-to-capacity workplace the stakes are now even higher. When left unaddressed, performance problems constrain a team’s ability to meet unprecedentedly high performance expectations and to respond agilely to change.

Top tips for managers:

  • Invite the employee’s perspective – how do they see the situation? Are there any legitimate barriers getting in the way? Do you play a role in the current situation?
  • Ask pertinent questions to enable employees to come to their own conclusions
  • Encourage the employee to actively participate through the conversation
  • Make an effort to be fully prepared for the conversation

Interested in learning more?

We’re offering cost-effective access to a suite of our micro-lessons that will accelerate your team’s success. The lessons can be loaded directly onto your LMS and rolled out to your internal stakeholders. Ask us for a demo!

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