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5 Coaching Skills for Great Managers

Coaching in business gets a bad wrap. We managers have a tendency to “coach” employees who are underperforming. According to the International Coach Federation, coaching is “partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires [individuals] to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

Coaching is therefore not performance management—it is not founded in punitive actions nor remediating performance issues. Coaching is about engaging employees to do more of what they aspire to do. In business, that also means aligning their efforts to the objectives of the business unit and overall strategy of the organization.

According to a 2011 study by Bersin & Associates, organizations with senior leaders who coach effectively and frequently improve their business results by 21 percent as compared to those who never coach.

Coaching as a skill set, therefore, makes good sense—both common sense and business sense—for the employee, manager, and business.

As I work with businesses that want their leaders to utilize coaching skills in their daily activities, three areas of greatest need are repeatedly identified in the program development process.

Organizations need:

  1. Managers engaged in developing their employees real time. Coaching and development discussions are not formal half-year or yearly events. Coaching discussions are conducted in the moments they are needed most.

  2. Engaged employees. Employees that have a solid and open relationship with their direct manager are more likely to be more productive and stay longer with the company. Employee engagement is therefore a talent retention as well as a cost-avoidance strategy.

  3. A dynamic business model that adjusts to meet market demands. Coaching forges open communication that propels leaders to share the changing needs of the organization while engaging employees in a real-time, creative structure for capturing insights and ideas that allow teams to quickly meet market changes.hip with their direct manager are more likely to be more productive and stay longer with the company. Employee engagement is therefore a talent retention as well as a cost-avoidance strategy.

As the organizations define their business need, a coaching mindset evolves and begins to include discussions about coaching skills as an integrated management skill set.

Coaching skills for managers is a desirable skill set and one that is not difficult to understand or employ. The top five skills that are taught follow:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. Coaching is an ask-versus-tell process. Using the coaching process, employees are not told what to do, but rather asked powerful, open-ended questions. This allows the employee to create his or her own solution. When they create the solution they own the idea. Employees who own an idea are committed and they... get stuff done!

  2. Focus on development. Coaching focuses on the employee and not the task at hand. By coaching the employee in the moment, the manager is offering individualized development that is long lasting and not short term focused on a current task or issue.

  3. Determine their goals. Using good questions, guide the employee in uncovering the goal he or she needs to move forward. This can relate to solving a current issue, developing a larger focused solution, or something else. As the manager, you have visibility to business unit and company goals. Helping the employee understand how his or her goals align with company goals is strategic and a career development opportunity for the employee.

  4. Strategize on an action plan. Again, using good questions, ask the employee about how he or she wants to create actions toward their goal or goals. Ensure the employee is the driver here! (For many of us managers, we like to take charge. Don’t do it!) Allowing the employee to create the action plan ensures they are committed to the results.

  5. Hold them Accountable. Coaching is also about providing accountability. With the goal or goals identified and an action plan drafted, ask the employee to commit to a date or timeline for activities related to each component of the action plan. Again, the employee drives this part of the process. What they commit to, they own. As a coach, your job is to hold them accountable. If they miss a completion date, ask what got in their way of achieving their actions and guide them toward creating a new completion date.

When I first discovered coaching as a management tool, I was encouraged at its effectiveness and amazed by its incredible power. Coaching is a skillset that managers can learn, employ, and constantly work to improve upon. It takes time to learn the process and patience with yourself as you employ the method, but it is worth it to the company, the manager, and the employee.

When I was in coach training (many years ago), I created a list of good open-ended questions to use in the coaching process. Referring to that list periodically was helpful as I gained confidence in my coaching skills. I have created a document including 35 of those questions. If you would like to download a copy at no cost, please visit my website's Resource page and click on the PDF icon for “35 Coaching Questions for Managers”.

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