What are the essential skills that a manager needs to coach their team? This blog will explore some key skills that you as a manager, can learn and utilize with your team. We feel it is important for all leaders to understand the basics of coaching. If you remember, our introductory page: Manager as Coach: Different Methodologies & Learning explores the term ‘coaching’ in more detail and examines some of the differences between coaching, mentoring, counseling, consulting and teaching. As a manager, you will go through each of these methods with your team. Depending on the context of what is happening, you will utilize all methods; therefore, if you haven’t read that, it might be worth your while reading that first for context.
As a leader or manager, using a coaching approach to help your team members develop, is worthwhile; however, there are a number of key skills you should know, as these will help you! The most important attribute of any coach or leader is that they want to help the person they are coaching to learn. A good coach doesn’t see themselves as an expert able to fix all problems or have all the answers. Instead, they see themselves as supporting the process of learning.
Internal vs External Coaching
There are two main types of coaching relationship. The first is with an external coach who is not part of the organization or line management structure in any way. The second is an internal coaching relationship, where a manager or leader acts as a coach for their team. The two require different ways of working as coaches, although they share some similarities.
- In an external relationship, the coach has no organizational subject expertise and no vested interest in the outcome of any decisions, except insofar as the person being coached is pleased with the outcome of the coaching. They also have no preconceived ideas about the person being coached: they probably don’t know them in a work context and have no idea of the quality of their work performance. They might also have expertise in a certain domain, e.g. Transformative Visions coaches specialize in leadership, team performance, management, culture and teams visions.
- In an internal relationship, however, the coach may well have a strong vested interest in the quality of the decision-making, the individual, their performance, the team, the vision, as well as knowing a lot about those subjects. They may have been managing the person being coached for some time and have some preconceived ideas of the likely outcomes of coaching, which may not necessarily be positive.
The internal coach has to work on several issues that the external coach does not encounter, such as:
- Putting aside any preconceived ideas, or BIAS about the person and their effectiveness. To do that, the manager should try to focus on the coaching process, and what you learn about the individual through that.
- Setting aside your own subject expertise and helping the individual to develop their own solutions. To do this, the internal coach makes an effort never to offer a comment, to only ever ask open questions, and to LISTEN. We will write about this in another article in the series!
- Not leaping to solutions but, instead, allowing the person being coached time to explore the problem in their own way. Again, continuing to ask questions about the nature of the problem, or what might be a possible solution, is a good way to do this.
- Being aware of assumptions made, whether about the person, the process or the subject. Remember, your beliefs tend to reinforce the data that you select, and how you interpret it, which means that it becomes a positive feedback loop. Using a tool like the Ladder of Inference will help you recognise and avoid those pitfalls. We will write about this in another article in the series!
Intention and Meaning
We mentioned the danger of making assumptions, but one particularly key area of communication, especially for coaching, is the way that you say something. You have to be incredibly conscious of HOW something might be interpreted, as there could be multiple meanings available for someone to choose from. This often determines whether the immediate response is hostile or receptive. However, the meaning, or intention, behind your words is also important and you should be clear about the intention. What someone hears as your intended meaning could be VERY different.
Why is this difference important in coaching?
Coaching is all about a supportive, permissive relationship. The coach does not tell, but seeks permission to make suggestions and ask questions, respecting the person being coached.
There is a world of difference between the two statements below:
- I’ve found that a coaching session often works best if we’re on zoom, rather than on a phone, so would you be OK with you?
- We’re going to meet on zoom because that is better!.
The first gives the person being coached an option to say no. The second says “I know what’s best, so just do it”. It does not show respect to the opinion of the person being coached and is unlikely to lead to a productive coaching relationship. This is the same in Management, as a leader, you have the option to ask questions and ask if you can make some suggestions, OR you have the option to just share your thoughts and make the directive. As a manager, you will need to do both, but it is about what is right given the context or situation.
There are some great coaching elements that any manager can learn and use to coach their team. They take practice but are worthwhile investing the time to build this muscle. The team will feel heard and together, you will be able to pave a way forward, performing at levels never achieved before! Reach out to us at Transformative Visions if you want to find out more!
Stay tuned for more blog articles in this series about coaching as a manager!