Can line managers develop coaching skills and coach employees to maximize potential and contribute to organizational growth?
Before answering that question, let us first understand what professional coaching is. The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Focusing on the thought-provoking and creative nature of a coaching process, it makes sense to believe that coaching shifts a person’s mindset towards achieving his or her goal faster.
The biggest challenge facing managers with respect to coaching is the inability of letting go the traditional management role. From the traditional standpoint of management, managers are conceived as experts. Whereas many believe they know how to coach, it is evident that they only teach, advise and mentor their employees.
Although the term “coaching” is used loosely at different quarters, professional coaching can only be described as either directive or non-directive. Directive coaching deals with teaching, advising, and offering suggestions. Non-directive coaching focuses more on asking great questions and listening for the answers. Transformations occur as coaches ask “thought-provoking” questions and listen to the individuals come up with their own creative solutions. This is interesting because individuals are more committed to taking actions in a process they created by themselves. Coaching also increases the coachee’s confidence to deal with situations without the fear of failure.
Transitioning from Managing to Coaching
A great coach helps their clients focus on what is most important for them. They minimize the distractions that often get in the way of goals and help to create robust plans to achieve them. To help managers develop workplace coaching skills, the following 5 beliefs first need to change.
1. You are not the expert
In many workplace environments, managers are seen by employees as “experts.” That’s okay to the extent that the managers will continue “telling” the employees what they want them to do. To transit from managing to coaching, managers need to give employees a chance to think creatively and develop themselves. Instead of telling employees what to do, managers need to get comfortable with asking questions and listening as their employees create the solutions they seek. As Peter Drucker predicts; “the leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.”
2. Believe in your employees’ resourcefulness
While it is possible for managers to tell staff what to do, great coaches believe their clients have the capacity to think and resolve their own problems. The role of a manager does not only stop at getting things done. An essential part of the role is to encourage the growth of their employees. In that perspective, managers need to envision their employees as having the creative ability (what it takes) to create solutions. Once that’s settled in the manager’s minds, asking simple but powerful questions will certainly get the employees thinking.
3. Develop the habit of learning to coach
To coach effectively, you must first develop good coaching skills. With your coaching skills, it becomes easier to transition gradually from managing to coaching. Whereas there are many coaching frameworks in the market, I find the GROW Model simple and straightforward to learn. GROW is the acronym for:
G = Goal. “What do you really want?”
R = Reality. “What is happening to you now?”
O = Option. “What could you do?”
W = Way forward. “What will you do now, and by when?”
Like many great coaches, I find the GROW model easy to use, and it simply fits into any type of coaching conversation.
4. Develop the willingness to coach
Great coaches are never in a hurry to coach. Because coaching is about the client, not the coach, effective coaches pay more attention to their client’s needs. Likewise, in a manager-employee relationship where employees are the clients, managers need to slow down, understand the needs of the employees, and coach them through. This is an investment that pays much higher return than any other management skill, but it takes patience and constant practice to get to flow.
5. Model an experienced good coach
As in every profession, continuous learning is crucial for maintaining effectiveness and growth within the coaching industry. While it is important for ICF members to go through a Continuous Education program to keep up with the industry trends, there are good coaching books out in the market for anyone to invest in. In addition to reading good books, I strongly that managers who have not yet experienced coaching should give themselves up for coaching to experienced it first hand. No matter your initial training as a coach, every manager needs continuous develop learning and development to build useful toolkits and improve their coaching skills.