Do managers know how to coach?

I recently had training at work about client leadership. Training started with a question “Is every manager a leader?”. No, not by default. It's the same like not all managers know how to coach. The word “manager” and the word “coaching” often go together, however not all managers even know what coaching means.


Let’s look at definitions of these words.


According to Cambridge Dictionary, a manager is someone whose job is to control or organize someone or something.


According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), coaching is partnering with clients (or colleagues in the work environment) in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.


So many managers think they are coaching, however what they actually do is just guiding employees and telling them what to do. A manager may have great time planning, prioritizing, delegation and organizational skills, however this has nothing to do with coaching.


3 years ago, Harvard Business Review conducted a study to see whether managers have coaching skills: “the biggest takeaway was the fact that, when initially asked to coach, many managers instead demonstrated a form of consulting. Essentially, they simply provided the other person with advice or a solution”.


So, what are actually the skills that a manager needs to have to be able to coach – help employees to use all their own potential to perform?


  1. First of all, a good coach needs to understand what is listening. So many times people think they are listening, but actually they spend the time thinking about what they are going to say after another person stops talking. Good listening skills mean that a coach needs to listen, be fully aware of what another person is saying and also read the environment – see body language, mood shifts of someone who is talking, etc.


  1. Asking open questions. This can help coachee to use all his/her potential to find answers and solutions, to improve analytical thinking, and to get some fresh ideas. Managers always try to save time, their goal is to meet deadlines. However, the real coach is giving the right questions so that another person can come up with something – sometimes maybe even a more efficient solution that the manager could propose.


  1. It means giving others inspiration to take action and make decisions. When employees feel empowered, they are used to having stronger job performance, job satisfaction and commitment.


So, it is obvious that not all managers are good coaches, but they definitely can learn these skills. It will take time and will need practice. However, management of companies always dream about the team that is successful not only today, but also tomorrow. Thus, this could probably be a great investment for the future.