Essential Coaching Skills for Managers #1: Getting Started

The Essential Coaching Skills series is first posted on the excellent Make Work Meaningful blog.
The Essential Coaching Skills series continues here every Wednesday.

Got coaching?

As a manager and a leader you might be feeling just a little daunted or overwhelmed by having “coach” added to your already long list of skills and responsibilities.

Coaching’s a hot topic these days, and many of us have had “… and coaching” suddenly become part of our job description. And while that’s good in theory that we should all be coaching and mentoring our employees to higher productivity and on-the-job morale, it can trigger something of a defensive response:

• I don’t know what coaching is! Is it just the latest name for being a manager?

• I haven’t had much (or any) coaching skills training!

• Where do I start?

Here’s what you know about on-the-job coaching

The bad news is that there are many, many definitions of coaching, most of which are some of the truth but none of which are all of the truth.

The good news is that rather than trying to pin those definitions down, you can look to your own experience for much of the wisdom you need.

Think of a time when you were well coached, perhaps by one of your own managers, maybe by a friend or colleague. Some time in the past, someone coached you in a way that made a difference and had an impact.

Write down five things that person did, that made it such an effective “intervention” or helped you gain the skills you needed to succeed.

(That’s OK, I can wait. Really – it’s worth doing this.)

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the five things you’ve written might include some of the following:

• Gave me time;

• Asked me questions;

• Didn’t just tell me what to do;

• Took an interest in me;

• Encouraged me to go further, be bolder, be braver;

• Gave me some honest feedback;

• Was interested in my welfare;

• Helped me see other options…

Now, here’s what you need to notice about this list and your list.

Just how non-technical it is.

The key to honing coaching skills as a manager

Sure, people like me have spent years and thousands of dollars honing our coaching skills. But, as a manager, you don’t have to.

To be a perfectly good-enough coach for most of the people most of the time, you need to show up, be curious and interested in the other person, ask more questions than give advice. These are the very root of profound coaching skills.

In other words, don’t sweat it so much. Coaching is simple. You have the skills you need to make a difference.

(Now, it’s something of an art not to complicate something that’s simple. But we’ll get to that…)

Your coaching action

Really do that “best coaching moment” exercise above. No, really. See what comes up for you. And whatever does, do more of that.

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One Response to Essential Coaching Skills for Managers #1: Getting Started

  1. Lisa says:

    This is fabulous and I posted it on my LVS Consulting Facebook page. The tricky part, however, for a manager is to know when to coach and when to manage, because they need to do both. There are times when a manager needs to direct, needs to prescribe a course of action, needs to be heavily vested in the outcome and doesn’t encourage creativity… The skill / talent is knowing when to do one and when to do the other. Along with all of the other things that good managers do…