The Need for Managers with Coaching Skills

The need for effective managers who can utilize their coaching skills to improve the performance of their employees is greater than ever.

Today, coaching skills can have a huge impact and significantly affect people and profits within organizations. Those organizations that are fully committed to training managers to use coaching to guide performance and develop employees will have a huge advantage in the marketplace. When there are managers who can effectively harness their coaching skills, employees will be more committed to their jobs, be willing to put in greater effort, and will also be far less likely to leave for another organization.

Thankfully, most managers do have some training in coaching people for high performance. Ten years ago, 73% of managers received some form of training, according to BlessingWhite, a global leadership-development firm. Sadly, the situation is quite different today. BlessingWhite’s 2015 report revealed that employees who receive regular feedback through coaching conversations are in the minority. In order to turn this around, organizations need to focus on improving their managers’ coaching skills.

Why Don’t More Managers Coach?

If coaching employees really shows such high returns, why don’t more managers do it? When asked, managers usually cite a lack of time as their main excuse for failing to coach employees. This sounds plausible, but is only scratching the surface of why some managers don’t coach. There are many reasons why managers may not feel comfortable coaching their employees, notes John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow (McGraw-Hill Education, 2010).

Three common barriers stand in the way of manager/employee coaching are:

  1. A misconception of what coaching really is
  2. A desire to avoid difficult conversations with employees
  3. There’s no clear game plan for initiating and framing coaching conversations

That isn’t saying that managers have a lot of time on their hands. Let’s face it, managers are busy people. They usually have dozens of balls in the air at once and are putting out multiple fires throughout they day. Partially because of this time crunch, and the other reasons listed above, once managers return to the office after coaching training, many revert to their old habits. Instead of taking time to ask questions and find solutions, they find it easier to have transactional conversations to exchange information and get things accomplished rather than transformational conversations that co-create with others to transform ideas and outcomes. Finding a quick fix and moving on becomes their default response. I’ve seen this happen time and time again in the organizations where I am a consultant. In spite of extensive training in coaching skills, managers just don’t really utilize their new skills like they are designed.

For example, some managers may believe that simply talking to an employee about a project or task constitutes a coaching session. The reality is that task updates are not really coaching conversations, even though many one-on-one conversations may focus on project status updates. Just think about it. If you define a coaching conversation as one that expands an employee’s awareness, thinking, and capability, then task updates that don’t do that aren’t really coaching conversations.

Here’s something to ponder: as a manager, how often are you focusing on expanding the awareness, thinking, and capability of your people when you have conversations with them? What about your conversations with your own boss? Are they coaching you? What tells you that you are having coaching conversations at work?

As always, I’d love to hear your perspectives. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.