So why don’t all managers coach? The answer most likely is due to one of three reasons: They don’t understand the value of coaching, they don’t possess the skills to coach others, or—even if they understand the importance and have the skills—they don’t have the time. To overcome these barriers and transform your managers into coaches, heed the following recommendations.
Build the personal case for coaching. You can’t force coaching responsibilities on managers who don’t see coaching’s relevance. While most managers have a strong sense of loyalty to their organization, this allegiance alone may not be enough to motivate them to develop their coaching skills. There is still an element of “What’s in it for me?” that must be addressed. When you show evidence that the strongest leaders and most successful executives in their organization or discipline also are excellent coaches (this is almost always the reality), managers will be more inclined to seize the opportunity to learn how to become effective coaches, too.
Once managers understand that they can accomplish more and achieve stronger results through the collaborative efforts of others, they will want to learn how coaching, not command-and-control, will enable them to better use the talents of their employees. Whether they are trying to perform better for their employers or are seeking to promote their own careers, managers will embrace coaching as an effective means toward mutually beneficial results.
Establish firm expectations. Making it clear that coaching is a primary responsibility of each manager in your organization is an essential prerequisite to creating a coaching culture. If you don’t establish firm expectations for coaching, you are unlikely to get the results you want.
Coaching should be a key facet of your workplace culture and part of every manager’s job description. Giving managers the opportunity to develop coaching skills and allocating the time necessary for them to both learn and apply these skills should be incorporated into every organization’s operating model. Furthermore, coaching should be a topic of discussion for every performance management evaluation and highlighted when managers are promoted or assigned to new roles.
Teach coaching skills, and put them into practice. Coaching does not necessarily come naturally to most managers. In fact, before they become managers, employees are generally rewarded for their individual skills and their ability to accomplish tasks on their own or in small teams. The appointment to a manager role can represent a significant and sometimes difficult shift in both what the manager does and how she allocates her time.
Core coaching skills—such as listening, questioning, observing, building rapport, constructive analysis and feedback, empathy, supportive encouragement, and holding others accountable—can be enhanced or taught via a variety of venues. By attending workshops, experiencing mentoring relationships, or simply modeling the behaviors of those who are strong coaches, managers can improve their knowledge and understanding of coaching skills.
The key to effectively building coaching skills is to allow managers to put the skills to use in real-life situations. This means allocating time to practice these skills when coachable moments occur. It also means creating coachable scenarios.
For example, when managers delegate tasks or responsibilities to direct reports, they create coaching opportunities by default. Delegation is a powerful management tool and an effective vehicle for developing one’s coaching skills.
Give a manager a coach. There is no more effective means to skill mastery than hands-on experience. Therefore, if you want to transform a manager into a coach, give him the opportunity to experience coaching firsthand.
Assigning a manager an executive coach will accomplish two things: It will enable the manager to experience the benefits of coaching and become more committed to coaching as a method for developing others. It also will provide a model for appropriately coaching others. If you don’t currently have skilled coaches within your organization, you should consider hiring third-party external coaches to work with your key managers.
Reward the best coaches with the best jobs. This should not be a stretch. Those managers who demonstrate the strongest coaching skills are likely to be the strongest performers. As such, they should be candidates for the most important manager and executive roles in the organization. Placing these managers in highly sought-after roles and crediting the assignments, at least in part, to their excellent coaching skills will send a strong message to the rest of the organization that coaching is a critical and valued skill for all managers to develop.