Coaching the Coach: How to Help Managers be More Effective Coaches

Teaching managers how to be effective coaches requires a special approach. Managers are accustomed to providing answers and directing staff to respond to particular situations. Whether you are mentoring a seasoned manager or a newly hired one, teaching them how to coach staff ismore of an art than a science.

First, you must make sure the manager is building a foundation for coaching. In order for the manager to have solid ground, you should share with them why coaching is so important to the organization. For many organizations, coaching is critical to developing employees for future positions. This focus on succession planning is so important that the responsibility for implementing it should be shared with managers at all levels. Share with managers how coaching fits into the organization’s vision, mission and values, so that they make time in their busy schedules for coaching their staff. The manager needs to use this background to establish rapport with staff.

Instruct managers to prepare for each coaching session by setting expectations with staff. This means being very clear about the purpose of the coaching session. Sometimes corrective coaching sessions are needed to address unacceptable behaviors, however, it’s more often that coaching sessions with staff are conducted to solve particular problems in the office, or mentor staff to further their careers.

Stress the importance of open and honest communication during a coaching session. In particular, make sure managers are clear with staff that all topics of discussion will remain confidential. Give managers the training they need in active listening, and make sure they are aware of the impact of any non-verbal messages they may send, including gestures and expressions. Help managers develop good questions to ask staff. Most importantly, prepare managers on what to do if they receive unexpected responses in their coaching sessions. Some employees respond positively to a coaching session, but some may become nervous, agitated or hostile. One way to prepare for this is to have managers practice with other managers at the same level in mock coaching sessions.

It can be difficult for managers to say the right thing in the right way under pressure. Compile a list of coaching words that are encouraging and motivating. Also, develop a list of words that your managers should avoid using with staff during coaching sessions. When managers are practicing coaching skills, have them be aware of tone of voice and pacing as they practice the words and phrases.

Instruct managers to end each coaching session with a quick summary. This summary should include the purpose of the coaching session and outline the next steps for the employee. The employee should be encouraged to develop a follow-up plan for achieving the next steps. These coaching sessions are particularly useful mid-year, between performance reviews. Then employees can work on specific items identified in their individual performance evaluations.

After the coaching sessions, make sure to praise the manager for their efforts in developing employees under their supervision. Reinforce the importance of coaching to the organization’s mission and include praise for their effort in their next performance review.