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Why Should a Manager Become a Coach?

Friday, April 19, 2019
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Why should managers devote time and effort to coaching their team? Research shows that coaching leads to better engagement, higher productivity, and enhanced customer service. It also helps an employee improve performance, overcome challenges, reach aspirational goals, and build self-confidence. But is coaching expected to bring benefits only to the employees and the organization? What about the managers—what’s in it for them?

It is an important question, as the benefits of coaching for the manager are underrated. When organizations launch coaching initiatives, onboarded managers often consider it to be a one-way contribution of their effort for little in return. A strategic approach to transitioning employees from managers to coaches, however, can have numerous benefits for everyone in the workplace.

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Honing Leadership and Behavioral Skills

A manager can look at the coaching journey as one of leadership. A recent Forbes article asserted that although there is no one “right” leadership style, managers could consider leadership from the “mindset of a coach.” “Core coaching skills,” said the Forbes Coaches Council, “like empathy, curiosity, and listening go hand in hand with being a good leader.”

  • Communication skills: Coaching helps a manager to enhance their communication skills. The more a manager plays the role of a coach, the better listener they become. Coaching also helps enhance a managers’ articulation skills.
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ): Coaching helps managers become more perceptive and sharpen their social awareness and social management skills, which are essential for building EQ. Author and speaker Starhawk said, “Knowledge is knowing what to say and wisdom is knowing whether or not to say it.” Managers can practice this coaching skill as they must constantly be aware that they should refrain from giving advice.
  • Observing and probing: A coach is expected to be a good observer, identify nonverbal cues, and probe their employees without infringing into their personal space.
  • Powerful questioning: A manager on a coaching journey will learn to ask appropriate question at the right time in a given context so that the question may trigger certain reflections and insights in their employee’s. As Barbara O'Malley from Forbes Coaches Council said, “Managers are sometimes tempted to tell the employees what to do. Instead, asking powerful questions can guide employees through a discovery process on their own.”

Knowing Better the Strengths and Weaknesses of Team Members

A manager should become aware of the strengths and areas for improvement of their team members in a much deeper way than is possible by just observing and evaluating their performances. Such heightened awareness and knowledge may help the manager assign jobs, identify potentials, and prepare the team more effectively toward a long-term vision. Tameka Williamson of the Forbes Coaches Council said, “This knowledge becomes the power you need to strategically align your team in a way that fills in the gaps. Then you can empower them to take ownership and solve problems under your guidance, focused on working together as a high-performing team that is solution-oriented.”

Enhancing Self-Awareness

Responsible managers who are coaches help their team members to be more self-aware. In that process, the manager embarks on a journey to discover themselves in a better way. Every time the manager asks their team member a question, it triggers several thoughts and feelings in their own mind. Accessing their mental, psychological, and emotional reservoir to come up with appropriate questions helps the manager deepen their self-awareness.

Learning From Team Members

As a coach, a manager is expected not to give advice or solutions to a challenge faced by a team member. When the manager helps the team member discover a solution of the challenge on their own, many times the team member comes up with an out-of-the-box or unconventional solution that the manager has never thought of or used. This may become a direct learning experience for the manager and indirectly helps solidify their belief of the effectiveness of the coaching process.

Building Stronger Relationships With Team Members

Coaching, as a prerequisite, needs rapport between the coach and the team member, and at the heart of rapport lies trust. The coaching relationship is such that it solidifies that trust by reinforcing the connection between the two individuals, which happens at several stages. When a manager listens to the team member without any judgment, the team member’s self-esteem increases as they feels valued, respected, and empowered. Empowered employees require less supervision because they have more ownership and accountability toward their jobs. When a manager uses coaching conversations rather than instruction or commands, they win the hearts and minds of the team members and build stronger relationships with them.

A Sense of Fulfillment

The biggest benefit for a manager who acts as a coach is perhaps gaining a deep sense of fulfillment and accomplishment knowing in they have played a vital role in the growth of an individual. To cite an example, Grace McCarthy mentions in her World Economic Forum article, “Coaching also transformed some underachievers into star performers. For example, one employee who was described as ‘very lacking in self-confidence’ developed enough confidence to apply for a promotion and became a highly effective manager.”

Bottom Line

Most often the reasons cited on why managers should spend time on coaching their team members are one-sided. It appears to managers that they need to contribute their time and effort for employees and the organization but don’t have much to expect in return. When approached strategically, however, managers may reap tremendous benefits from coaching their team. Any organization starting a coaching initiative where managers are expected to coach employees must ensure that these benefits are equally emphasized in addition to highlighting the benefits for the employees and the organization.

About the Author

Pranab Chakraborty is a senior manager in the Learning & Development (HR) team of Wipro Limited (NYSE: WIT) which is a global information technology, consulting and business process services company. As a learning and development professional, his topmost priority is to help others in developing or adapting to new skills and behaviors. He is passionate about contextualization of learning using practical experiences. In his association with the Information Technology (IT) industry for the past 24+ years, Pranab has played various roles related to client engagement, program management and delivery management functions, apart from his current involvement in the behavioral and leadership development field.

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