Can Managers Coach?

LAST UPDATE ON June 28, 2023


“Of course we can!”

Then why do employees say they are not being coached by their managers?

Well, probably because what is perceived as coaching sessions by managers are actually project review meetings where 90% of the time is spent discussing the staff’s work status updates. Sound familiar?

Even though such meetings are important, they do not help employees grow in their jobs. Most managers routinely conduct performance reviews but they seldom conduct career development sessions. Managers tend to lean towards solving problems immediately instead of framing a productive, career-building conversation.

Source : Unsplash

What is coaching?

Paraphrasing the European Mentoring & Coaching Council’s (EMCC Global) definition of coaching (and mentoring), it is a professionally guided process that maximises a client’s personal and professional potential. The two parties work together in a partnering type of relationship on the content & decision making level where the coach and mentor help clients see and test alternative ways for improvement of competence, decision making and enhancement of quality of life.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.

In both descriptions, you will see the element of a partnership between the coach and client. You will also see that the coach guides the coaching process but not the client; the guiding process allows the client to explore areas of discussion. The final direction the client takes is entirely the client’s choice. And this is after the client determines the topic has been explored as much as he desires to explore it. Confidentiality of the conversation is of course critical.

Zenger Folkman defines coaching as “interactions that help the individual being coached to expand awareness, discover superior solutions, and make and implement better decision.”

Although not explicit, the coaching relationship is also a partnership between the coach and client. The coach helps the client explore topics or issues to be able to let the client make the decision on the way forward.

“Wait, I’m not in control of the decision? But I’m his reporting officer and I am responsible to communicate the direction of the company to my downline and ensure they meet their KPIs. That means I am in control of the decisions and direction my staff, not them!”

Source : Pexels

The case for coaching

Research by Zenger Folkman has found that leaders who add coaching to their existing suite of strengths are eight times more likely to become a top-tier leader.

Eight times.

In fact, we can see some clear correlations between a leader’s coaching effectiveness and its impact on his or her direct reports. The charts below showcase this. Employees who receive coaching and feedback rate their supervisors much more positively, are more engaged at work and more committed to their work.

Source: Zenger Folkman

Source: Unsplash

How can managers be effective coaches?

Based on data collected from 4,212 leaders providing coaching to their direct reports and colleagues, Zenger Folkman determined six dominant behavioural patterns of the outstanding coaches.

Leaders who performed poorly on the six behaviours were rated as a bottom tier leader on their coaching skills. Those who performed all six behaviours exceptionally well were rated as a top tier leader.

It seems daunting to be proficient in all six behaviours. Which behaviour does one even start to focus and develop on?

Zenger Folkman’s research has found that if you did one of these skills well, your coaching effectiveness would be at the mid-range. If you did two of them well, it would raise your coaching effectiveness score. However, if you worked on and showcased three of these behaviours well, you would jump to being one of the top tier leaders on your coaching skills. Start by identifying the one skill that you would find easiest to improve on.


Source : Unsplash

So can managers coach?

Whether to coach or continue with project review meetings is entirely your choice. What we wanted to share and empower you with are just a few benefits of being a leader who coaches his team members and some practical tips on how you can develop your coaching skills.

Are you keen on equipping your team managers with coaching skills? What changes do you expect to see in your team’s performance as a result? Get in touch with us if you’d like to explore making your leaders coach-leaders. We’ll be happy to start a discussion with you.

Published by Lifeskills Institute Pte Ltd

Lifeskills Institute is the strategic partner of Zenger Folkman for Singapore and Malaysia. Our Chief Enabling Officer, Ian Tan is a Master Facilitator certified by Zenger Folkman.

Zenger Folkman is a strengths-based leadership development company helping leaders elevate their people and organisations. Co-founders Dr. Jack Zenger and Dr. Joe Folkman utilise empirical data and behavioural evidence to help leaders become extraordinary.