The 8 Skills of Great Coaching Managers - Stewart Leadership

The 8 Skills of Great Coaching Managers

Beneath every leader’s ID badge is a hidden layer with a very important message.  While some recognize and embrace this message, too many others have no idea it is there or choose to ignore it.  This often unseen message defines a leader as much as the name, title, and organization that is branded so clearly across the badge.

The statement is simple, yet powerful:  I COACH.  It means that I coach my team to greater levels of performance, I coach my team to higher levels of engagement, and I coach my team because learning and improving is what we do.

For a manager or leader who understands their true role, they embrace and live this simple statement.  For those who flounder in their managerial position, they may not be fully utilizing the power of coaching to inform, inspire, and align.  Great coaching enables great leadership!       

8 Skills that Make a Great Coach

To help all managers and leaders live up to their role as a coach, here are the 8 skills that make a great coach.  Read through these skills, reflect on how you perform each one, and identify ways you can better live up to the mantra:  I COACH!

  1. Building Rapport

Building rapport is the ability to develop a trusting and open working relationship. To build a strong rapport a coach must demonstrate integrity, confidentiality and honesty along with his/her own professional expertise cultivate credibility. In short, a great coaching manager needs to demonstrate character, competence, and consistency.  Building rapport is an ongoing activity that is critical to a successful coaching relationship.

Reflection Question:  How do I actively establish and strengthen a trusting relationship with each person I lead?

  1. Asking Questions

Asking questions is the ability to create awareness and action using appropriate questioning techniques.  The right question can reframe, reveal, and inform challenges, opportunities, and solutions in new ways.  A great coach poses questions that are based more on the needs of the other person than on their own agenda.   Also, although questions can be focused on the past and present, future-oriented questions can reduce defensiveness and open unrealized possibilities.  (For example, in the future, what are three ways you can approach this issue differently?)

Reflection Question:  How do I use open-ended questions to help others gain new insights and solve problems?

  1. Active Listening

Active listening is the ability to truly understand the context and meaning of what someone is saying.  Active listening requires a coaching manager to listen based on the needs, interests, and perspectives of the other person without their own point of view getting in the way.  Often this is called suspending your own judgment and truly being present during the conversation.  Listen without an agenda, embrace silence as an ally, and probe deeper to confirm you understand what they are wanting to convey.

Reflective Question:  How do I ensure I’m completely focused when others talk?

  1. Providing Feedback

Providing feedback is the ability to share comments and insights in a way that is helpful to the other person.   The goal is to provide positive and constructive comments that inform and inspire the individual.  To provide effective feedback, focus on the behavior observed and the result produced.  Resist using labels and relying on the story you are telling yourself (i.e., the person is always lazy or she is just building her own empire).  These stories may or may not be true and can create barriers in giving and accepting needed feedback.  Ground your feedback in the actual behavior, its impact, and how more or less of that behavior can create a better impact in the future.

Reflective Question:  How do I focus on behaviors and not on my own storytelling as I give feedback?

  1. Exploring

Exploring means to discover and discuss alternative perspectives that lead to new and better solutions.  We may discount or be unaware of the many options and ideas out there.  Reframing issues, questioning assumptions, and identifying different scenarios can unlock new ways of thinking for others.  A great coaching manager helps an individual brainstorm and identify connections in ways that help them grow and develop.  For exploring to be successful, avoid critiquing ideas too soon and allow the other person space to self-discover.

Reflective Question:  How do I help explore different perspectives and solutions without critiquing?

  1. Goal Setting

Effective goal setting means partnering with an individual to turn insight into action.  The great coachr is able to help co-create goals that stretch the other person just enough without it being demoralizing or too easy.  They create goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) and aligned with the needs of the organization, team, and individual.  The strong coaching manager provides guidance and feedback on the goals, helping the individual own, adjust, and learn from their goals.

Reflective Question:  How do I help others create goals that appropriately stretch the individual?  

  1. Encouraging

To encourage is to be a source of support and reinforcement to help keep an individual focused on the goals they set.  These goals can be performance, development and/or career oriented.  It can be easy to get distracted with the expedient demands of the day or to get disillusioned with unexpected bumps or surprises.  A successful coaching manager helps keep things prioritized and focused through honest and motivating reinforcement.  

Reflective Question:  How do I support others in helping them be confident in achieving their goals?

  1. Recognizing

Recognizing progress is key to supporting goal execution.  People often need someone to complement their work and point out forward movement to validate their actions and ensure it is still on track.  We also need someone to identify when our work is off target.  Providing both celebrations and course corrections is an important part of helping someone develop.  Keep in mind that recognizing also involves identifying a person’s strengths, understanding their motivations, and leveraging this knowledge to empower each individual to achieve their goals.  While Encouraging is about helping someone feel confident about achieving their goals, Recognizing is acknowledging the accomplishment when they meet them!

Reflective Question:  How do I celebrate the progress that others make toward their goals?


Next time you look at your ID badge, look hard to see the words:  I COACH.  Use that mantra to remember that the core of a great manager is a great coach.  Use these 8 coaching skills to build your coaching capability and watch your people’s engagement and productivity soar!

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