4 Pivotal skills to become a leader who coaches (and why this is important)

Posted on October 16, 2019 · Posted in blog

I have been asked to give a talk on a topic that has been close to my heart and which is present in all the work that we do: Why do we need to teach coaching skills to every manager, no matter how junior or senior (especially if they are senior!) would be able to use these skills effectively?

Why can we claim that managers who manage as coaches would yield much better results?

Do we have evidence to support this claim?

Of course, this article refers to managers whose expertise and competence in their field are in place. We see that in most cases the difference between a successful manager and a mediocre or failing one, is not about “hard skills” – it is about communication, relationships and motivating others. And to do these proficiently, any manager would do well to acquire the coaching skills we are discussing here.

Defining “Manager as Coach”


What is coaching?

Sir John Whitmore, a leading figure in executive coaching, defined coaching as: “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

In fact, many contend that coaching psychology is a form of applied positive psychology (Also: Grant & Cavanagh; 2007; Linley et al., 2009).

One important thing is to remember what coaching is NOT: it is not advice-giving, information-sharing, training, teaching, telling and lecturing. It is also not therapy nor counselling.

Research shows coaching yields higher goal attainment, lower depression, and higher workplace well-being,, increased confidence, gained applied management skills, being better able to deal with organizational changes or stressors, improved personal and professional insights, and feeling helped with finding ways to develop their career. (More here).

Coaching can thus increase employee engagement and be far more effective in motivating people.

Does coaching need to be learned?

Yes, it does. When people with no training, who have been managing for a while, were asked to coach someone, they usually did something else: they consulted. Or they used what they knew – when people do not know what to do, they do what they know (to quote someone else, who sadly I am unable to reference – please tell me if you can!)

According to the latest report published by the ICF in 2018, “increasingly, organizations are utilizing managers and leaders who use coaching knowledge, approaches and skills to create awareness and support behaviour change” precisely because executives have been exposed to the power of coaching via external coaches. They strive to create a coaching culture.

What are the necessary and relevant coaching skills?

There are possibly thousands of answers to that, but let’s lean on the largest association of coaches in the world, the ICF (International Coach Federation – CoreCompetencies.pdf).

However, studies have shown the four most important, the difference-makers, are these:

– Establishing trust

– Applying ethical standards

– Practising active listening

– Communicating clearly, with clear goal-setting ability

In the next set of blog posts, I shall delve into each of these, and provide you with the knowledge, the tools and some self-assessment tools to make sure you’re getting better at all three.
The best way to improve how you manage, and ensure you coach-manage, is to change your mindset first.

Ask yourself:

– Do you fundamentally believe people can change?

– Are you really committed to getting your team to be satisfied at work and give their best, or do you only focus on the latter? (be honest with yourself)

– Are you a good listener? Ask some people whom you trust if that is the case. We often overestimate our own abilities)

If you do believe you – and others – can change, can shift and can improve, that’s a great starting point.
If you are committed to the notion that everyone has a right to feel fairly satisfied in their work, that’s also a great starting point.
And if you know you could improve your listening skills – you’re really ready to take the next step toward becoming a much more effective manager. A coach-style manager.