The discussion about whether managers are leaders or managers (or both) is being overtaken by a new conception of the role of a manager – that of a manager/coach.What is the coaching approach to management?

It is important to differentiate between the role of someone who acts solely as a coach to help people in their personal and / or professional development, and someone who is adopting a coaching approach to being a manager. Managers who use a coaching approach would be following something like this framework:

  • rejection of the command and control model of management as being too time consuming, onerous and ultimately ineffective.
  • belief in the abilities of the people that you work with
  • a medium to long term view of what can be achieved, and a focus on developing skills within the team for long term results
  • involving everyone in setting the goals and strategy for the team and how the strategy is to be implemented.

What do managers / coaches do differently?

As well as using recognised coaching techniques in their work with team members, manager / coaches will:

  • invest time and effort in building relationships with others;
  • work to remove obstacles to the effective performance of others;
  • spend a good proportion of their time talking to others;
  • keep their minds open and accept other people’s ideas (especially about the future) as valid adn useful;
  • above all, the manager as coach will see their role as serving the people that they work with, and will develop skills in encouraging and supporting others.

Steps to becoming a manager / coach

Any coach will need to spend time reflecting and becoming more aware of the way that they interact with other people. Techniques such as 360 degree feedback, personality profiling and team role profiling can be helpful in gaining a better awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses.

Practice in developing empathy with those around you will help you to become more open in your communications and more aware of the needs of people around you.

Consider your management style and see if you can honestly say that you always use the manager / coach framework outlined above? For example, most of the managers we work with find that there are limits to the degree of trust and patience they have with staff. We have all absorbed some of the ‘Command and Control’ style of management over the years, and shedding this can be a long and difficult process.

Specific coaching techniques, that will be useful for manager / coaches, include:

  • Listening skills
  • Recognising self limiting beliefs
  • Helping others to set their personal and professional goals (and how to align organisational and personal goals)
  • Influencing skills
  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Using probelm solving techniques in groups
  • Facilitation skills
  • Journalling
  • Using mind mapping in groups

 This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, April 2005.