4 Key coaching skills for managers

When thinking about coaching, there’s often a focus on specific models or methods, not to mention certifications. Which is all good, of course, so long as we don’t start believing coaching can’t happen without such supporting structures.

A coaching culture offers your organisation benefits such as a more skilled and engaged workforce, and a positive impact on your business’s bottom line.

But those benefits don’t depend on certificated executive coaches supporting your c-suite to ever greater strategic sophistication (though that can and often is part of the equation). No, a truly embedded coaching culture depends on coaching taking place at all levels of an organisation… and that means your managers acting as coaches.

Managers having coaching conversations with team members polishes team performance – a constant process of cumulative insight and improvement that identifies a true coaching culture. Try doing an online job search using the keyword ‘coach’ – most results won’t be pure coaching positions, they’re management and leadership roles. More and more, coaching is seen as an essential skillset for managers.

Add to this the increase in home working and remote management and the greater emphasis on quality of communication, and coaching conversations are an important element in any manager’s learning and development toolkit.

Maximum Coaching’s own survey of UK L&D professionals found:

  • 51% expect an increase in demand for coaching.
  • 66% anticipate an increase in line managers’ use of coaching skills.
  • 80% say they are ‘working towards’ a coaching culture.

But before we sign up all managers to a certified programme of coach training, let’s take a look at the four essential skills managers need for effective coaching conversations.

  1. Trust and rapport – A coaching conversation doesn’t take place between a ‘boss’ and a ‘subordinate’, it’s more of a collaborative partnership scenario that depends on trust. Trust comes when you both want the same thing
  2. Powerful questions – Asking open and searching questions from a ‘non-boss’ perspective can be a powerful tool. Coaching questions seek to establish a shared understanding of the coachee’s situation, strengths and development needs. This supports the coachee to find their route to better performance and easier achievement of objectives.
  3. Active listening – Creating a depth of understanding depends on a) asking the right questions, and b) listening to the answers in such a way that the coaching conversation covers all relevant aspects of the issue at hand. Techniques such as paraphrasing, reflecting and summarising are key.

(Incidentally, using powerful questions and active listening in a ‘non-boss’ way builds trust and rapport.)

  1. Goal-setting and planning – Though the route may initially be uncertain (yet to be mapped out), coaching is a journey with a destination and knowing and defining that destination is what guides the use of the above three skills. Being able to formulate achievable and relevant learning and/or performance goals (and then working out collaboratively how to fulfil them) is the key framework for a coaching conversation (or series of conversations).

In other words, leaving aside coaching models and jargon for a moment, the key coaching skills are already (in some stage of development or other) a part of most manager’s skillsets.


At Maximum Coaching, we have a long-established breadth and depth of expertise in all things coaching. If you’re interested in a taster based on the above, register for our free virtual training webinar, Developing Key Coaching Skills, taking place on 25 March. Or give us a call on 01582 463461 – we’re here to help!

Categories: Coaching

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