The terms “managing,” and “coaching” are often used interchangeably, though they’re not the same thing.

Managers who understand and use business coaching principles are better managers. 

While the two processes have some common ground, there are key differences. Managing is primarily about overseeing the work of other people. Coaching, on the other hand, is more of a two-way communication process aimed at helping people unlock their potential.

Managers who have basic business coaching skills benefit themselves, their direct reports, and their organization because coaching skills can help solve problems before they can become intractable.

Key Coaching Skills Managers Should Learn

study by Julia Milner and Trenton Milner focused on nine key coaching skills, and their presence or absence among a group of managers:

  • Listening
  • Asking questions
  • Giving feedback
  • Helping with goal-setting
  • Demonstrating empathy
  • Empowering employees to arrive at their own solutions
  • Acknowledging people’s strengths
  • Providing structure
  • Promoting a solutions-focused approach

They evaluated managers’ self-reported skills in these areas, as well as their skills as evaluated by 18 coaching experts, both before and after the managers received coaching training.

The Good News and the Not-So-Good News

Most managers considered themselves good listeners even before having received coaching training, and they were right, for the most part. But they consistently overestimated their ability to empower employees to arrive at their own solutions, and they overestimated their skill at acknowledging employee strengths.

However, after undergoing training in business coaching, the managers improved significantly in these areas, and their overall coaching ability improved by over 40% based on multiple assessments of the participants before and after undergoing coaching training.

Basic coaching training can significantly improve managers’ skills in key coaching principles.

What Coaching Accomplishes for Managers

When managers understand and practice the core concepts of business coaching, they accelerate learning, achieve genuine behavior change, and improve business results. Accelerated learning is essential in today’s business environment, where customers, technology, and the competitive environment are in constant flux. Achieving behavior change is likewise notable because it can be all too easy to slip back into old habits after training, and coaching helps prevent this.

And of course, every business wants improved business results. With businesses facing constant pressure to achieve greater goals (often with the same or fewer resources), the ability to put coaching to work to improve the bottom line means a better workplace for everyone.

But perhaps one of the best results that can be achieved by the manager who learns and practices basic business coaching principles is that they make the transition from “teaching” team members to helping them learn. As a result, the manager no longer has to function as “the answer person,” because team members are confident that they can learn the answers themselves.

Have you ever attended a high school football game and seen a highly competent pep band director in action? If so, you’ve seen what great coaching looks like. Once the band starts together and gets through the first couple of measures of music successfully, the director can leave them to their own devices for the rest of the song, because the band has learned how to rely on itself. And you can bet that the band has great respect for their director because they know the director has great respect for their abilities.

Business coaching is not the same thing as “telling people what to do.” Nor is it the same thing as micromanaging. Rather, it is a specific set of skills that managers can and should learn, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of the team and the organization as a whole.

Back to blog