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The Key to Coaching for Managers: Hint – It’s not in the “Telling”

Managers and others often push back against the idea of developing a coaching approach for a variety of reasons, some of which include:

1)      It’s too hard, uncomfortable

2)      It takes too much time

3)      I’m too busy

4)      It’s easier to just tell them what to do

Frustrated Manager

Can’t argue with most of them on the front end. It is uncomfortable as you learn to apply the coaching skills – but its uncomfortable when you learn and apply any new skill set until you begin to assimilate it and see results from it. It does take additional time as you begin to apply the coaching skills, once again not unlike any new skill set. If you are too busy now, what is going to change that? And finally, it is easier to just tell them what to do – and they may do it. Will they learn? Will they ask the same kind of question again? Will they own the responsibility or just begrudgingly do what they’re told to? And “Telling is not Coaching”.

As you begin to evaluate these responses, it’s not that the reasons for not wanting to learn or apply coaching skills are wrong, at worst they may be a bit short sighted or they are repeated due to the pressure of the present.

Leadership, by one definition, is to influence, inspire and help others become their best selves, building their skills and achieving goals along the way. According to the ICF, Coaching is the process of partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires employees to maximize their personal and professional potential while accomplishing business objectives.” 

Female manager coaching

According to these two definitions, it seems that the objectives of leadership and coaching are very similar and closely aligned. As such, it would seem that as an organizational leader, a necessary skill set, of equal or greater importance than many, would include a coaching skill set, right? But you may still be asking, what’s in it for me? Yes, its my duty to develop my people, yes, I want to help them become their best selves, yes, were all after the same thing related to our goals and objectives. But it’s working now. I don’t see the value add of coaching above and beyond what I am currently doing. And for that matter, I actually think I’m a pretty good “coach”.

According to Selling Power Magazine the greatest challenge for leaders in adopting a coaching style is moving from “Telling to Asking”. For all of the reasons listed above, leaders simply default to telling. Telling is not coaching. In its purest form, the process of coaching involves exploration and discovery, an assumption that the individual has the capacity to find his or her path forward and a practiced application of listening to foster understanding, trust and respect. In a recent Forbes article by Esther Weinberg, she posits that “The Secret of Coaching Lies in the Silence”. Learning to resist telling and begin listening, asking and facilitating insight is key to effective coaching. A good coach is mindful, present, asks questions, listens intently, is supportive and process oriented. While your current results may suggest that your coaching is effective or you feel good after a “coaching” session with an employee, ask yourself, can I be better? Can I be more engaged? Are they capable of more? Am I helping them grow or simply getting the job done?

My Extended DISC personality style is “D” – a Dominant style. Which is characterized by a results orientation, impatience, big ego, intuitive fast decisions and assertiveness. Not ideal character traits for coaching! So, for me to learn to be mindful, listen, ask questions, and facilitate discovery and planning rather than simply “tell” them what to do was a big challenge. I had the good fortune of receiving some training early on at HP on employee coaching before it was a thing (thank you Theresa Stewart!). Selling actually gave me some tools because I quickly learned that “if you say it they can doubt it, but if they say it its true” leading me to study and learn more about questions. But it wasn’t until I began to really understand the value of silence and listening, of asking and encouraging discovery that I experienced the power of coaching as a skill set. I not only saw people growing and taking greater responsibility for their work, but as a manager I saw them begin to ask themselves the same questions I was asking them and resolving questions and challenges for themselves, increasing my bandwidth and ability to shift toward higher level objectives in the process. The more I practiced the approach, the easier it got and the better the results organizationally and individually.

Shut up and listen

Am I an advocate for coaching? Absolutely. Not just because I is one 😊, but because it works. It works for the manager as coach/leader, it works for the employee, and it works for the organization. If you want to explore a coaching approach further or want to dip your toe into the competencies of coaching, Shut up and listen”. All kidding aside, actually resist the natural tendency to jump in with a solution, ask another question and be curious. This simple act will sow respect, trust and create an openness you can build on to foster greater employee relationships and establish a starting point for you to build upon toward a stronger coaching competency.

Interested in learning more about management coaching and encouraging the best in those that are responsible for organizational success? Read our blog for more insights on questions, employee coaching and feedback and more. Reach out for a complimentary coaching call to discuss your situation and opportunities to enhance your effectiveness as a manager coach.


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