Can a manager be a coach?

Firstly lets define a coaching approach.

Whitmore (1992) proposes that

"Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them".

It can also be described as

'A way of treating others, recognising they have knowledge, opinions, ideas and problem solving skills. Coaching is not about telling but about exploring possibilities and options available to them through effective questioning. A coach does not have all the answers but has skills of enquiry to help another find them'.

The coach is expected to remain impartial and non judgmental. Information is confidential and should not be used to discriminate in any way. They may work on areas that are not directly related to the workplace but influence performance.

A manager on the other hand can be defined as

'The person responsible for planning and directing the work of a group of individuals, monitoring their work, and taking corrective action when necessary'.

They are responsible for performance and monitoring.

So the coach elicits responses and ideas and the manager directs, which indicates on face values that it would hard for the manger to also coach.

It can become more tricky if the manager wants to coach but has an outcome in mind and uses questioning to take the other person in a particular direction. This is not coaching but persuasion at best, manipulation at worst.

So whilst the manager might not be able to play the role of coach entirely because they have a vested interest in performance and direction they are able to use the skills of the coach.

The 'WHAT and 'HOW' approach.

Managers may need to get to outcomes that are set in stone. In fact some managers spend too much time discussing the reasoning and decisions behind 'WHAT' has to be achieved despite having no influence over them.

They do, however, have more influence over 'HOW' to meet the outcome. And this is where the coaching approach is useful.

The WHAT may be set in stone but the HOW is open for discussion. This is the opportunity to use the staff members ideas, problem solving skills, beliefs and experiences. If the manager is truly open to options (as apposed to 'I will try to get you to think it is your idea') then we can get the best from others i.e the coaching approach.

The key is to recognise when the manager has stopped coaching and is persuading. If I ask you your ideas and then try to 'sell' you mine, I'm not coaching.

Want to find out more about coaching? courses

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