How to Adopt a Coaching Mentality and Practice

As the famous adage goes, people leave bosses not companies. As a manager, you may excel at directing projects, solving problems, and driving results. But how much time are you investing in developing and empowering your employees?

When given the opportunity to learn and grow, people thrive. By adopting a coaching mentality and approach, you can help members of your team realize their potential. An investment in employees will help retain top talent and foster a culture of growth and opportunity, which is a win for people and profit.

Shifting From "Manager" To "Coach"

For many managers, however, the transition to “coach” isn’t easy. In fact, some coaching traits are at odds with what are seen as managerial strengths. Developing the skills and changing your managerial approach amid daily demands can be difficult.

Shifting from a managerial to coaching mindset requires you to serve, at times, more as a guide. Learning what makes people tick so you can help them succeed is a key competence of a good manager employing a coaching approach. You also have to be willing to navigate organizational resistance to coaching as it’s not always applauded when there’s too much to do in not enough time.

Here we offer three tips to help you face these challenges.

1. Overcome the Desire to Be Directive

Your ability to direct people and projects likely helped you move up the management ranks, but being directive can come at a price.

A marketing director we know took great pride in her ability to quickly tackle problems. She expected her staff to take the advice and move into action. In time, her employees didn’t feel the need to think for themselves, and those who did felt stifled.

Coaching is a more open-ended process. Rather than providing the solutions, help your team members explore options and aspirations. Asking questions allows individuals to challenge their assumptions and explore new ways of thinking.

You need to become comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity. Your team may not solve a problem or arrive at the same solution you would have. But with your support and motivation, they’re likely to come up with an idea that’s as strong as—or even better than—yours. Ultimately if they own the solution, they’ll be more invested in processes that work, which ultimately will create excellent results.

2. Be Prepared for the Personal

Coaching requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. It takes astute observation and patience to help individuals explore their strengths and weaknesses and help them be more effective in their roles.

Discussions of personal values and lifestyles are likely to arise in a coaching relationship. You must be prepared to handle such topics with sensitivity.

3. Model How Coaching Can Be a Win-Win for Employees and Your Company

Organizational cultures often have a bias against what makes coaching relationships successful. According to the 2014-15 Global Leadership Forecast, conducted by the Conference Board and Development Dimensions International, only 25 percent of managers spend more time coaching, communicating, and fostering creativity than they do managing their staff (e.g., delegating, managing projects). However, nearly half of the respondents said their organizations value managing over interacting.

In a competitive environment, where staff are expected to meet deadlines with limited resources, coaching may seem like a luxury the organization can’t afford. There may even be a stigma against a more process-oriented approach to drive results.

Make the case in your organization by setting the coaching example.

Coaching Increases Employee Engagement

Good coaches can improve the quality of work life for individuals and help create a supportive company culture. This sense of caring is a critical component of employee engagement and growth. People often turn to those they trust—a coach—when taking on something new. Learning, in turn, engages individuals by opening new vistas and opportunities.

Engaged and energized employees boost an organization’s productivity and impact. And the coaches who make that happen can be confident that valued employees will be far more likely to stay working for their bosses.