Managers need core skills in people management. These aren’t unique, business to business, but are largely universal. How to manage performance, give feedback, set expectations, delegate, create team spirit, track projects and communicate up the chain of command to stakeholders… these are just some of the capabilities managers need! It goes on, and a strong people-management course can teach managers about these skills. Check out our manager's accelerator here which are designed to be practical and cohort based to increase transfer of skills back onto the job. So where does coaching come into the mix?
For great management skills to flourish, the manager often needs time to reflect. The application of their management skills is so contextual, sometimes changing staff member to staff member. So with a baseline of management knowledge, they often need a sounding board to appropriately apply those skills. Sometimes the managers boss, or a mentor, can play this role of reflection partner. However in today’s workplaces where management skills have been woefully underinvested in, often that leader or mentor doesn’t have core management skills themselves. For this reason, a coach can play the role of thought-partner, bringing the right management skills to the forefront, making sense of them with the manager for sustainable application.
In addition, the journey of a manager is a huge growth-period for any professional. It’s a time of expression, finding an authentic management style, and overcoming tough challenges. This can include letting staff go from the business, or dealing with tragic events in the team. The manager can’t always be prepared for these events, which are happening at a period when they’re still developing personally and cognitively as an adult. A coach is a partner through this growth phase, working not only on the technical application of management, but also supporting the manger through unforeseeable tests of character. Again, a great leader or HR Business Partner can play this role, however many situations require confidentiality, and an external party such as a coach gives the separation from the business that the manager needs to process their options and decide how they want to show up for their team.
And finally, while not all managers progress to be leaders, a coach can be there to work with a manager to ensure their fundamental skills are solidified before introducing some of the themes and challenges of leadership to them. A coach co-creates a future view for the manager, where they can explore their values, personality, and strengths to prepare them for a leadership journey ahead. While not all managers have a coach, all great leaders do, so managers-in-training for leadership should be starting early with personalised development to enhance their natural characteristics and set them up for success.