Coaching skills for Managers

I've been a qualified coach for a little while now, and before that I was using coaching techniques on and off for years, plus being coached myself intensively!

Here's what I've learned as a manager, business owner, business developer, qualified coach, and as your average human being.


One of the main coaching skills is listening. Really listening.

It's something I've got much better at but it's a skill and it takes practice.

When did someone last listen to you. Allow you to talk without interruption. Be able to reflect back what you say. And how did it make you feel?

Valued? Respected? Empowered?

You will find active listening really useful in a range of business meetings. It enables you to pick up on what a client or team member wants. And what they're not saying. And how they use language. By listening, you can tune into how people speak, identify stressors and connect better with those around you.

Exercise: When you're next in a meeting or on a call, try listening for about 80% of the time...

Reflecting Back

Coaching also works because a key skill is using 'reflecting back' to check understanding.

It sounds easy. You listen to what is being said, and then repeat it back to the person to check you've understood correctly.

It's great in a business context when your manager or director has just listed a load of projects or priorities because it enables you to say it back to them to make sure you've understood correctly.

And in sales meetings, you can use 'reflecting back' to confirm you've understood your client. It also assures them that you're listening and understanding them (since a common complaint is that sales people do not listen to their customers).

And if something is said that takes you by surprise and you're not sure how to respond, it's really helpful too. I found this helpful in meetings when I was given a surprising bit of news and needed time to process what I'd just heard.

By reflecting back, you're showing that you are listening but you're buying yourself time to process the information and an appropriate response.

Exercise: When you're next given a piece of work to do, reflect back to your manager what they've given you. Or maybe try it out at home first.

Three business people having a meeting


Coaches love asking questions. It helps to unlock barriers and explore possibilities. I've saved the best until last for you :)

As a manager, it's helpful to enable team members to find their own answers to issues; gaining independence and self belief as they progress.

When something goes wrong, it's really empowering to ask someone 'what did you learn from that?' and 'what would you do differently next time?' This is also helpful with those team members who are not comfortable with critiques from managers as it comes from a learning perspective.

It's safest to avoid asking 'why' questions because starting a question with 'why' can often imply a judgement ('why would you do that?') so think about asking questions starting with 'how', 'where', 'who', 'what', 'when'.

Using this framework is great when in meetings where you're setting up projects and goals to ensure you've checked the resources, timescales, outcomes etc.

And if you're short on conversation when networking, asking an open question is really useful too!

Exercise: Starting outside the office, pick up on something a friend or family member says and ask a question. (You said you'd walked the dog, where did you go?) and then introduce the skill to staff reviews, sales meetings, networking etc.

Next steps

As a manager and a coach, I found it challenging to deploy 'pure' coaching in an organisation that didn't have a coaching culture as a whole.

However, there are techniques such as those described here that were really helpful and quick to use. But only when I'd been able to practice them in a safe environment first.

Take a look at my Team Coaching page for some ideas about how coaching can help in the workplace for a team.

Set up a call or message me if you're interested in coaching or training on 'coaching skills for managers' - or would like some coaching to help you develop as a manager.

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