I recently facilitated a Leadership and Management Development workshop for a group of senior managers where the topic of the day was ‘Manager as a Coach’. It was an interesting day that highlighted the intrinsic relationship between coaching and team development and the result when a manager as a coach is absent.

“I haven’t got time for that as well as manage the team’

This is a common barrier. Time-strapped managers often will get on with their own work whilst also taking on work from colleagues just to get the job done, rather than sitting down and coaching their teams. This action whilst it might ‘get the job done’, it does not allow for nurturing the skills and talent within the team. If every person in their team was able and confident to do all of the tasks they need to perform, then managers would free up their time to drive forward coaching a high performing team.

Managers need to be committed to learning and practising the soft skills needed to succeed in coaching, developing and growing their teams. Any manager who wants to be a coach has to master a particular set of soft skills to succeed and can’t rely on just hard skills to see them through.

Here are the top five soft skills managers need to be an effective coach.


Relationship building is a fundamental skill for any manager and coach. When you coach a team member you are entering in to an agreement where a team member lets you in to their world, their desires, their fears, their hope and aspirations and it is hard to do this unless you have strong rapport building skills from a position of trust. Rapport is important to enable a constructive developmental conversation. The definition of rapport is:

A close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

Rapport is built by creating common ground and sameness to each other. For a manager to be a good coach they will need to share things about themselves and adapt their style; such as different aspects from physical appearance and body gestures, to your voice, the language you use and to beliefs and values.


Have you ever described someone as a great listener? When you talk to that person, they create a feeling in you that you have their full attention. It makes it easier to open up and share thoughts and ideas. As a manger, when coaching team members you need to employ the skills of an active listener. This is a conscious effort to give full attention to what is being said by the other person.

How do you get really good at active listening?

Staying in the moment and having a clear focus on the other person. Most of the time in conversations we are waiting for our opportunity to speak. Active listening is about taking in all of the information and then responding. It’s not only about what is being said, but what is not being said. Paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal communication from the individual is as important when coaching team members. This also means that the use of silence is an important factor in listening and processing skills. Silence is a powerful tool in the toolkit to help team members reflect on what they are thinking and feeling.


Often it is quite easy for busy managers to find and share the answer before a team member. One of the hardest parts of being a coaching manager is asking questions. Question from a coaching manager to a team member aim to build self-reliant problem-solving skills. This means the more questions you ask the more the team member is developing personal capability. A great question is simple, easy to understand, influences without taking control and always has a purpose.


Most managers show empathy to team members. It is one of the skills that supports team members as they move up into a management role. Quite often, due to the busyness of managers, it is the one skill that often gets lost. When coaching, managers show empathy through the words they say, the questions they ask, their body language, maintaining eye contact when needed and showing they care. Managers when coaching offer empathy to assist the team member in feeling that they are being understood, supported, and not alone in their situation.


As a manager there is no denying that you are busy. You have a team to manage and a department to run whilst achieving a high performing team status. Putting a date in the diary for the next 1-2-1 with a team member is important to you – and to the them. Yet, the day arrives, and you need to change because there is now a diary clash. Your team member is ok with this, this time. But will they be okay with it the next time this happens?

One of the biggest ways for managers to become mistrusted in organisations is a lack of commitment. The unfortunate consequence is that most managers do not realise that this lack of commitment to one person erodes credibility and in turn shows a general lack of commitment overall. Managers who coach their teams need to be committed to the ongoing process to ensure longer lasting benefits.

So, there it is. The five things to remember when developing your coaching skills and taking forward the work you do to be a great ‘Manager as a Coach’.

How do you rate yourself against the top five skills?

If you wanted to talk to us about developing skills around coaching and development, why not get in touch? info@learningcog.com