How to coach your people (even if you’re not a coach)

One of the biggest shifts I’ve seen in the people I work with was the ability to move from the “Manager” point of view to the “Coach” point of view.

Remember my post on “being a People Manager vs. a People Developer”? Well, this approach lies between the two. If your people perceive that you’re shifting towards the Coach perspective, you can expect the following:

How people behave towards a Manager How people behave towards a Coach
-Responsible and accountable

Afraid for being judged

“I can’t tell my boss how to do things!”


Understand and set their own thresholds

“My boss is open and asks for my perspective”

See the change? These are just a few examples. And I’ve seen major changes in people’s attitude just because they stopped being afraid and feeling judged, and started to view their boss as a partner rather as the man/woman with the whip.

Now, there’s a first major change you need to make, starting inside yourself, to move into the coach mindset.

Stop believing that you can directly command your subordinates.

That’s right. When you want your subordinate to perceive you as a partner rather than as the boss, you need to start doing the same. How do you want them to open up, if you don’t do the same? Leave your expectations aside.

Here are four simple things you can do, to shift to a coaching mindset with your people (attitude changes guaranteed!):

1. Resist to tell them how to do it. Instead, ask for their opinion and approach.

Any individual will feel valued when their manager will ask for their opinion on an important project. When was the last time you let your subordinate draft a plan, and then pointed out the mistakes? How about letting the subordinate figure out the mistakes him/herself?

A senior manager would ask his juniors who would come rushing in with a complex situations to ask just one question. This would make the junior sit down, figure the situation out and come up with the one single question that would summarize the problem. Many times, the junior would then, by asking the question, come up with the answer him/herself.

Another approach is to ask the junior to come up with a proposed solution him/herself. You need to spell this out one or two times, and then directly ask for their take on the situation, next time they  come with an issue.

Either way, this boosts the commitment of the individual. It will be their own idea, their approach.
Just be careful not to demolish their solution when they get to show it (see point no. 3).

2. Judge them not as a resource…

but as an individual on a course of development, you as the manager being the support. See how this changes the perspective? Instead of being the beneficiary of their work, you become the catalyst.

And their attitude will change as well.

3. Be rough with the task and gracious with the person.

Think about a running coach. You’re training for a marathon next week, and your legs ache from all the running. You really don’t think you can make it for another kilometer.
What would your coach say? “Sure, Jim, take a rest. I totally understand how you feel. We’ll do this tomorrow.”
Or “Get back up there! Keep going! I don’t care how much your legs hurt! They’re gonna hurt ten times more if you don’t get moving!”

Sometimes the coach has to be rougher than the trainee’s worst nightmares. It’s the only way to get him moving past his limits, on two conditions:
1. The individual is really up to it, really could do it, only doesn’t believe he can;
2. There is an already existing relationship of trust between the coach and the individual.

Unless you already have a relationship based on trust, you can’t push the limits. And even when you do, be careful to set the tone for the work, not the individual himself. The coach always refers to the task, and has the highest appreciation for the individual.

Remember this video from Karate Kid? I always thought Mr. Miyagi was the greatest coach ever (ok, Yoda also rules):

4. Take the time for 1:1s, and then, give them undivided attention.

Finally, you can’t coach your people on a daily basis, starting tomorrow. When your subordinate comes to you next morning, and asks “Boss, what do I do with this problem?” if you ask “Well, what do YOU think?” they will probably be startled, annoyed and will get defensive: “But I came to YOU for advice!”.
First you have to build a relationship,  by establishing regular talks – yes, coffee works fine, you don’t need to be formal.

Trust is the most important ingredient of a coaching relationship. If your subordinate doesn’t trust you, you can’t coach them. One can only be coached with their own consent.

Enjoy, and let me know how it works for you!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!



No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *