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The Case for Developing Line Manager Coaches

Jan 20, 2008
For executive coaches the first finding will have sent tremors through the sector. The early years of this century have been ones where executive coaching has blossomed. Where once it was a sign of failure to admit that one wanted to improve, now it has become a badge of status, a marker of one's success to have an individual available to help successful executives do even better. That the figures are showing signs that the peak has been reached is an indicator that the market is becoming more mature and more questioning of what is being offered in the name of executive coaching.

At the same time, the pre-eminence of line manager coaching raises questions as to how prepared and skilled those line managers are for the role. There are few executive coaches who have not undergone considerable training (usually self funded) for the role, while the evidence is that the majority of line managers have had no formal preparation for the role. Given that the potential pay-off in individual performance and team delivery terms is so large, it is puzzling that managers are being expected to coach with minimal training, support or supervision.

Managers have many demands on their time, but the core of good management is making the most of what is available to then in order to deliver on objectives. The core of coaching is enabling individuals to learn in order that they can take action as a result of the insights, support, challenge and increased confidence that a coach can provide. Rather than coaching taking away from management time, coaching is at the heart of good management.

Evidence of this link is found in answering the simple question "Tell me about the best manager you ever had?" Having asked that question many times to many managers in many sectors, the answers remain the same. The managers that people remember are those who made them believe they could do more, who listened to them and were able to recognise both their individual abilities and their individual difficulties. The managers who demanded a lot, but gave of themselves in return. The managers who gave praise, but also would give the difficult message when needed. The manager whose integrity they could trust. The manager who helped them do more than they thought was possible. In other words the best managers are great coaches. They probably would never have spoken of themselves in that way, but coaching is what they did.

By recognising that coaching is something that good managers have always done, we can start moving coaching from being something that is special and different, to something that is integral to managing people well and achieving results. It is as much a part of the performance cycle as setting objectives and reviewing performance. Since managers would expect to be trained in how to set objectives and how to appraise, then managers need to be trained in how to coach as a line manager.
About the Author
John Mce writes for Carole Pemberton, specialists in career and personal development in the UK.
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