Managers as coaches - getting the best out of the people you lead

Aly McNicoll


What’s the difference between a coaching conversation and a managing conversation? We ask this question of leaders on our coaching courses so they can check which ‘hat’ they have on during their regular catch ups with staff. Is it a coaching catch up or a management catch up? Or a bit of both?

There is an inherent conflict of interest for managers coaching their direct reports. We want our staff to talk openly about how things are going for them in their role so we can help them succeed (coaching conversation) but we have results to deliver and want to know where people are up to (managing conversation). Does the staff person set the agenda (coaching conversation) or does the manager set the agenda (managing conversation)? Can they make their own choices over courses of action or are we telling them which way to go?

There is an inherent conflict of interest for managers coaching their direct reports.

It is vital that you know which role you are playing– the concept of ‘changing hats’ is a useful metaphor to bring to the table when you are taking a coaching approach to leadership or management. One leader I know takes the first 20 minutes of his catch ups with staff to have a management conversation and then literally puts his pen and notepad down and says ‘ now over to you. What do you want to talk about?’ This signals ‘off the record time’ and creates a clear segue into the coaching conversation. Being overt about the purpose of the conversation (managing or coaching) will enable everyone to play their part and make sure that coaching catch ups meet the needs of staff members and make it easier for them to deliver great results. 

Have a look at our series of Managers as Coach Training Workshops around the country in September especially for those leading in the not for profit sector (in association with GROW events).  These courses enable you to think and act like a natural coach so you can get the best out of the people you lead plus give you tools and skills to take a coaching approach to the wide range of conversations you have with your people in the course of your day, week or year. There is a special section on dealing with difficult personalities and situations for those who are struggling to turn around a problem employee or volunteer.

And if you’d like to find out how to bring this one day course to your own organisation, email