Why Every Organization Should Focus on Making Managers More Coach-Like

Guest post from Michael
Bungay Stanier:

“Coaching” is one of those
buzzwords that has been flying around human resources and leadership
conversations for a few years now. By now we know how effective coaching can bridge
the gap between HR and talent development. Trouble is, not everyone really
knows what coaching means. It’s easy enough to see why that is — coaching comes
in a few forms.

Executive coaches generally come into
a workplace once or twice a month and spend an hour or so with their clients,
supporting and encouraging them, helping them to focus and be more strategic.
They tend to work with senior employees. There’s no doubt that having someone acting
as your champion and a sounding board can be valuable, but it’s expensive and,
as it turns out,
it’s not the most effective way to introduce
coaching to the average time-crunched manager.

Another avenue organizations might take
involves training people within the organization to take on the role of executive

The third type — and the most
effective type, in my opinion — occurs when managers recognize that being more
coach-like is a great way to lead and so they take matters into their own hands.
And that’s what we’re all about at
Box of Crayons — helping managers and leaders become more coach-like so
that they can coach their employees in 10 minutes or less.

It’s easy enough to say “Okay, I’m
going to coach my employees”; it’s another thing altogether to actually do it
well. Everyone is busy enough as it is, and it’s hard to find time to learn a
new skill, let alone act on it. Hence the need for practical, on-the-spot

Coaching is what separates average
managers from highly effective ones — and leaders in HR and L&D know that.
But getting managers to become more coach-like doesn’t happen without a little

The biggest barrier managers and
leaders have to coaching is lack of time. They’re overwhelmed and
overcommitted. They think they don’t have time for coaching or they’re not sure
how to get started. How do we help them get there?

Monique Valcour, in her Harvard Business Review article, You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good
, really hits the nail on the
head when she says, “If your job involves leading others, the implications are
clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team
members experience progress at meaningful work.” And to do just that, she continues,
you need to have coaching conversations.

An effective coaching conversation
can take place in 10 minutes or less. You don’t even need to label it as
coaching (and in fact, you shouldn’t). This type of conversation will improve
your everyday interactions, so consider making it an almost-daily event. Think
drip irrigation rather than flash floods.

The key to a good coaching
conversation is asking questions. In my book
Coaching Habit
, I list seven essential questions
that serve as a sort of coaching script. To get started, you can pick just one
that feels most useful to you. The Kickstart Question “What’s on your mind?”
can help you get quickly to the heart of what matters most. The Focus Question
“What’s the real challenge here for you?” digs a little deeper. The Best
Coaching Question in the World is “And what else?” It works wonders because
you’ll find that the first answer someone gives you is never the only answer,
and rarely their best answer.

Asking questions is to coaching as
corn is to a really good bourbon — it’s not everything, but it’s more than

Start strong and finish quickly. Keep
it to 10 minutes or less, keep it simple and do it often. Make coaching a
regular part of your day by transforming the interactions you have, rather than
it adding more to your workload.

Coaching doesn’t need to be a big
formal event. By making it an everyday conversation and developing coach-like
tendencies, you’ll create teams that are happier and more effective, leading to
results that help the organization as a whole. The term “coaching” doesn’t need
to mean anything more than simply saying less and asking more, and in doing so,
changing for the better the way you lead.
Michael Bungay Stanier:
Author of The
Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
Bungay Stanier
the Senior Partner and Founder of
of Crayons
, a
company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. It is
best known for its coaching programs, which give busy managers practical tools
to coach in 10 minutes or less.