Closing the Gap: How to Get Coaching

Guest post from Michael Bungay Stanier:

Over the last few years, the leadership world has
begun to understand the importance of coaching in the workplace. But what has
that really translated to?
Some companies went about implementing coaching by
bringing in an executive coach to help develop their
And while that can be a good introduction and yield
great results, it can also be quite

expensive, the individual training can be a little
inconsistent, and it doesn’t effectively implement coaching into the workplace
long term.

So, although leaders have acknowledged the need for
coaching within their organizations, they still aren’t 100% sure how to close the
The key lies in turning existing managers into future
coaches. And here’s how to get started.
What Coaching Will Mean to You
If you don’t know what coaching really means to your
organization, what’s the point of trying to get into it?
“Coaching’ has been a bit of a buzzword over the last
few years, and there are hundreds of definitions of it. One of my personal favorites,
though, is this: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their
own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
That definition comes from Sir John Whitmore, and I
think it’s a perfect way to introduce coaching. But that doesn’t mean you can’t
alter it to best suit your organization’s goals.
Turn Coaching into a Big Deal
“Don’t turn coaching into a big deal.” By that I mean don’t
try to create a coaching culture or make it a formal event.
Just because the HR industry has touted coaching as one
of the best concepts ever in the leadership world, that doesn’t mean it’s a
fix-all for your organization. True, successful coaching can improve the
workplace in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it will immediately drive change
and fix all the obstacles you’re tackling.
And that’s where trying too hard to make it part of
your organization’s culture can get you into trouble.
Coaching is a tool that works best when it’s targeted
toward one specific objective.
So instead of focusing on implementing a coaching
culture, focus on that specific objective. Are you looking to increase customer
retention? To better track website metrics? To improve operations budgets and
If you don’t outline exactly why you’re looking to
implement coaching in the workplace,
the whole concept of it may come across a little too vague and distanced
from the busyness of the everyday workflow.
It Mean Something
Managers are busy enough as it is without having to feel
like they’re going to be forced to learn a new skill. They need to understand a
connection — that is, what’s in it for them? In order to bridge the gap and
successfully implement coaching into their lives, they need to understand that,
when done right, coaching can reduce their workload, make their teams less dependent
and make their employees more accountable.
Once managers understand this, why wouldn’t they be
more open to learning how to become more coach-like?
That It Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard
My experience these days, working with busy managers
around the world, tells me that managers are stretched more thinly than ever.
We thought we were busy in the year 2000, but that was nothing compared with today’s
hyper-connected digital world.
So why would a manager want to take on the added task
of coaching employees? Well, we’ve already settled that it will help alleviate
some of their stress by encouraging their employees to be more autonomous. And
I think it’s safe to say that a reduction in workload is a good reason to get
But what’s important to explain to your managers is
that coaching doesn’t have to take more time, it doesn’t have to be an added
task to a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Instead, it can be something done
in passing, nothing more than a daily interaction that’s as easy as catching up
by the water cooler.
Lazy, Be Curious, Be Often
Managers don’t need to become coaches; they simply
need to become more coach-like. And the way to do that is for them to offer advice
a little less often, and ask questions a little more often.
So, as a manager, the next time someone comes to you …
Be lazy. Don’t jump in right away to offer advice. Ask
something like “How can I help?” This will work in
two ways. First, it will force the other person to get clear on what it is they
want or need from you. Second, it acts as a self-management tool that will keep
you lazy — preventing you from running off to do things you think people want
you to do.
Be curious. Instead of saying yes all the
time or taking over, ask questions. “And what
else?” leaves no rock unturned. The first answer someone gives to this question
is never the only answer, and rarely is it the best one. There are always more
answers to be found and ideas to be generated — and this question will keep you
lazy and encourage others to come up with them. So, without coming up with the
ideas yourself, and without taking on more work, you’ll get the answers out
anyway — by helping your employee learn along the way.
Be often. Don’t set time aside to coach; rather, turn
everyday conversations into insightful moments of coaching. Asking questions
like the two noted above won’t take any more time out of your day, but the
results will be noticeable.
So, instead of thinking of coaching as something else
to add to your plate, think of it as an adaptable skill. It’s all about asking
the right questions, asking them often and watching your employees learn through
your daily conversations.
We’re all hardwired to give advice. But promoting a
little more curiosity rather than expertise will create perfectly coach-like
managers — and that, surely, will help bridge the gap.

Michael Bungay Stanier
Michael is the Senior Partner at Box of Crayons, a company that teaches 10-minute

coaching so that busy managers can build stronger teams and get better results. His most recent book, The Coaching Habit, has sold a quarter of a million copies. Along with David Creelman and Anna Tavis, Michael recently conducted and released a new piece of research, The Truth & Lies of Performance Management. Michael is a Rhodes Scholar and was recently recognized as the #3 Global Guru in coaching. Visit and for more information.