Why every leader or manager should develop coaching skills

It’s a fair enough question. We’re told all the time that coaching skills are a must have set of skills for the modern leader.

Indeed, all the top business schools, from Wharton to Insead, now include modules on coaching on their MBA programmes. And they know a thing or two about leadership and management.

But why should you bother? You’ve done alright so far, right?

Well, let’s start by understanding what is unique about coaching that makes it different. You’ve probably heard the proverb “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. Well, you can draw parallels with coaching someone as compared to being more directive and telling them what to do.

You can tell your direct reports or team what to do and it will get done. Probably to quite a good standard. But when you coach your direct reports or team, you help them learn and develop new skills. This improves their performance in the short term whilst building their capability to perform in the long term. By repeating this approach, you create a more capable, higher performing workforce that is more engaged. They feel empowered to take responsibility and are more productive as a result.

Coaching, then, is unique because it helps catalyse learning and development, enabling individuals and teams to perform to their potential. It does this like no other approach can; learning becomes endemic and performance improvements become truly sustainable. You are teaching them to fish.

OK, so you can see the benefits to the organisation and individuals but what about you? You’re the one that needs to develop and might have to change your style of management, where are the upsides for you?

Well, if you’re reading this at all, the chances are you’ve already seen some issues in your organisation or in your team. You’re looking for answers and want a new way of doing things. Perhaps you’ve been tasked with pushing through a change and you’re struggling to get traction? Maybe you’re leading a project with really tight timescales and you need your team to work in smarter, more productive ways? Or perhaps you‘re simply looking for a better way of leading and managing others so they take responsibility for their learning to free you up to focus on your own performance and career prospects?

The good news is that great coaching skills will help you with all these issues. By developing your ability to ask insightful questions, listen more effectively and give feedback, you will have a greater impact at work and improve your career prospects. You will not only be a better manager but you will also be able to use these new skills externally either with clients or other stakeholders.