Coaching Techniques for Managers

Coaching Techniques For Managers

This post first appeared on LinkedIn.

A traditional view of coaching in the workplace may be summarised as follows:

The coaching process can be understood as a self-regulatory cycle that commences with the establishment of a goal, the articulation of an action plan and participation in an ongoing reflective cycle based on actions taken between one coaching session and the next.(1)

This conjures up images of one on one conversations between coach and employee, looking at goals and needs as a starting point, assessing current behaviour and results, and then producing a set of actions plans for the employee to experiment with.

An alternative broader view of coaching employees focuses more on the conditions required for effective coaching and the methods that coaches have at their disposal.

These conditions can be summarized as follows(2):

  1. Coachees need to have the time for learning.
  2. Coachees need to have adequate opportunities to learn.
  3. Coachees need to be practicing the task(s) that best helps them learn.

To improve you must learn via practice. The right practice. One of the first roles of the coach is to ensure that these three conditions can be met.

Coaching Methods Available to the Manager

Some of the methods that a manager has at their disposal to bring about improved performance are as follows:

  1. Direct Instruction.
  2. Facilitative Questioning.
  3. Increasing responsibility.
  4. Modelling.
  5. Written communication / material.
  6. Formal training
  7. Feedback

Direct Instruction

Often misconstrued as not being supportive enough or involving the employee enough, direct instruction can be an effective way to help the employee make changes and improvements. Broadly, this involves setting meaningful tasks that encourage high success rates. Instructions on how to execute these tasks would also be given with the appropriate feedback provided based on the employees efforts and execution.

Facilitative Questioning

Facilitative questioning is an approach aimed at improving the decision making and problem solving abilities of the employee. Problems and tasks are set that involve an element of ‘working out’ (and therefore learning). This approach places ownership onto the employee to think things through.

Increasing Responsibility

Increasing responsibility can come in two forms. Firstly, the day to day responsibilities of the employee can be increased to provide additional learning and improvement opportunities and experiences. Secondly, as a coach, the idea is to increase the employees responsibility for their own development, performance and self-management, thereby reducing the emphasis and need for the coach. To facilitate this process the coach needs to encourage employees to take the initiative and ensure that the employee has good input into the overall coaching process.


Modelling involves demonstrating good skills or outputs to the employee with the view to showing the employee what ‘good performance’ looks like. This could involve using other team members who already exhibit the performance traits / levels that the employee is striving for. Reaching further afield might involve the coachee observing someone else from another team.

Written Material and Formal Training

Using written training material and more formal training courses is an obvious way to help the employee learn new knowledge and skills that they can apply in the work setting to aid their performance.


Feedback helps employees learn. It can come directly from the person coaching or from another person or means. Video analysis is also a useful method of feedback allowing the employee to see how they perform in certain scenarios. In the future other methods currently employed in sport such as sensors and heart rate monitors may become more common in the workplace. Some useful guidelines for giving feedback are as follows.

  • Use questioning techniques to help the employee evaluate their own performance.
  • Do not go overboard on the volume of feedback – small pieces each time is better.
  • Manage expectations that in the short term, corrections may lead to poorer outcomes
  • Avoid giving corrective feedback in the presence of other team members

Coaching in the workplace is such an important part of high performing organisations but is all too often neglected due to other managerial responsibilities. Organisations that can develop a coaching culture stand to not only enhance their employees experience but to also gain a competitive performance advantage.




  1. Gordon B. Spence, Lindsay G. Oades, Coaching with self-determination in mind: Using theory to advance evidence-based coaching practice, International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 9, No. 2, August 2011 Page 37. Grant, A. M. (2007). Personal life coaching for coaches-in-training enhances goal attainment and insight, and deepens learning. Coaching: An International Journal of Reserach, Theory and Practice, 1(1), 47-52.
  2. Frank S Pyke (Australian Sports Commission), Better Coaching Advanced Coach’s Manual (2nd Edition), Human Kinetics (2001)