Be a Coach in the Workplace, not a Boss. Here's Why.

Did you know that 75% of Americans say their boss is the most stressful part of their work?


Leaders who are not “bosses” have more engaged, productive, and satisfied teams.

Employees want managers who care about their development…. they want a coach.

But coaching does not just benefit the employee. There are wins at every level, and importantly an enhanced organizational employee experience.

What’s so Great About Coaching?

Overall, coaching can help your employees develop the skills they need to be successful. And simultaneously, the benefits of coaching in the workplace can reach every level— individual, team, leader, organization.

Employees who feel supported and have the opportunity to develop their skills are more likely to be engaged and productive, thus coaching leads to better performance overall.

Managers who are coaches in the workplace help employees feel more supported and motivated, and with that they can help improve retention. (Employees tend to leave specific bosses, not companies.)

Not least of all, coaching provides invaluable feedback to you as a manager to improve your own leadership skills.

What’s the difference between managing and coaching in the workplace?

While being a manager and a coach in the workplace are two different roles, there is some overlap between the two. The most effective coaching managers are those who have the skills and abilities to both manage and coach their employees. These managers typically have a deep understanding of what it takes to be successful in their organization, and they use this knowledge to help their employees grow and develop.

If you’re considering becoming a coaching manager in the workplace, it’s important to make sure that you have the skills and abilities that are needed for this role.

What does a manager do?

Managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating work within their team. They typically have a more hands-on role in directing employees and ensuring that tasks are completed according to plan. This work is typically results-driven and managing is meant to complete specific and quantifiable tasks.

Managers typically need expert problem-solving skills and the ability to take initiative when issues surface. They often guide and instruct others on how to move forward. They generally need to be decisive and efficient in their decision-making.

Managerial skills training of some kind is often a standard type of training within organizations. Typical daily tasks for a manager include:

●   Driving strategic goals

●   Delegating project assignments

●   Providing feedback

●   Leading meetings

●   Monitoring performance metrics

●   Problem-solving and decision-making

●   Onboarding new employees

What does a coach in the workplace do?

Coaches, on the other hand, focus on developing employee skills and abilities. Coaching relationships are often supportive, trusting, and a bit more informal. Coaches may provide guidance and support on specific projects or goals, but their primary focus is on helping employees grow and develop over time.

Coach-manager, helping his team member grow - Popwork

Coaching requires managers to nurture positive, trusting relationships…. and, trust and results are inextricably linked. Creating a psychological safe space allows employees to make their own decisions, as well as boosts creativity. Ultimately, the goal of being a coaching leader is to help employees become solutions-oriented and develop independence.

To get to this level of trust, coaches must make an effort to openly communicate and empower their employees to engage with their work on a deeper level. Typical daily tasks for a manager include:

●   Engaging, inspiring, and motivating team members

●   Providing (and receiving) feedback

●   Acknowledging everyday achievements

●   Promoting critical thinking

●   Brainstorming and evaluating ideas and solutions

●   Nurturing a collaborative environment

What are the different styles of coaching in the workplace?

The best coaching style to use in the workplace will depend on the specific situation and the type of employees involved. It's important to be aware of the different styles and adapt your approach as needed.

There are several different coaching styles that managers can use in the workplace. Here are four of the most common:

1. Directive coaching. This style is all about giving employees clear instructions and expecting them to follow them to the letter. There is little room for creativity or interpretation with this style. (One generally thinks about athletes for this style).

2. Supportive coaching. This style is more about creating a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks. It involves offering encouragement and feedback, rather than giving orders.

3. Participative coaching. This style encourages employees to be actively involved in the decision-making process. It requires managers to share information and solicit input from employees before making decisions.

4. Delegative coaching. This style gives employees more responsibility and autonomy to make decisions. It involves managers trusting their employees to do their jobs and handle tasks independently.

How to Become a Coaching Manager Instead of a Boss

The hard truth is— it’s typically easier to tell team members what to do. But, that doesn’t teach them anything for their independent future (or free up your schedule), does it?

A coaching leader needs a coaching mindset to become successful. Only by making coaching a daily practice can it organically become second nature. Here are some tips to help create a coaching mindset that will make you much more than just a manager.

📌Make the Time to Make Coaching a Priority

The first (and hardest) lesson to learn is— simply make the time.

Once you’ve shifted to a coaching mindset, you make it a priority to support your team members because you see the value in doing so. You then make it your priority. Coaching can take place in regular meetings OR more informally. Regardless, you’re able to spot teachable moments and take the time to do so.

You, as a manager, cannot always be “firefighting.” You need to be able to trust that your people can handle whatever the day throws at them and when to involve you.

Encouraging team members to figure things out for themselves by making decisions and taking risks on their own is key to their success (and yours). Your end goal is to activate critical thinking in your team by not doing the thinking for them.

📌There’s no ‘I’ in Team

Remember, your success is connected to their success. If you take the time to coach an employee instead of just managing them, their success will reflect back on you. According to a Gallup study, 7 out of 10 leaders and managers see developing talent as one of their primary responsibilities.

Team hands - Popwork

As a coaching leader, you must resist the urge to boss or micromanage. You must:

●   believe that your effectiveness is based on the team's success above and beyond your own personal success.

●   be passionate about (1) developing your employees and (2) having a role in their success.

An added benefit of prioritizing employee development is putting yourself out there as a role model. Prioritizing your people and displaying the traits you hope to develop in them, showcases what’s important for success.

📌 See the Potential

There is usually more than one way of doing things. Don’t get stuck in an “It’s how we’ve always done it” mentality. Set your limiting beliefs aside. That goes for people, too. Adjusting your own thoughts and approach helps employees to draw their own conclusions.

If you give them a chance to, your people will rise to the expectations you’ve set for them. It is your job to encourage and support. When you provide consistent, strengths-focused encouragement, employee growth will follow.

📌  Ask Powerful Questions… and Listen Even More Powerfully

At the heart of coaching is asking the right questions. Asking questions is the most effective way to engage people, and simultaneously, it teaches them critical thinking.

Never ask a  “yes” or “no” question.  Asking probing questions is critical so your team members can develop their own opinions and come to their own assessments.

Flipping a question back to your employee and asking, “What are your initial thoughts?” is the easiest starting point for a coaching conversation.

Asking questions is also a great rapport-builder. The more questions you ask, the more you will learn about your team members-- their career goals and dreams, their ways of thinking, any “belonging” challenges, etc.

Discussion bubbles - Popwork

Conversely, it’s essential to know when to stay silent. Becoming comfortable with conversational silence will become your superpower! Pausing during conversations is a powerful tactic in coaching moments. Pausing gives time for reflection and developing opinions. Your employee should be filling the silence with the answers, not you.

Using management platforms such as Popwork can be of great help to implement a 1-to-1 meetings ritual that are prepared with the right questions and followed up on.

📌  Don’t Forget to Grow Yourself

The fact that you are thinking about becoming a coaching leader already signals your willingness to foster a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is interrelated with a coaching mindset and paramount to your personal education: (1) recognizing and managing your own emotions (emotional intelligence) and (2) giving yourself permission to make mistakes.

As a leader with a growth mindset, you can learn from those you lead. When you ask for return feedback, you signal both its value and your lack of ego. Use their feedback as a coaching tool for yourself.

Becoming a coaching manager is integral to human-centered, empathic leadership; a trend sweeping organizations today post-pandemic. Coaching your team to thrive sets them— and you— up for success.