4 Keys to Getting Managers to Coach in a Busy Work Environment

Aly McNicoll

An organisation with a coaching culture is a place where ‘inspiring leaders have amazing conversations that generate tangible results’ (Tim Hawkes, Unlimited Potential).

Many organisations invest in coaching training for managers then feel disappointed when enthusiasm peters out and busyness gets in the way of managers investing time in developing others.

A one-off training provides a ‘sheep dip’ approach to changing leadership behaviours so what can you do as a manager to support your people to coach others? Here are 4 keys to ensure your training investment pays off and that coaching becomes part of the ‘way we do things around here’.

1. Recognise and reward managers who demonstrate good coaching practice

Find ways to make coaching count and recognise those who take the time to coach others. Build coaching competencies in to job descriptions, leadership competencies and performance management systems. Make sure your documentation states that it is an important role of the leader to develop their people through investing time in coaching and find ways to help managers keep coaching in front of mind.

2. Hold managers accountable for coaching

One way you can help managers keep coaching in front of mind is to talk about it with them in your regular coaching catch ups.  Make sure each time you catch up you save some time to ask, ‘How is your coaching going?’.  You can then engage in coaching the coach.

Good questions to ask managers a week or two after their initial coach training are: 

  • How did you find the coaching training? What were your key learnings?

  • What are your plans for using coaching in your team going forward? 

  • What are the challenges going to be? How can I help you? 

Each time you catch up you might ask:

So what coaching have you done? How has it been going? What have you been finding easy/difficult? What effects are you noticing? Is there anything you would like help with?

It is important that these conversations happen without breaching coachee confidentiality and you may have to make this clear to managers before they talk about their coaching experience.

3. Ensure senior leaders provide strong, positive role models

Senior leaders can choose to be coached by a professional coach from outside of the organisation or by a peer. A positive example from the top is critical. Unless people see that those at the top are investing in their own development and taking the time to coach others, their own motivation will be affected. Managers won’t be able to prioritise coaching and be good coaches if they aren’t receiving this themselves.

4. Remove barriers to coaching within the organisation

Through these regular conversations about coaching, you should be able to identify the barriers to coaching within the organisation. These may be functional e.g. the design of forms or templates; or process-driven such as cost coding on time sheets not including a code for coaching. Impossible workloads or KPIs that value results more highly than relationships will dictate how people choose to spend their time. Checking that managers who coach aren’t disadvantaged in any way and removing any negative disincentives will be necessary for people to prioritise coaching when organising their time. This applies to both coaches and coachees.

It’s a journey

So, thinking systemically about your coaching strategy and not leaving implementation to chance will make sure that your organisation starts to reap the benefits of coaching and continues to take important steps on the journey to building a coaching culture. Like every good journey, this one needs a clear destination, good leadership and travellers who are willing to find ways around the inevitable barriers that will arise. It helps the travellers if they have the right resources and good support along the way.  Make sure that from time to time, they stop to catch their breath, see how far they have come so they feel like they are making progress. This is an important journey and not one that people can do alone.


Aly McNicoll

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