Row of toy rubber ducks following their mother duck against blue background. Similar to employees following their managers.
Image: © goir/

Upskilling for managers: How to develop a coaching mindset

13 Sep 2021

Managers should know that having a coaching mindset is not the same as being an employee’s friend, mentor or counsellor.

There are many resources out there for upskilling, but how many are directed at managers? These professionals typically require plenty of technical skills for their role but they also need to learn about managing people, which is a huge part of the job.

People management is not an innate skill for many bosses, and there is no shame in admitting it. It is worth reading up on how to develop a coaching mindset because none of us are born senseis.

As a manager, you are in charge of a team of people who look to you for guidance every day in the workplace.

It sounds daunting, but there are skills you can develop to help you help your team. Soft skills like empathy, communication, active listening and having the right mindset can mean the world of difference when faced with a problem that seems insurmountable. This is just as true for managers as it is for every other worker.

There are some additional points managers may want to consider that apply specifically to them and their goals. So, let’s break these down.

Finding the potential in your employees

The last thing any manager wants to do is treat their employees like kids. A good boss should endeavour to strike a balance between approachability and respectability, which is a very difficult thing to do.

The key to maintaining that delicate balance is to remember your own goals for your employees. Do you want them to be confident enough to make professional decisions independently?

A significant part of your job will be communicating with your staff, but it’s important to make sure you listen to them and take on board their concerns. Staff and managers have things to learn from each other, and as a manager you should always encourage workers to come to you with their questions and concerns.

You may not be their counsellor, their friend, their trainer – but you do have to be there for your employees at work. They rely on you to get the best out of them.

Actively listening

This may seem like a fairly obvious tip, but active listening can be harder than it sounds – pardon the pun. This communication technique involves listening to what your employees are telling you, rephrasing it and repeating it back to them.

It makes people feel heard, valued and understood. It’s a particularly valuable skill for diffusing any workplace confrontations or grievances you may have to deal with. The trick is to stay calm and in control.

Having a growth mindset

Again, this is easier said than done. But having a growth mindset is all about the willingness to put in the work to think long and hard about what you want from your team. The more experienced the team, the less guidance they need.

Newer hires and inexperienced teams need a lot of attention, even after the onboarding stage, as they get to grips with the company’s culture and ways of working. As a boss, it is your responsibility to make sure your whole team runs smoothly and knows what targets it has to achieve.

As you can imagine, this may require high levels of multitasking. But the effort is worth it once you see your team smash its targets under your tutelage.

Asking questions

Good coaches and bosses keep people on their toes, and this involves asking critical questions. A well-placed question can hold somebody to account if they are underperforming or evading responsibility at work.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your employees calmly and directly. They will definitely respect you more if you do.

Embracing the power of staying silent

This last point ties into the first one about finding the potential in your employees. If you ask them a question and they appear to have difficulty answering it, sometimes the right thing to do is let them ruminate.

Even if you know the answer, you want your team members to be able to figure things out for themselves. Don’t spoon-feed people at work; you want to empower them to find the answer by themselves, and that can often require holding your tongue.

Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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