Can a line manager manage his or her people effectively and also be a good coach at the same time? In theory this sounds fairly straightforward. If the line manager has the necessary coaching skills and tools, then there is no reason why they cannot coach their direct reports effectively.
So why is do many organisations struggle to implement a ‘coaching culture’? Why are there so many examples of this sort of coaching initiative by line managers failing and so few examples of it being successful?
In reality, coaching can be a very difficult role to perform alongside the traditional line manager’s role of ensuring tasks are completed in an effective and efficient manner.
A large part of this difficulty is captured in the term that is often used – “non-directive coaching”. This is typically the approach that an independent, external coach might take to their coaching. However, many managers see “non-directive coaching” in direct opposition to their line management role of giving direction to their employees. In many circumstances line manager cannot leave it up to their employees to decide and do what they think is best. The manager has a vested interest in the outcome and achievement of performance objectives. In addition, the manager may also have to ensure that a task is completed in a certain way, for example, by ensuring employees conform to company standards and procedures. Therefore it is quite understandable that line managers feel the responsibility to set the direction, control the work, measure progress and output, assess performance and to reward their employees accordingly, which they see is incongruent with taking a non-directive coaching approach.
However, part of the manager’s role is to develop their staff too, and developing capability is usually most effective if approached in a non directive supporting way. By asking powerful questions a manager can help their team members come to their own solutions and conclusions.
Balancing task management with development coaching is key to the success of a modern manager. Ironically, taking a non directive coaching approach with employees often produces better results in the long run as it enables them to take responsibility for their own performance and contribution.