Five skills to support managers as coaches

Now is the era of the manager as coach – here, Jamie Butler explains more.

Much has been observed and written about the changing face of leadership and management during the Coronavirus pandemic. In these unprecedented times, the best leaders and managers have used coaching skills to connect, communicate and care for their teams. 

Many organisations had been encouraging a coaching management style for some time but now, more than ever, it offers a positive, effective and welcome alternative to the traditional command and control approach. More ‘ask’, less ‘tell’. More ‘pull’, less ‘push’.

So how can leaders and managers build on these skills to create supportive yet challenging workplaces post-Covid? How do they open up ways of thinking and being; listen to understand and develop trust, rapport and empathy; and empower team members to be engaged and take responsibility for their actions and goals?

If successful, we create a leadership model which is more evenly distributed and collaborative, where responsibility is shared amongst a team to understand what’s required to survive and thrive. And we appreciate the importance of wellbeing to manage human anxieties and adapt to change.

This all requires skilful listening and observing, to what is both said and unsaid, to truly demonstrate understanding, compassion and kindness

Here are examples of five coaching skills which can support your development as manager as coach.


Despite its challenges, Covid has been a great leveller and recognised that we’re all in this together (to varying degrees). Team members have seen into the home lives of their managers – and vice versa – which has dismantled hierarchy and made work feel more human.

Empathy has been elevated as the go-to emotional intelligence skill to help create and maintain trust and rapport. Before launching into task-focused work talk we’ve asked: “How are you?” As a result, conversations have become less transactional and more relational.


Regular, clear and consistent communication – in its variety of forms – has been key. Using Zoom and other online video platforms has maintained our ability to observe important non-verbal cues and signals. Open, honest and calm conversations have reduced the risk of panic and catastrophe.

More frequent feedback discussions have provided opportunities to both praise and challenge where needed – but also give permission to fail and learn. Ongoing questions, concerns and emotions are welcomed not resisted.


Brave leaders and managers have accepted that they don’t know all the answers as we navigate our response to Covid. They’ve shown vulnerability and asked for support, ideas and creativity from their teams. Delegation has increased and empowered people to find their own solutions.


Managers have been inclusive, often seeking valuable input from more junior or quieter team members. Individuals have stepped up to facilitate the necessary change which has taken place – and to which we’re still adapting. And they’ve grown, developed and learnt new skills to respond to the many opportunities and challenges.


The ability to have conversations which drive and support change – both individual and organisational – have created moments to pause, reflect and encourage team members to think for themselves. The core coaching skills of active listening (without judgment), powerful questioning and goal-setting have promoted development and increased accountability.

When people feel genuinely listened to and have some agency as part of the change process, they are motivated, engaged and committed to take action. Focusing and building on strengths in times of change has also helped to define objectives which are positive, realistic and achievable.

Good leaders then take time to celebrate change and what has been accomplished.


Finally, wellbeing has advanced to the top of the corporate agenda, rather than being the nice to have. Where leaders and managers genuinely prioritise and role-model wellbeing – for both themselves and team members – the positive effects on engagement and culture have been huge.

Managers have prompted employees to take responsibility and set strategies which work best for them. They’ve reflected themselves on what’s had the greatest positive impact on their wellbeing over recent months and encouraged team members to do the same – and commit to taking this forward as a non-negotiable (whether continuing to exercise regularly, practising mindfulness or meditation, scheduling short breaks between Zoom calls, retaining more frequent catch-ups or switching-off from work at a set time).

It’s also for leaders and managers to support and coach their teams to stay committed to the wellbeing practices they adopt. Again this all requires skilful listening and observing, to what is both said and unsaid, to truly demonstrate understanding, compassion and kindness.

Coaching others also requires self-awareness and reflection: what more can you do to connect, communicate, collaborate, facilitate change and care for your teams? Now is the time to become the leader you want to be and build the coaching skills to support your own – and your team’s – success.


About the author

Jamie Butler is an executive coach and facilitator. Find out more at


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