A “coach approach” to management: What today’s organizations need

A “coach approach” to management is becoming popular in many of today’s organizations, even though it has been around for decades. But there is still considerable uncertainty about what a “coach approach” to management means and what benefits this approach offers.

At the core, a “coach approach” is recognized as an important management style . It focuses on developing and maximizing employees’ abilities and talents to achieve the best possible organizational performance. It may be used for individual employees as well as teams. The “coach approach” management style is inquisitive, collaborative and supportive.

Key skills for managers who use a “coach approach” include asking powerful questions, actively listening, effectively guiding conversations, being patient, and providing regular and honest feedback. A “coach approach” means that there is collaboration between the employee and the coach (manager). It means that employees’ ideas are sought and supported. It also means that there are times when the coach (manager) needs to work with the employee/team to discover what went wrong, and what should be done differently the next time.

There may be some drawbacks of a “coach approach”. For example, initially it may take longer to get something done than using a more traditional, directive management style. Sometimes the manager (coach) needs to move forward with his/her own points of view, which may be upsetting and/or confusing for some employees who expected to be consulted/coached. A “coach approach” to management doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and in those cases, it takes time to develop the skills for this new management style.

But the benefits of a “coach approach” outweigh the drawbacks. Many of today’s employees prefer working for a manager who uses this management style. When used, the relationship between the employee/team and the coach (manager) is usually stronger. The organizational culture becomes more collaborative. Typically employees are more productive, engaged and committed to the organization. These benefits translate to positive results for the organization. For example, a study by Bersin & Associates found that organizations with upper and senior managers who effectively and frequently coached employees saw their business results improve by 21 per cent compared to those that didn’t use coaching.

In today’s dynamic environment it is important to recognize that there is no “one size fits all” management style. Effective leaders and managers have a variety of management styles, and use them depending upon the situation at hand.

Do you want to develop skills for a “coach approach” management style? Do you want to introduce a “coach approach” into your organization? What’s holding you back?


© Dr. Karen Somerville, PhD in Management, MBA, Certified Executive Coach, CPA, CGA — with more than 25 years of experience in Senior Management. Karen is the President of Performance Plus Group: www.performanceplusgroup.com . Performance Plus Group offers a workshop called “Introducing a “Coach Approach” In Your Organization” as well as coaching for managers/leaders who want to develop the related “coach approach” skills.


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Duff, A. (2013).”Performance management coaching: Servant leadership and gender implications”, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 34, 3, pp. 204 – 221

Garr, S. (2011). “High-impact performance management: Maximizing performance coaching”, Bersin by Deloitte.

(2014). “Management styles and success: Why coaching is important”, Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 28.2, pp. 23-25.