The three Rs of coaching and their impact on line managers

3rd June by Karen Smart

Reading time 4 minutes

Share this article:

Twitter LinkedIn
Content image

The role of line managers and team leaders is still slowly moving away from bureaucratic monitoring and processes towards embracing the nurturing and development of their people. One transformative approach in achieving this evolution is the integration of coaching skills into their leadership toolkit.

Training in coaching not only refines management capabilities but profoundly impacts managerial effectiveness through the processes of repeating, reasoning and reflecting. Coach training for managers has a high impact because it creates behaviours which enhance managers’ communication capability, which in turn strengthens trust between managers and their people.

The power of repetition, reasoning and reflection

Coaching skills training revolves in part around these three pillars. The repetition of coaching techniques ingrains essential practices into managers’ routines, ensuring consistency and reliability in their approach. This is the old adage of ”Practice makes perfect.” It takes work for managers to integrate coaching skills into everyday work. Whilst the skills are relatively easy to assimilate, it is often challenging for managers to relinquish control and move away from being the expert, the knowledgeable one who provides expert input.

Coaching questions encourage managers to elicit answers and solutions from their people as opposed to being experts. Generally, we listen for our own understanding, but this reasoning refers to managers seeking solutions to complex situations with nuanced understanding from the people who report to them. Reflection, which is a core element in coaching, encourages managers to critically assess their actions and outcomes, fostering continuous improvement.

Often, it is the reflection element which is missing in the busyness of working life and therefore we do not take sufficient time to review and make sense of what happened in the past. This can lead to sub-optimal ways of working which are repeated over long periods of time rather than actively being changed.

In Albert Camus’s “Myth of Sisyphus”, Sisyphus is condemned to continuously push a large boulder up a mountain only to let it fall back down again, each time he neared the summit. Using these 3 Rs of repeating, reasoning and reflecting can help break this cycle. While Sisyphus’ task was futile, for managers, this cycle is one of perpetual growth. Each attempt, each reflection, brings them closer to mastering the art of people management.

Kolb’s Reflective Model in managerial training

Kolb’s experiential learning cycle is a valuable framework for understanding how managers benefit from coaching skills training. The cycle comprises four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. This model resonates deeply with the training process.

  1. 1. Concrete experience: managers engage in hands-on coaching sessions or conversations directly applying coaching techniques.
  1. 2. Reflective observation: post-session or conversation they reflect on their own experiences, identifying what worked well and what did not.
  1. 3. Abstract conceptualisation: they theorise about the principles behind their experiences, developing a deeper understanding of coaching dynamics.
  1. 4. Active experimentation: they apply their new insights in all future interactions or conversations, perpetuating the cycle of learning.

This cyclical process ensures that managers are not merely passive recipients of knowledge but active participants in their own ongoing development. The reflective aspect of Kolb’s model is especially vital, as it encourages those in managerial positions to think critically about their behaviours and the outcomes they produce.

Better outcomes through enhanced people management

When managers and team leaders are equipped with coaching skills, the benefits extend far beyond individual development. Here are some key outcomes:

  1. 1. Improved communication: coach training enhances managers’ listening and questioning skills, leading to more meaningful and effective communication with their team members.
  1. 2. Empowerment of team members: by adopting a coaching approach, managers empower their employees to take ownership of their development and problem-solving, fostering a more autonomous and motivated workforce.
  1. 3. Enhanced problem-solving: the reasoning skills developed through coaching enable managers to approach problems with a more analytical and solution-focused mindset.
  1. 4. Stronger relationships: a coaching style of management or leadership nurtures trust and rapport, creating a more cohesive and collaborative team environment.

Moreover, managers trained and proficient in coaching skills are better equipped to handle the complexities and pressures of modern work. They can become more adept at balancing empathy with accountability, ensuring that their teams are both supported and challenged to reach their full potential.

The integration of coaching skills into the training of line managers and team leaders represents a significant shift forward towards more effective and humane people management. Through the processes of repeating, reasoning and reflecting, managers become more skilled at navigating the intricacies of human dynamics and organisational challenges. The Myth of Sisyphus, while a tale of endless toil, contrasts starkly with the constructive and progressive journey of managers who, through reflective practices scale the higher peaks of managerial excellence.

Kolb’s reflective model further underlines the importance of an experiential learning approach, ensuring that each cycle of experience and reflection enhances the manager’s ability to lead with insight and empathy. The benefits of coaching skills training are manifold, resulting in better outcomes not just for the managers themselves, but for their teams and organisations as a whole. By embracing coaching principles, managers are better positioned to drive positive change and cultivate a more dynamic, resilient, happier and engaged workforce.