Training Managers to Be Coaches

A successful coach helps employees to find solutions themselves, which can improve their performance and free managers to focus more on their own jobs.

A department manager of a large global organization begins a typical day with a task list. By the time she walks into the office, she is inundated with questions, problems, and issues from her employees. She spends much of her day successfully resolving her team’s issues but makes little headway on her own task list by the end of the day. How would you break this cycle?

Global Dynamics Senior Associate and global leadership and executive coaching expert Maya Hu-Chan says the answer is for the busy manager to learn how to become a coach to her employees. Hu-Chan cautions that it is common for the initial reaction to this advice to be concern that this would be a counter-productive measure for improving time management. The myth that coaching would be highly time consuming, explains Hu-Chan, stems from a common misconception that coaching is the same as mentoring.

A coach builds capability, while a mentor provides answers. Whereas a mentor is typically the subject matter expert and has the responsibility of providing instructions and answers, a coach helps employees to find solutions themselves.

It is the coach’s role to ask: What would success look like in this situation? What actions would you consider? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this solution? Are there other solutions to consider?

“If managers coach effectively, it will improve their team members’ performance and free managers to focus more on their own jobs,” Hu-Chan says. “The methodology is simple, yet effective in breaking the cycle of dependence.”


  • When the manager first turns the questions back to employees, they initially may freeze up. So leaders should prepare their team members by telling them up front: “I believe you have what it takes to solve this problem.” Set up a time to meet and tell them that every time they bring a problem in the future, you want them to also bring a couple of solutions.
  • Be consistent and persistent about not giving the answer in order to change the cycle of dependence. Change from telling to asking.
  • Implement the 80/20 rule. Flip from a typical dynamic of the manager doing most of the talking to the employee speaking for about 80 percent of the time and the manager only 20 percent.
  • When employees mention different solutions, ask questions and guide them by coming up with an action plan that is realistic. Do not immediately shoot ideas down. Be able to listen and ask followup questions. Managers need to be open to the possibility that employees’ solutions may be better than their own.


  • Begin by asking the manager questions for self reflection. For example, ask people to reflect on how their best coach helped them. The response often will be about building their confidence or helping them find what they love to do. Next, ask, “What would your own people say was the most important thing you have done for them?”
  • Provide the opportunity to practice coaching at least two to three times in the session. Provide real-time feedback, so managers understand if they are talking too much or are too quick to provide the answers themselves.
  • Have participant roles in the simulated practice coaching to provide an opportunity for the managers to experience being coachees.
  • Ask participants to engage in reflection within the program. Encourage them to consider when they can utilize coaching more broadly (perhaps with peers, family members, on their own, etc.), so they can build up their coaching “muscles.”
  • Help new coaches think of ways they can build a support system. Have each participant identify a partner in the class, so they’ll hold each other accountable. Ask them to make a point to check in with each other on their development beyond the training program.

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Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at ngoodman@globaldynamics. com. For more information, visit

Neal Goodman, Ph.D.
Dr. Neal Goodman is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer, and coach on DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion), global leadership, global mindset, and cultural intelligence. Organizations based on four continents seek his guidance to build and sustain their global and multicultural success. He is CEO of the Neal Goodman Group and can be reached at: Dr. Goodman is the founder and former CEO of Global Dynamics Inc.