Must-Have Coaching Skills for Managers and Leaders

By  Kelly Miller, BA, CAPP

a great Read

The old way of being a boss is over.

No longer can the leader drop orders from a place of position, unless they are in the military.

Business is not life and death like it is for our beloved service members. More and more businesses are finding that leadership with effective coaching skills is a more desired pathway to progress.

Employees no longer want to work just to keep their job. They want to work to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Great managers know the way to create belonging and influence motivation in their teams. The way is through essential coaching skills.

Read on to know what coaching skills are practiced by competent managers and leaders.

This article contains:


What are Effective Coaching Skills?

Effective coaching skills are developed to help others in achieving personal or professional goals. In a managerial or leadership role, effective coaching skills will support both the individual and the company.

The empirical evidence of the effectiveness of such skills has, in the past, been a hindrance to progress. Luckily, more and more empirical studies have been created to study the benefits of coaching.

Across areas of expertise, coaching skills are created to help others (Beattie et al., 2014). The most widely researched managerial coaching skills are in Hierarchical Coaching. It was determined to be the most effective form of learning and development in organizations according to a 5-year study done in the U.K.

The benefits of coaching are far-reaching. Through coaching, all organizations could enjoy improved performance, team cohesion, increased retention, improved conflict resolution, and increased motivation. For coaching to be effective, the skills are developed and nurtured throughout an organization.

Don’t be a stage loving demagogue if you want to motivate your team. The ability to check your ego at the door before interacting with subordinates is crucial. Effective leaders are confident in their interactions but do not make progress about themselves. Empathy and building rapport are coaching skills that are vital in leadership.

The team is hired because of expertise and ability. Generating movement toward common goals in a business requires the respect that people are there to do their jobs. Respect begets respect. Relationship building is an effective coaching skill and will start with respect and trust.

The proper use of the Socratic Method and open-ended questioning are skills that leaders should always possess. They are effective in allowing a team to utilize their strengths to benefit the organization as a whole. Open-ended questions expand perspective, and more open pre-frontal cortexes are better than one.

Active listening is a critical coaching skill possessed by competent managers and leaders. Being able to fully understand your team’s message and emotional connection behind their message enables a leader to improve communication. This is a powerful skill to connect with other people in every area of life.

With more and more organizations embracing coaching as a way of managing, these skills are being perfected and taught around the world. All of the tools working together can create higher functioning on all levels. Mindful leaders create change, and mindful leaders have effective coaching skills.

Coaching Skills for Managers and Leaders

Here are some ways to take effective coaching skills into the role of manager and leader.

These skills take practice, but the improvement in team cohesion will be evident almost immediately. Everyone has had “that boss” that crushes your spirit. These are employee desired ways to not be that guy.

Stop with the group motivational speeches and replace them with celebrations of valued work and accomplishment. Take the time for each individual to know they are heard and valued in your organization. One to one communication is much more effective in helping your team to stay on track toward common goals. Every employee needs to know they’re useful.

A manager with effective coaching skills does not bark orders. Collaboration will be valued over controlling in a well-coached organization. The more of the team actively engaged in moving that team forward, the better that team will perform.

Healthy stress builds skills and confidence, where excess pressure builds distress. Don’t whip your team. Employees respect a hard-working leader rather than being afraid of a fear-mongering leader. Leading by example, is incredibly important in an organization.

Teams that feel the stress is shared are far more likely to be motivated in helping with forward motion. Delegating responsibility is a great way to introduce a healthier growth mindset in a team.

Don’t punish failure, as it is part of success. Coaching an employee through a mistake is a much better approach. Nobody ever got to be the best at something without doing it wrong along the way. An effective leader helps their team to learn from their errors to avoid them in the future.

Infuse positivity into the working areas of your organization. When employees know their strengths and can consistently build their work from those strengths, a more cohesive workplace may be forged. Creating space for celebrating what is working for an organization is a pathway for continued growth.

When things get “hot,” you get “cool.” When things are “cool,” it’s time to ramp things up. An effective leader manages their reactions to stressful situations well. Self-awareness is a skill that can be cultivated. It is incredibly helpful when leading a group of people.

Active listening is a powerful skill to cultivate as a manager and leader. Some employees may need added support due to personal adversity, as well. Supportive, active listening benefits a team with trust and understanding. Here are a few ways to improve this important coaching skill.

  • Eye contact, full focus on the other person

  • Mirroring body language

  • Posture

  • Talking less, questioning more

  • Listening for understanding

  • Deliberate, mindful speech

  • Positive reinforcement

  • Remembering what was spoken

  • Paraphrasing, clarifying, and reflecting back what was said

  • Providing feedback with permission


Compassion is another coaching skill that is much needed in the workplace. Employees are human beings. A leader who sees them as such, while still expecting the bottom line to be protected, will find a more connected team.


4 Examples of Coaching Skills in Action

An employee has been consistently late and underperforming at the employee’s job. A manager has noticed this reduction in productivity. Rather than creating fear in this situation, a competent manager will dial-up empathy and collaborate with active listening in a critical evaluation conversation. Illuminating this employee on how the use of personal strengths can help the employee overcome whatever obstacle is being faced, will help improve productivity.

When facing a crisis, which is subjectively defined, a skilled manager approaches it with a cool head. Asking ideas from all team members on how to “fix” the situation will generate more ideas than trying to solve it individually. A manager with effective coaching skills can approach any obstacle with a calm, objective focus. A deeper understanding of problems and solution-focused questioning creates pathways to resolutions.

A new employee who is visibly nervous about their new role is linked with another professional by a manager. The two are encouraged to set goals together and to hold each other accountable. This coaching skill would enable a team to collaborate and to create a social connection that will build community within the organization.

There is a conflict between two employees. The effective coaching skills of active, equal listening and emotional intelligence are used to reduce anger, stress, and ineffective communication. Allowing space for each party in the conflict to be heard and to also co-create solutions helps to unify the team.


Improving Your Coaching Skills

Developing your coaching skills will take effort. It is similar to a self-development journey, for any growth requires effort. A coaching course is always a great idea, but you can start improving these skills today, whatever your budget constraints might be.

Start by improving emotional intelligence in the workplace. Higher levels of job satisfaction and performance are linked to higher levels of emotional intelligence. Boosting a leader’s levels will have a spillover effect with all other improvements in coaching skills.

Within your organization, start putting effort into forging partnerships. When leadership begins to monopolize on human capital by intentionally building on existing strengths and collaborative growth, the organization will benefit as a whole (Gilley et al., 2010). Every employee wants to know that their work is valued. Effective coaches give their employees the skills to develop themselves.

Place intention on building individual competencies that arise from collaboration with employees. Effective leaders will lay the foundation for goal achievement with each member of the organization. Creating an environment that nurtures individual growth inspires the entire organization to show up as their best selves.

Practice improvement in effective communication skills in every interaction daily. Modeling these skills, as a manager or leader, will set the expectation for the entire organization. Listening is the most important of all coaching skills. Here are some communication exercises to improve communication skills in the workplace.

Create an environment where motivation is celebrated. Educate yourself on how motivation works. Then be sure to develop ways to apply the science at work. Empowering employees is much more effective than micromanaging them.

Appropriate areas of performance evaluation are an essential part of managerial coaching. What things are measured and how they are rewarded is where coaching effectiveness can be evaluated. Managers can and should be held accountable for their coaching skills through this evaluation process.

Do your best to eliminate fear in the workplace environment. Help employees instead develop purpose in their role within the organization. When a cohesive, vision focused workforce collaborates and utilizes their strengths toward common goals, the achievement is accelerated. With purpose, morale improves, and overall job satisfaction will improve with it.

Every leader should work to improve their coaching skills, and there are leaders in every workplace. Some leaders that don’t get paid (e.g., parents) should work to improve their coaching skills too. Active listening, motivation, communication, building purpose, interpersonal relationships, and accountability are all skills from which improvement will benefit everyone.

Coaching Skills Training Opportunities and Courses

There are many coaching books that can help build coaching skills. Highly recommended is Joe Torre’s Ground Rules For Winners: 12 Keys to Managing Team Players, Tough Bosses, Setbacks, and Success, a book that will benefit every manager or leader, whether you’re a baseball fan or not.

The principles he presents were used with tremendous success in the New York Yankees golden years. Even if you’re a Yankee hater, you can still learn from one of the game’s greatest managers.

Here are some training opportunities and courses for leaders seeking improvement in their skills.

  1. An effective course being presented at Coursera is a specialization offered by UC Davis. The course is called Coaching Skills for Managers. The course offers research behind effective coaching skills and creates a foundation for transforming teams. It is available online, which is very convenient.

  2. The Flourishing Center offers a highly effective coaching skills training course that weaves the science of positive psychology into developing thriving coaches. This particular course is only available to graduates of the Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology course. The science-backed skills learned through CAPP are serving leaders in a wide variety of workspaces across the globe.

  3. This course at Learning Tree International offers coaching skills-building for teams. They collaborate with organizations to enhance team effectiveness and boost productivity. It can be delivered privately at any desired location, or online.

  4. Performance Consultants has had global success building managers with coaching skills that increase productivity. Their workshops have helped many organizations across the globe. They were pioneers in coaching skills for managers.

  5. Cornerstone is another global organization that incubates effective leaders by developing a culture of life-long learning and compassion. Their products and services are highly regarded as organization changing. Their client reviews are outstanding.


Relevant Tools for Developing your Coaching Skills (from our Toolkit)

Our website is overflowing with transformative tools that can be used in developing your coaching skills.

Effective communication skills help leaders in every aspect of their life. As managers it can be difficult, especially when you are forced to deliver the bad news. Here is a very helpful tool for giving negative feedback in a very positive way. It allows for constructive, rather than destructive communication.

This tool helps leaders to motivate others through a self-assessment of needs. This exercise facilitates behavioral change while embracing self-determination theory. People tend to get in their own way with maladaptive behaviors from time to time. This tool serves clients through empathy, relatedness, and autonomy in self-development of personal behavior change.

This self-critic job description tool is helpful in allowing an outside perspective. It helps to distance one from that inner critic that plagues so many in personal performance.

This tool helps to befriend that inner critic.

Building the best possible team can be a tall order to achieve. This tool seeks to grow team optimism and cultivate common goals. It explores commonalities and differences in vision.

Some people have trouble recognizing and celebrating their accomplishments. This tool helps people to recognize progress and to celebrate strengths.

Managers who link employees in goal setting find a great deal of achievement success. This tool sets up space for goal buddies. Social support for goal achievement is very powerful.

There is an abundance of helpful tools in our toolkit for building communication, goals, community, listening, empathy, compassion, and many other skills that serve the best managers and leaders well. A good leader will always be learning how to better serve those around them. This resource is massively helpful for any leader seeking to improve themselves and their organization.

A Take-Home Message

Through changes in personal behaviors, organizations can easily see the importance of coaching within management and leadership. Effective coaching skills bring clarity, improve performance, and even improve safety on the job. By effectively developing managerial coaching skills, teams are rewarded with improved morale, increased job satisfaction, and productivity.

Effective coaching skills serve every level of employment. Increasing empathy and compassion in every job reduces stress and replaces it with human growth potential. Tough situations and difficult conversations become easier to maneuver when coaching skills are well learned and regularly practiced.

Thanks for reading.

References was this article useful to you?

No Yes

About the Author

Kelly Miller is a graduate of the Flourishing Center’s CAPP program and published author of Jane’s Worry Elephant. She is currently the owner of A Brighter Purpose, LLC, a provider in positive psychology coaching services. When she isn’t gleefully helping humans move toward flourishing, she enjoys National Park hikes and spending quality time with her adventurous family.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.