Good managers have well-developed people skills. Not necessarily. However, great managers definitely have well-developed people skills. Not a fact, just a personal opinion based on a bit of experience.
If you manage a project, you’re most likely managing a team as well. That means, your job requires you to deal with people on a daily basis, understand how they work, and motivate them to grow in order to be as efficient and effective as possible. That’s management 101 in a nutshell. Yet, in order to do your job as a manager well, you need to invest in yourself first and foremost. With time, this becomes easier. You learn to recognize sooner rather than later what you’re missing as a professional and you’re more likely to find ways to improve the skills you need. Nevertheless, sometimes it takes trying something new to realize what you need to work on. That was my case when I started my coaching training.
Coaching has always been interesting to me, but I never actually understood what it was all about. So, I decided to find out. At the time when I applied for coaching training, I thought it was something like mentoring. Boy, was I wrong?! Soon enough I learned that coaching is all about partnership, being present, knowing how to listen well and ask the right questions at the right time, or just going with the flow. Of course, this is a bit simplified but the point is, coaching is nothing like mentoring or managing for that matter. However, developing coaching skills can be invaluable to your growth as a manager. Keep on reading to find out why you, as a manager, should consider signing up for coaching training at some point in your career.
Learn How to Set Clear Goals
Before you say “I already know this. I do it all the time at work”, let me just tell you that I thought the same thing until I got into coaching (and I’ve been a manager for over 8 years). That’s when I really understood what setting clear and measurable goals means. As a coach, you constantly set goals with your clients. Well, they set goals for themselves, you just help them along the way. But in order to help someone set a clear goal, you need to know how to do it first.
During the coaching training, you learn to distinguish between a theme and a goal. You learn to ask “How will you know you’ve reached that goal?”, “Where are you now regarding the goal you’ve set?”, “Who else will notice that you’ve reached your goal?”, “Why is this goal important to you?”, etc. In other words, the more detailed you get, the clearer the goal is. And when you train to be a coach, you learn how to be detailed enough to help your client set a clear goal. You may even realize, just like I did, that setting clear goals is difficult for people and that it takes a while to define a clear goal. But it’s doable, it just takes time and practice.
Now, as you probably know, managers are required to set goals all the time. They do it for the project, their own growth and that of a team. Therefore, it is crucial to know how to set goals the right way. If you still think you’ve got this, congrats!! Just keep up the good work. If not, you may want to consider your options in becoming a better goal setter. Coaching is one way, quite comprehensive, too, but not the only way. So, check your options and get going.
Become a Better Listener by Being Present
This is probably my favorite skill of all. As a coach, you do a lot of listening. The difference is, you learn how to listen to actually hear people, not to respond. In fact, as a coach, you don’t have to respond. But you do have to hear your client and make sure you actually understand what s/he meant by saying what s/he did. That’s where being present kicks in.
We think we know how to listen well. What we do in fact is listen to cues we can respond to. As a coach, you learn not to have a response or question ready up front. You learn to just be present, to actually hear the other person and understand what they wanted to say. Then, you can allow yourself time to process, respond and/or ask a question. It is such a powerful skill and so useful for managers. Imagine if you actually allowed yourself time to think a bit more about that project, how to solve a conflict after hearing out both parties or how to help that team member actually show off that amazing skill s/he’s got. You’d be more effective as a project manager and more understanding as a people manager. How awesome is that?!!
Learn to Go with the Flow
One of the first things I learned during my coaching training is that you don’t need an agenda as a coach. Now, I know this is not what managers do. As a manager, you’re kind of expected to have an agenda, even if you’re doing one-on-ones with your team, which is actually all about them and it is they who should be having an agenda.
So, why is going with the flow beneficial for managers? First of all, it teaches you not to stress out if you don’t know what to say and/or ask. It teaches you that it’s OK to take your time, process, think and then respond. Second of all, it allows for serendipity, those random moments when great things happen all of a sudden. It allows for unplanned thinking and innovation.
Managers are expected to drive the process forward and it can be so stressful to be expected to know it all at all times. More often than not, we as managers, end up stressing ourselves so much that it becomes difficult to remember why we enjoyed management to start with.
Going with the flow brings back the why. It reminds you that it’s OK to not know. It reminds you that managers are humans, too.
Become More Curious
As a coach, it is not up to you to provide solutions to your clients’ problems, but to help them discover their own solutions at their own pace. Now, you may say “That’s great, but the reality is that I don’t always have time to work with people at their own pace”, which I totally understand and know is true from experience. However, my point here is not to wait on everyone, but given that you have to come up with a solution, why not invite your team to do it together? How? By asking more open-ended questions and allowing them to share their input as well. In case you’re not sure what those are, open-ended questions require an answer that is not just a “yes” or “no”.
When you ask a “yes/no” question, you’re directing a person’s attention to just one option (usually, your solution to the problem). When you ask an open-ended question, you enable endless possibilities (your team’s contribution and even your own other ideas). So, next time you need to solve a problem, start by asking “how”, “what”, “when” or “why”. You can do it with the team, or just yourself, depending on the situation, but try to keep your options open rather than one-directional.
What is more, open-ended questions spark curiosity because they require a bit more thinking or coming up with more than one idea. Also, you learn to be more interested in a problem, solution or even a person, depending on what you’re working on at any given time.
Being curious is so important for a manager. The more curious you are, the more you’ll understand your job. More importantly, the more curious you are, the more you’ll understand the people you work with and that is greatly appreciated, trust me. If your team feels taken care of and cared about, they will be more motivated to do their job well and even go above and beyond when needed.
So, there you have it. There are a couple more benefits from developing coaching skills, but I find the ones listed above as the most important ones when it comes to managers. After going through my coaching training, I really felt encouraged as a manager and found myself even more confident to lead people and help them grow and develop. I hope you feel the same if you decide to take coaching training of some sort.
In the meantime, keep learning and growing.