Coaching the team members is one of the basic responsibilities of a people manager. It is difficult to find an individual development plan that doesn't include 'coaching by the manager' as a key development action. So, what is paradoxical about 'manager-as-coach'?
A paradox occurs when there are multiple perspectives about something, each of them are true, but they seem to contradict one another. Let's look at some of those perspectives on 'manager as coach'
- Every manager should be a coach and every conversation should be a coaching conversation
- Managers are supposed to achieve predefined results through their team members. Since coaching in its true sense is supposed to be non-directive, there is a fundamental contradiction in managers trying to act as coaches.
- Because they work with the team members very closely, managers are in the best position to coach their team members.
- Coaching is essentially future-focused, having too much knowledge about the coachee's past behavior can make it difficult to start the coaching with a 'clean slate'
- Coaching by the manager can significantly improve the performance of the team member, that too very quickly
- Coaching is a time-consuming activity. Coaching is often 'hard work' for both the manager and the employee. Sometimes, there are faster or more effective ways to improve employee performance (like giving direct advice, training, shadowing a high-performer etc.)
- Coaching is a natural part of the manager's role
- Coaching requires skills that many of the managers haven't developed (though the managers might not be aware of this/might consider themselves to be excellent coaches)
- Coaching can be a great way to increase employee connect and trust
- For coaching to work, there should be a very high level of trust and psychological safety. This could be an unrealistic expectation in many contexts.