Career coaching benefits people unsatisfied with their work, performance, or career trajectory. Sometimes, these people are already at the top of their industry — or close to it.
If you’re a career coach whose services include offering guidance to managers, it’s essential to understand what it takes to be an effective manager so you can impart accurate and valuable advice. The best practices in management are universal — they can be adapted to support a new manager, a business owner, and everyone in between.
In this guide, we’ll share advice on coaching managers, no matter their experience, so your clients feel they’re on a path towards success.
How to improve as a manager
Before managers can implement strategies to become better in their roles, they must self-reflect. The first part of the coaching journey for managers is identifying strengths and weaknesses — and it’s our job to help them through this process.
Encourage your clients to use the following strategies to determine where they’re at in their careers and how they’d like to improve:
- Hold regular meetings with the people on their team, their superiors, and ask for feedback.
- Identify skills gaps. Is there software they struggle with? Are they disorganized? Do they worry they’re a poor listener?
- Connect them with a company or industry mentor who can provide insight into their current performance.
- Map out where and how they’d like to see their career progress. Do they desire a promotion? Are they hoping to succeed on a particular project? Has their interest been piqued by an industry award?
Once you and your client understand where they succeed, where they fall short, and where they hope to end up, you can collaborate to create positive change.
Some basic upskilling will help any manager — but the specific traits you’ll need to focus on hinge on their career goals.
7 management best practices
To coach managers, career coaches must be up-to-date on how successful managers perform their jobs. Not only does this knowledge help us in our own business, but it also empowers us to share these practices with our clients.
What business management practices should you be aware of as a career coach? Here are seven management best practices:
Managers must constantly ensure the people they direct understand why their work is meaningful. This entails making sure employees understand short and long-term goals, milestones, and how company values are at play in their work. Aligning with team members ensures expectations are clear and goals are shared across departments.
This management technique is difficult for leaders who like to maintain control over every detail of a project, even if they don’t actually have time to perform all the work themselves.
Delegating means trusting team members can perform the work to an acceptable standard. Teams notice when a manager trusts them and respects their work, which makes employees feel valued. Plus, projects move more efficiently when work is spread evenly across the team.
3. Learn to communicate
Managers have to be maestros of communication. They must practice active listening and be able to give advice and feedback (even the negative kind) in a way that encourages employees to improve. They must think critically about employees’ concerns, comments, and input and foster open communication.
Managers shouldn’t be “faceless.” They should interact with their employees, understand who they are and what makes them tick, and socialize professionally. They must also understand the group dynamics of their teams to assess strengths and weaknesses. This helps managers predict conflict or understand how to pair team members to excel on projects.
5. Giving recognition
Employees starting today will often become managers. And what will encourage them to get there is meaningful feedback that helps them grow. Recognizing employees for their achievements and reaching specific benchmarks is essential to making them feel appreciated and needed.
Managers need to be a force of calm when things are off-balance on a project. Plans change, and managers must be ready to think quickly and adapt. Then, they must be able to translate shifts in the strategy into reasonable actionable items for their team and communicate the reason for the changes.
Learning is one of the most essential best practices at work, no matter what one does. No one advances in their career without learning. Managers must constantly recognize opportunities for improvement — both for themselves and their employees. When they come to us for help, we can encourage them to bolster their work by taking professional development courses, practicing new skills, and learning from their peers.
Crucial management skills
Coaches can also learn more about how managers direct their careers toward success by understanding the key skills managers should possess. These include:
- Resilience. Getting to the management level in one’s career is no easy feat. Managers must dedicate themselves to self-improvement and the company’s vision.
- Active listening. The only way managers can truly digest feedback is to listen carefully when their superiors and team members speak, learning where there are flaws in processes and leadership techniques.
- Public speaking. Managers running large teams must present plans in a way that everyone, from entry-level employees to high-level stakeholders, can understand. This involves creating and giving successful presentations (and making them look easy).
- Leadership. Employees should look up to, not fear, their managers. These high-ranking professionals must be approachable and give off an air of confidence, not condescension. They should also avoid micromanaging to prove their faith in the team.
- Crisis management. When there’s a problem, good managers react and chart a course forward. They should be able to think quickly and calmly and make data-driven decisions.
- Empathy. Everyone has different management styles, but all of them should make room for compassion. Empathetic managers are more likely to understand employees’ experiences and help improve processes and company culture. This ensures that everyone is comfortable and empowered and has the tools to do their work well.
- Project management. Managers should know how to direct projects, ensuring that all team members are clear on their role, the business objectives a project aims to reach, and the metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) the team will use to track success.
Understanding your client’s needs
Good coaching is adaptive — it provides different pathways, metrics, and solutions for every client. Whether you’re working with managers or people just starting out in their careers, you’re an effective coach when you tailor the program not just to a client’s general needs but to their more specific and personal ones.
Practice provides resources for understanding client needs better. Consider asking prospective clients to fill out an intake form to tell you more about why they’re seeking coaching services (and why yours, in particular). Ask new clients to answer a pre-coaching questionnaire, allowing them to open up and tell you about themselves.
Ultimately, the best coaches are good listeners. Listen well in every session and you’ll always feel prepared to steer your clients in the right direction.