From the Blog

Mastering essential coaching skills for managers

Looking to increase your team’s capability and improve performance? Employee coaching is consistently shown to be a powerful driver for increasing performance and engagement by:

  • driving productivity improvements
  • facilitating learning that can be practised on the job
  • fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Unlocking these benefits relies on your coaching skills as a manager. Our guide to the essential coaching skills for managers provides you with coaching strategies you can start today. Before we get stuck into the skills managers need, let’s have a quick look at the key benefits of employee coaching.

The impact of coaching on employee performance and engagement

Coaching has a far-reaching impact on employee performance and engagement. Because it’s done on the job – or in the flow of work – its impacts can be seen on the job! Coaching shifts capability and drives high performance – where it matters.

Deloitte US conducted research1 into high-impact performance management and found:

  • high-impact performance management is driven through effective feedback and in-the-flow development
  • leaders in high-performing organisations take on a human-centred role
  • high-performing organisations use technology to embed development activities in the flow of work.

The high-performing organisations surveyed were found to be:

  • 1.4 times more likely to meet financial targets
  • 4.9 times more likely to manage change
  • 2.4 times more likely to innovate
  • 2.7 times more likely to engage the workforce
  • 3.7 times more likely to address workforce development needs.

Deloitte’s research found that development in the flow of work – what we’d call on-the-job employee coaching – provides the mindset shift needed to improve performance and engagement.

We’ve seen the impacts that this type of coaching has on the clients we work with. It helps to successfully manage change programs, lift revenue and reduce attrition.

 So, let’s dig into the effective coaching skills every manager needs.

Effective coaching skills every manager needs

So, what are the key coaching skills for managers? Well, they are much more than technical know-how or industry knowledge. They encompass interpersonal skills like:

  • business acumen
  • active listening
  • effective communication
  • emotional intelligence.

Effective coaching also requires a commitment to:

Let’s unpack these coaching skills.

Business acumen

Often, coaching can be seen as a tick-the-box exercise, a process you go through because it ‘feels’ like the right thing to do.

Ultimately coaching must serve a bigger purpose, which is to drive a better business result through building the capability of your team.

Without an intrinsic link to outcomes, coaching can be perceived as a waste of time. Does the following statement sound familiar? ‘I spend so much time coaching, but I don’t see any improvement in our results.’ Yes? This is because what is being coached has nothing to do with driving results.

A great coach is able to review KPIs or outputs that need improving, map a series of coachable behaviours to that KPI, determine which behaviours are not being executed effectively, and then coach their team members on those gaps.

Active listening

Active listening is one of the critical coaching skills managers should develop. It’s more than just hearing what’s being said; it’s about understanding and conveying that understanding back to the speaker. It helps to ensure that team members feel that they are truly being listened to.

Active listening is conveyed through what is being said in response to a speaker, body language, energy and emotions. To build this coaching skill try the following:

  • talk less in meetings and coaching conversations
  • ask questions to confirm your understanding of what is being said
  • consider your posture and body language – are you engaged and paying attention?

Try encouraging team members to voice their thoughts and to be the last to give your opinion. This can be done in team situations and one-to-one coaching scenarios.

Cultivating this leads to a deeper understanding, creating an environment where team members feel heard and valued. This will help you in individual conversations too!

Effective communication

To be a great coach you need to be able to communicate in a genuine and transparent way. To develop this coaching skill ensure that you:

  • give everyone an opportunity to talk or communicate their feedback and needs
  • ensure psychological safety – do people in your team feel comfortable communicating their needs and issues?
  • consider the body language of the people you are speaking to – if people aren’t engaged, consider why not and if there’s anything you can do to change your message
  • consider the message you want to convey and select the right method for communicating it
  • check that people have understood what you have conveyed
  • practise listening.

Effective communication helps you to deliver the messages you need to and helps your team communicate with you and each other.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to how you respond emotionally to different situations. For leaders, this means fostering self-awareness in order to empathise with team members and take an interest in them and their feelings. It also helps leaders to be able to regulate their own emotions.

Managers with high emotional intelligence can reduce stress and prevent outside factors from impacting their team negatively.

Build emotional intelligence by:

  • identifying your own emotions in different situations and taking a moment to stop and think before automatically responding to things
  • acknowledging and respecting the unique experiences of team members
  • being curious about others and their feelings.

When coaching team members consider how you can foster:

  • positivity
  • persistence
  • sincerity
  • curiosity.

As a coach you’ll need to provide ongoing support to help keep your team motivated, so remember to check in on your own energy levels and find ways to lift your energy levels when they’re flagging.

Goal setting

Setting clear and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals is a vital skill for managers who coach team members. Being able to identify, articulate and socialise goals is one of the most effective coaching skills. It ensures that you and the people you lead are clear about where the focus is, what will be tracked, and when, and ensures accountability.

Coaching goals should be developed with the employee – and this is where those soft skills we explored above come in handy! Get your employees involved and focus on the behaviours that are going to drive the outputs.

Coaching cadence

Encouraging frequent coaching conversations is crucial to achieving your team goals! Consistency and persistence are key to coaching success.

Managers should lock in regular times to check in with their team members and block out time to prepare for team coaching activities. Adopting a regular operating rhythm sets expectations and develops a coaching mindset.

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Coaching techniques that drive team success

The following techniques and coaching strategies will help to get the most out of your team’s coaching activities.

1.    Use tools to improve coaching conversations

Coaching conversations are the heart of employee coaching. Conversations are where learning, development and change happen. Using tools ensures that:

  • coaching conversations happen consistently (helping to build a cadence)
  • you’re getting the most out of coaching conversations
  • the focus remains on identified goals
  • there’s visibility over coaching programs.

Using coaching software makes it easier to embed coaching and see where coaching is shifting performance and capability. Why leave your coaching and development to chance?

2.   Prepare

It can be hard to find the time to plan for coaching sessions. But not planning means you risk your team members feeling like you don’t value them enough.

Taking time out to prepare for coaching means you’ll focus on the right things in the coaching conversation. Consider chunking all of your preparation together in one block of time; this can ultimately help reduce preparation time overall.

3.    Ask questions

Asking great questions gives you and your employees the chance to have meaningful conversations. Allowing team members to talk more will engage them in the coaching process and their role. And with a bit of preparation, you’ll be setting your employees up for success.

Asking open-ended questions is one of the coaching skills you can start practising with your team today!

4.    Prioritise behaviours, not performance outputs

Ensure you are clear on the outputs you need to improve but focus on discussing with employees the type of behaviour that they want to see improved. This will motivate your employees to address the actual behaviour that’s causing the performance issue – so the input changes the output. It’s a win-win for the employee and the business.

Woman with headphones standing overlooking two colleagues, smiling and demonstrating coaching techniques
Set yourself up for coaching success by focusing on one outcome at a time

5.    Focus on one thing at a time

In a coaching environment, people can only focus on one or two things at a time. Focusing on more than one to two behavioural goals can result in team members feeling confused about what they should work on, leading to little to no change as a result of your coaching.

6.   Take notes

Picture this: it’s a busy week, you’re jumping in and out of meetings, attending training sessions, having casual chats across teams and you come across some critical information that you’re sure you’ll remember because it’s so important. But a day, week or month later when you mentally return to it, you realise…it’s gone. You think, ‘Why didn’t I write it down?’

Taking notes is key in coaching activities – not only helping to keep a record of vital information that you can return to later. It’s something that both the team leader and the person being coached should be doing.

When your employee sees you taking notes, it communicates that you value them, you take their professional development seriously and that they should too.

When the person being coached takes notes it helps them remember what they learned and encourages them to take control of their development.

Benefits of taking notes include:

  • Improved retention of information – the physical process of taking notes helps the human brain embed the information.
  • Improved accountability and ownership – people don’t argue with their own data. If your employee is taking notes about their development, they’ll feel more accountable than if you just tell them. Ownership increases the likelihood that your team member will implement what they have learned and do something different.

Tip: why not use coaching software like YakTrak to take better notes?

Building a coaching approach among team leaders

Fostering a coaching approach among team leaders is part of a wider organisational strategy.

If your organisation hasn’t embedded coaching, you’ll need to gain leadership support and buy-in acknowledging the benefits and return on investment of coaching. Consider implementing a smaller team or department coaching program as a pilot to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Coaching is a long-term project and organisations need to:

  • invest in their team leaders
  • adopt a growth mindset
  • build a coaching culture.

Invest in team leaders

Ensure that team leaders have the skills and resources needed to effectively coach their teams. Leaders may need formal training such as a coaching course and should be given time to build their coaching skills. Of course, coaching the coach can provide team leaders with the necessary skills they can take away to use with their teams.

Give team leaders the time to coach effectively – this means allowing time to prepare for and conduct coaching conversations.

Using tools like YakTrak can make it easy to coach daily or weekly, embedding coaching in the day-to-day operations.

Adopt a growth mindset

A growth mindset is a belief that abilities can be developed. In the context of coaching, it opens possibilities for ongoing growth and helps to reframe challenges as opportunities for learning and development.

By keeping the focus on long-term improvement and breaking team goals into smaller goals shaped for each individual, coaches can instil a growth mindset.

Build a coaching culture

A coaching culture sees leaders and team members working together to create a positive and motivating environment that fosters development and growth. In a coaching culture:

  • people are supported to achieve goals
  • people are recognised for achieving goals
  • team leaders make time for coaching conversations
  • ongoing learning and development is an organisational priority.

You can build this by having regular conversations and consultation with team members to promote trust, helping team members understand what needs to be done to improve performance, providing support to achieve goals and recognising when goals have been achieved.

Tools like YakTrak can help to track progress so you can celebrate coaching success and see where you’ve made real improvements. This helps to keep the focus on ongoing improvement.

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How YakTrak can help

Coaching isn’t a nice-to-have – it’s a requirement for businesses wanting sustainable high performance.

YakTrak helps to build capability and deliver higher performance by embedding coaching into the day-to-day of your workforce. It wrangles all the information you need into one spot providing valuable insights to power the development of your people.


  • includes reporting and review mechanisms that will help you understand the impact your coaching activity is having
  • involves employees in the coaching process
  • provides a central location for documenting employee behaviour and coaching activity.

Ready to unlock the potential of coaching with YakTrak? Get in touch with us today to find out more.

Frequently asked questions

What are the key coaching skills every manager should develop?

To become a successful manager, it’s crucial to develop coaching skills such as listening skills, clear communication and emotional intelligence. These critical skills will enhance your leadership abilities and help you effectively support and develop your team. Good coaching skills are based on a commitment to coaching and being invested in your team’s development.

How can coaching impact employee performance and engagement?

Coaching can have a significant impact on employee performance and engagement by improving technical skills and capability, motivating team members and improving workplace culture, leading to improved performance and increased sales. If you don’t think you’re ready to coach, actively seek out opportunities to develop coaching skills like the ones we included above. You can build coaching skills by coaching as well as undertaking training and mentoring. 

What is a coaching culture?

A coaching culture in an organisation means that coaching is integrated into daily interactions and management strategies to create an environment of continuous learning and development. It fosters a culture of growth and improvement.

What are some strategies to foster a coaching approach among leaders?

To foster a coaching approach among team leaders, it’s important for leadership to set expectations and provide team leaders with the support they need. This can mean making time for daily coaching and to ensure that organisational goals are clear. Give managers the time and resources they need to develop their coaching skills.