Supervising With Coaching Skills

Supervisors have authority over other people. They monitor and direct. Coaches have no authority and function only in non-directive ways. Great supervisors integrate coaching skills into their role. I’ll show you how.

The role of supervisor is broad. You must simultaneously achieve results and develop the people with whom you work. The more your employees develop, the more results they can achieve. And the easier it is to do your job.

Supervisors must integrate coaching skills into their leadership style if they are to empower and develop employees. This doesn’t mean the supervisor suddenly becomes a non-directive coach. No, the supervisor uses coaching skills while maintaining their authority.

At times, supervisors must be directive. Balancing these dynamics can be challenging. Extremes either way are not going to help you in the long-term. 

The Directive Supervisor

A supervisor who is too directive, micromanages. I remember a boss of mine who informed me, “I don’t pay you to think, just do what I what I tell you to do.” How many of us have treated our employees like this, bossing them around rather than empowering them.

Employees, more than anything else, want to have choices in their work, to be in on decisions, and feel like they are contributing and growing. 

Being directive is always an option but it comes with downsides. A better approach is to integrate coaching skills into your supervision.

Supervising with Coaching Skills

Your employees are more capable than you might imagine. WWII General George Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

Begin by making sure employees understand the needed outcomes, budget, decision making boundaries, and timing. Then, coach employees to accomplish their tasks.

Here are some ideas for supervising with coaching skills with your employees.

  • Ask for her ideas first, before adding yours.
  • Ask if she needs help thinking through the work, rather than assuming she does and giving advice.
  • Use self-evaluation questions first, then add your feedback if necessary.
  • Encourage her to form her own action steps, rather than you assigning them.
  • Follow-up with, “What progress have you made?”

It’s possible to go too far using coaching skills, abdicating your authority and responsibility. Even the most empowering supervisor has to step in at times. When you do, be clear and specific.

Stepping in with authority:

  • “You have pursued this approach for two weeks now with little results. I’m concerned that it will not be done by the deadline next week. How do you intend to handle this?”
  • “I appreciate your initiative. Your recent decision, however, goes beyond the scope of the project.”
  • “Your outburst at the meeting was inappropriate and disruptive. I do not want that to happen again.”

With any of these scenarios, a coaching approach could be used to continue the conversation to bring needed changes.

The empowering supervisor uses his or her authority when appropriate and regularly develops capacity and skills of employees through coaching style interactions. In the end, you will see greater results both in terms of organizational goals and employee capacity.

Question: How do you use coaching skills as a supervisor? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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