How to Take a “Coach Approach” to Management

June 14, 2022

If you’ve ever played sports then you know that coaches (and their leadership styles) can make or break a team.

A coach understands that their job is twofold:

  1. To support individual team members and help them reach their full potential
  2. To create a cohesive team that performs to its highest capacity

Coaches can’t play on the field, which means they need to lead their teams to success from the sidelines. 

Similarly, a manager can’t do everything for their employees and needs to find ways to encourage them to achieve their full potential.

This is why leaders who adopt a “coach approach” are more likely to promote strong, cohesive and successful teams! In fact, Gallup estimates the financial cost of poor management and reduced productivity from not engaged or actively disengaged employees is between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year.

The Benefits of a “Coach Approach” to Management

Identifying as a coach means shifting your focus from managing budgets, resources, and timelines and instead putting your efforts into supporting the people on your team.

Instead of fixing a problem on your own, you show your team how to solve it and empower them to overcome obstacles on their own.

Instead of focusing on current mistakes, focus on the next “play” and how your team can make sure it’s successful.

The difference between a boss and a coach is subtle, but important.

A boss isn’t focused on getting the most out of their team, whereas a coach will try to develop the skills of individual team members and nurture them to reach their full potential. 

Bosses push their teams towards a goal, while coaches empower their teams to push themselves to be successful.

How to Transition From a Boss to a Coach

Play an Active Role in Goal-Setting

Managers who work with their teams to set reasonable and achievable goals can increase employee engagement by almost 4x

However, only 28% of employees receive feedback a few times a year and just 19% receive feedback once a year or less.

Give Daily Feedback

Coaches stay engaged with their teams on an ongoing basis, so making time to connect with individual team members once a day can increase their engagement with their work by 3x.

However — the feedback you give needs to be meaningful and based on your understanding of that person’s strengths. 

If you manage a large team or are part of a remote workforce where daily feedback is not possible, try checking in with employees at least once a week through group check-ins or meetings with smaller sub-groups.

Focus on Accountability

Many organizations are transitioning away from annual reviews to more frequent, shorter reviews, meaning it’s important to keep everyone accountable.

Ideally, you should be holding progress reviews with your employees at least twice a year and focusing on areas like:

  • The employee’s purpose within the company
  • Goals and outcomes
  • Metrics of success
  • Team contribution levels
  • How to maintain a work-life balance

These meetings should be fair, accurate, and focused on achievements and development.

Examples of “Coaching Conversations” 

Use the examples below to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with your team:

Establishing Roles and Relationships

The first thing a coach needs to do is get to know their team members’ strengths and weaknesses. The goal of this conversation is to understand how an employee’s strengths align with the organization’s overall objectives.

These conversations should take place at least once a year, or whenever their role in the company changes. The outcome is to define what their role looks like and how their work relates to their team’s expectations.

Things to discuss during this meeting include:

  • Goals
  • Metrics
  • Development
  • Wellbeing
  • Purpose


In order to become a coach-style leader you need to get into the habit of checking in with your employees on a regular basis. 

Ongoing daily and weekly conversations can help to prevent employees from feeling ignored or unimportant, so finding time to schedule conversations that focus on that person’s strengths is essential.

Whether it’s through email, phone calls, or chit-chats in the hallway, make time to have at least one 10-15 minute conversation with each team member at least once a week.


The goal of these conversations is to help the employee find direction, support, and advice when exploring developmental or career opportunities. These types of conversations are focused on project assignments and development opportunities within the company.

Some outcomes from action-planning discussions could be:

  • Finding specific activities to help the employee gain or practice a new skill
  • Scheduling skills training and development
  • Identifying mentors to support the employee on their path

Start Adopting a “Coach Approach” Today

Adopting a “coach approach” will help you become a more connected and supportive manager, and will in turn help your employees (and the organization) thrive.
Ready to start the next leg of your leadership journey? Register for our Learn to Lead with a Coach Approach module, an essential course from our 5-part e-learning Leadership program. Learn the skills to help your team thrive!