As we move away from conventional notions of business, and witness the emergence of modern workplaces marked by dynamic and disruptive change, our perception of what makes a great leader has also begun to shift. No longer are the control-and-command practices of a traditional manager seen as useful to either the company or staff. It is rather the manager as coach that has proven to both support performance outcomes and also create safe and enjoyable workplaces for all employees.
So what does it mean to develop your management skills and lead like a coach and what are the benefits?

Manager as Coach provides support and guidance, rather than instruction.

The traditional manager is notorious for taking a top-down approach to leadership, with little wiggle room for employee suggestions or initiative. A coaching leadership style, however, is less about giving orders and more about allowing staff to develop their skills in a psychologically safe work environment.


A Manager as Coach achieves this outcome in three main ways:
  1. Encouraging open and honest communication – by creating safe spaces to voice one’s thoughts and opinions, employees are able to notice areas that aren’t working and suggest areas of improvement.
  2. Discouraging fear of judgment – by allowing staff to make errors and express themselves without a fear of getting punished, it allows mistakes to be perceived as learning opportunities.
  3. Encouraging teamwork and collaboration – removing the traditional hierarchical structure allows cooperation between multiple teams and levels of staff, helping create new ideas and efficiency within the workplace.

Studies show a coaching style of leadership produces high-performing teams and happier staff.

Research suggests that a manager as coach approach sees a positive knock-on effect in both performance and staff engagement. A case in point was found in Betterworks’ 2023 State of Performance Study, demonstrating employees with a manager as coach were 40% more engaged and 20% more likely to stay at their organisations, compared to staff with traditional leaders [1]. Another case study saw tech company Time Etc switch their entire management style and embrace the manager as coach approach. As a result, this organisation recorded a consistent ranking for employee engagement and productivity in the top 1% of companies worldwide, as well as saw a significant drop in employee turnover [2].

Various development models will help you transition your existing managers into a coaching role.

Whilst many methods exist, one of the primary frameworks used to assist managers on their journey towards a  coaching style of leadership is the GROW model. Created by Sir John Whitmore in the 1980s, the GROW model involves four action steps to develop non-directive coaching skills in leaders [3].


These are:


Goal – Establish an objective with your staff – what do you want to achieve right now?
Reality – Ground the goal in the real world – ask what, when, where and who?
Options – Explore the options of how to reach your objective – What are the options and obstacles to getting this goal achieved?
Will – Create an action plan – what will you now do to achieve the goal?


Whilst adopting a coaching style of leadership is a process, evidence suggests it is ultimately beneficial for both staff, team and the workplace as a whole.


For more information on encouraging a coaching leadership style amongst your managers, check out our Leadership Essentials workshop.
[1] Gouldsberry, M. (2023).” Manager as Coach: The Power of Coaching for Business Impact”, Betterworks,

[2] Lashbrooke, B. (2023). “A company replaced all of its managers with coaches. Employees became 20% more productive–and much happier”, Fortune,

[3] Scoular, I. & Scoular, A. (2019). “The Leader as Coach”, Harvard Business Review,

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