Turn Good Managers Into Great Coaches

In traditional organizations, managers ensure compliance and track employee performance through assessments and ratings. We know those approaches can kill commitment and drop productivity.


Today’s best managers have a better way to help their teams succeed. Rather than managing performance, they develop it through open communication, trust, and coaching.

Adopting this new approach starts with removing the emphasis on annual reviews. To become coaches, managers should provide employees regular, personalized feedback that encourages continual learning and growth.

So how does coaching work? Here’s the basic philosophy: Mutual respect creates genuine connections that reveal a path to shared success. To understand what that really means, let’s pull it apart.

Mutual respect

A manager is an employee’s boss. A coach is an employee’s guide. Instead of giving orders and focusing on past mistakes, coaches focus on strengths and encourage growth. They build a relationship as equal partners, so the employee feels safe to take risks and find their own answers.

Genuine connection

Effective coaches see their employees as whole people and get to know them personally. With a candid, human connection, the employee is safe to share their unique motivations, skills, and interests. Only then can the manager see where those align with organizational needs.

Shared success

This phrase might ring a bell — it’s part of our definition of engagement, too. This kind of win-win thinking is achievable only when there’s complete clarity on what the organization and the employee need. Then, the coach and employee can work together to develop an aligned growth plan.

Through ongoing coaching, your employees can identify and recognize:

  • Individual interests
  • Skills they bring to the table
  • Organizational needs

For open communication to truly flourish, the old ways of performance reviews, emails, and focus groups have got to go. To create the right conditions for high employee engagement, give managers and employees an easy way to communicate openly, effectively, and continually.

Laura Brinton is content marking manager at Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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