The manager as coach: helping others find their goal

By Elisabeth Goodman, revised 11th June 2020

(Originally posted as “Developing your coaching skills as a manager” 18th January 2017)

Helping people perform at their best – where to start?

We teach coaching skills in  RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management  course and also in Coaching Skills for Managers.

We also apply these skills ourselves as coaches.

The result is a double benefit: it enhance managers’ performance and it gives them a tool to develop their direct reports’ performance.

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Click here for information on RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management course.

[You can read more about some of these coaching skills in my blog on Appreciative Inquiry which also references the GROW model of coaching.]

Michael Bungay Stanier’s  (2010) “Do more great work” is proving to be a valuable starting point for helping people who are making decisions about their direction in life: what they want to achieve.

Helping people to articulate what they want to achieve

This the Define step in Appreciative Inquiry, or the Goal in GROW.

What you’re looking for, in terms of a coaching conversation, is what will help the individual define, in positive terms: what they want to move towards, rather than away from.

Adapted from Michael Bungay Stanier, 2010

Ask them to think about what’s currently happening: find the great work and what makes this so

Use this 3-part circle to help individuals differentiate between the aspects of their work that is OK, that they don’t particularly enjoy, and that is ‘great’.

(This equates to the Reality step in GROW).

What you’re after are the instances of great things that happen for them in their work.

  • What are they doing when they are feeling wonderful?
  • What do they really enjoy?
  • Feel fulfilled about?
  • What are they doing when they are completely “in the zone” or absorbed in their work?

Then ask them to differentiate what they are doing in terms of:

  • How it relates to interaction with others – is there any interaction; does it involve training or mentoring; working things out together; anything else?
  • The kind of thinking they are doing – does it involve researching; creating new theoretical models; evaluating alternatives?
  • What they are practically doing – is it hands on work; making or testing things?

Helping them to drill down in this way will help them to identify the kind of work they might want to focus on going forward:

  • What they value most about their work
  • What motivates them
  • What their particular strengths are that they would like to use more fully

What to do once someone has discovered what makes their work great

Stanier (2010) gives us a 4-box grid which compares and contrasts the things that an individual cares and does not care about, with those that their organisation does or does not care about.

I have super-imposed the grid with the 5-Ds’ from the MindGym’s (2006) “Give me time”.

So this becomes a useful tool for discussing what options the individual has for doing their ‘great’ work within or outside of the organisation.

(‘They’ is the organisation. ‘I’ is the individual.)

Michael Bungay Stanier’s (2010) ‘caring’ 4-box matrix overlayed with the 5Ds (in blue text) from the MindGym

At this point, the person you are coaching may be ready to consider what they will do…

The ideal is of course is to achieve the dream scenario: a perfect match between what the individual cares about, and what the organisation expects.

(The dream scenario fits nicely with the Dream step in Appreciative Inquiry.)

The reality is that we tend to have a mix in our work – and the individual may need to decide what they want to do about that.

(These are the Design / Deliver steps in Appreciative Inquiry or the Will step in the GROW model.)

If they arrive at the conclusion that there is not a good fit between what they want to do, and what the organisation expects from them – then that is a useful realisation in terms of their onward career planning.


Having this kind of coaching discussion with your direct report might assume a high level of trust between you.  It could equally be a way of building trust: you are demonstrating a real interest in what they value in their work.

Your ability to respond to the outcome in a positive and supportive way will also help to reinforce that trust.

Using this approach will enable an open and honest conversation about your expectations and theirs, and their options within or outside your organisation as a result.

As always, I’d be interested in hearing what readers think of these tools and approaches.



Stanier, M.B. (2010) Do More Great Work. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.

The Mind Gym (2006) Give me Time. Time Warner Books.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

2 thoughts on “The manager as coach: helping others find their goal”

  1. Pingback: Still thriving in times of uncertainty. RiverRhee Newsletter, January – February 2017 | Newsletter

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