The manager as coach: keeping ourselves honest

By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th February 2021

This time last year I wrote about the importance of keeping our personal values in mind in the workplace (Goodman, 2020a). I particularly liked Kouchaki and Smith’s (2020) reference to “eulogy values” – those that we would want others to think of us by. I also liked these suggestions for how we might ‘test’ our behaviour towards others:

  • Thinking about how we would feel if our behaviour was publicised (if we did not adhere to our values)
  • Considering ourselves as role models to others

Keeping ourselves honest as a manager or coach, for me, goes deeper still. The person we are managing or coaching is essentially in our care. The International Coaching Federation (ICF, n.d.) has a code of ethics that we adhere to as accredited coaches, but what about managers? And what else is involved?

Retaining our humility

Being someone’s manager or coach does not in any way make us ‘better’ than the other person. Linda Hill’s (2007) article “Becoming the boss” remains for me the hallmark article to help us recognise that being a manager does not automatically give us authority over someone else.

As Hill points out, becoming a manager is not something that we can do instantaneously. We do not come ready equipped with all of the skills that we need. We learn through sometimes painful mistakes. Hill’s article is a wonderful description of all that we need to remember about being a manager, and a lot of it is about respecting and earning the respect of the people in our care. Recognising that we have much to learn from them too in order to fulfil our potential as a manager.

One of my earlier blogs suggested ways in which a manager could elicit feedback from their direct reports (Goodman, 2020b). Just asking “What could I do to support you better and to help you be even more effective in your work? ” and taking note of what we hear could help to keep us honest.

The same is true for those of us who are coaches. We can learn a lot from the people that we coach, and I do. Each individual encounter teaches me something new about myself as a coach, and as a person, and I am always on the look out for feedback that can help me with this.

Experiencing vulnerability and growth

The chances are that, as a manager, you are in turn managed by someone else. If you have the sort of relationship with your manager that enables you to learn from them, then you may well have experienced moments of feeling vulnerable when doing so.

How do you deal with feeling vulnerable?

How does your manager deal with your vulnerability?

Is the overall outcome a positive experience?

How could you use what you learn from these experiences of your own vulnerability, and of the quality of support that you receive to influence and improve the way you support the learning of those who report to you?

As coaches, we are also expected to keep ourselves honest through being regularly coached by one or more others, and by having supervision for our coaching.

A recent experience of being coached reminded me of the vulnerability that coachees can experience in sharing what is preventing them or otherwise holding them back from achieving their goals; the barriers can be intellectual (cognitive) or emotional. We might not feel proud of our thoughts or feelings but they are what they are. It’s what we choose to do about them that matters. If we have a coach, or a manager, that we trust, then we can work through these discomforts. I chose to trust my coach in my recent experience of vulnerability, and the learning and new resources that I gained as a result were all the more special for it.

The mantra that I learned through my training with Barefoot Coaching (2020) was that supervision was “formative, normative, restorative and generative”. Having regular supervision does indeed support my learning, my acceptance of what I am thinking and feeling, my well-being, and my ability to develop my practice as a coach.

The equivalent to this supervision for a manager might be to use their own manager, or someone else as their own coach and/or mentor.


How do you keep yourself honest as a manager who coaches?

Do you ask for feedback from the people in your team?

Do you reflect on your own experiences as someone who is managed?

Do you have your own coach and/or mentor – and how does that work for you?



Barefoot Coaching (2020). Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching. Course manual.

Goodman, E. (2020a). Keeping our personal values in mind in the workplace. Retrieved from

Goodman, E. (2020b). Giving feedback from a mindset of positive intent. Retrieved from

Hill, L. (2007). Becoming the boss. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

International Coaching Federation (n.d.). Ethics. Retrieved from

Kouchaki, M. & Smith, I.H. (2020) Building an ethical career. Harvard Business Review, January-February, 15 – 139

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 coaching, courses and workshops, 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 be true to themselves and exercise choice in the workplace by enhancing their leadership / management, interpersonal and communication skills, and their ability to deal with uncertainty and change.

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

Elisabeth recently completed her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester. She is also the founder of The Coaches’ Forum – an international community of interest for coaches to explore ideas and insights as an extension to their personal and professional development.

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