The manager as coach: working across generations

By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th April 2020

I’ve been enjoying being a student on the Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester. The course has brought me new insights as well as very helpful reminders of the key principles and techniques that go into making us more effective coaches.

One such set of principles or techniques is encapsulated in Eric Berne’s (Berne 2016) Transactional Analysis.  It’s something I have been using for a while with people that I coach, and also in RiverRhee‘s training course on Assertiveness.  And it’s something that has huge relevance for managers working across generations, as well as for interactions between generations at home.


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We are at our best when we are making a conscious choice about our behaviour

Have you ever noticed, when you have been away from home and the other people who live there for a while – perhaps on holiday or on a work trip – that you come back a bit different, slightly changed?  Perhaps more confident, more assertive?

It’s certainly something I used to notice as a student when I returned home on holiday from university.  For a short while, I saw the dynamics that went on between the various members of my family more objectively, more clearly.  And I initiated and responded to conversations in a more open, more direct (in a respectful way), more resourceful way.  I felt like a better version of myself.  Then, after a while, I slipped back into my old patterns of behaviour that I had known as a child – this seemed easier if not nearly as positive. I was often glad to get back to university where I could  return to what felt like my better ‘adult’ self.

Our behaviour can influence the behaviour of others

As a parent, it can be difficult to recognise, respond to, and encourage that more ‘adult’ behaviour in our young people at home.  To listen, really listen to them.  To treat their ideas, opinions and feelings in the same way that we would treat those of say our adult friends, or our colleagues at work. It can also be difficult to retain that more ‘adult’ behaviour when we interact with our parents.

In the language of Transactional Analysis, if we act as an over-controlling ‘parent’ towards someone, someone that we manage, or a young adult at home, their automatic response can be to behave as a rebellious ‘child’.  If we act as a helpless ‘child’ towards our manager, or towards our parent (even if we are an adult) then we can bring out their overbearing ‘parent’ behaviour towards us.

[N.B. ‘Parent’ and ‘child’ behaviours do have their positive as well as their negative sides.  So ‘parent’ behaviour can be constructive or nurturing, as opposed to controlling or overbearing.  ‘Child’ behaviour can be creative or responsive, as opposed to disruptive or helpless.  I am putting a greater emphasis on the negative interpretations for the purpose of this blog.]

Is this something that you have noticed?

Imagine the added complexity of working across generations at work:

  • Do you project your ‘parent’ behaviour onto younger people who report to you?  What effect does that have?
  • Do you project your ‘child’ behaviour onto older people who manage you? And what effect does that have?

choosing a more open and collaborative behaviour

Interacting in ‘adult’ to ‘adult’ mode can promote openness and a more collaborative behaviour between all those involved.  But doing so takes awareness and effort.

As a manager, parent and coach, you can help yourself and those that you interact with to have a more open and collaborative interaction through:

  • Self-awareness during, and reflection after, your interactions with others
  • Maintaining an attitude of respect and ‘unconditional positive regard’ (Rogers 2012) towards those that you interact with
  • Listening, really listening to others’ ideas, opinions and feelings
  • Taking the time to express your own ideas, opinions and feelings to others in a way that shows that you value their attention and response
  • Keeping the lines of communication open between you: being prepared to ask “How could we work (or interact) better with each other?”


What have you noticed about the dynamics between generations at work or at home?

How much of this might be down to your own behaviour?

What could you change?



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

Berne, E. (2016) Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy: A Systematic Individual and Social Psychology. Reprint.  Pickle Partners Publishing

Rogers, C. (2012) On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Reprint. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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.

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