Why coach middle managers?

Ever since the ‘70s, managers of nimble organisations have felt the need to energize and motivate people. They realize that a motivated workforce punches far above their weight. An entire culture of start-ups is emerging as – at least partially – a result of motivated employees who don’t find their outlet in the traditional work setup. Today, the need to motivate and engage employees has never been higher for most organisations.

To answer the question of whether middle managers need coaching, I need you to consider the following:

  1. Are your people-managers motivated for high performance most of the time?
  2. Are these managers equipped with the relationship and communication skills they need to lead?
  3. Do you measure the EQ of managers, and have the ability to predict their success in a leadership role?

Whether you answered in the affirmative or otherwise, you must set out to improve these areas of corporate behaviour. Let me illustrate with a peculiar instance of this behaviour – annual appraisal cycles. While the entire responsibility to provide feedback and assess subordinates rests with managers, there is very little objectivity built into the system. While we may like to believe otherwise, the fact is that managerial bias creeps in at every single stage of this process. In other words, managers game the system, rather than improving their team to do better for the organisation. 

This is exactly where coaching can help. Coaching brings: 

  • Objectivity:

A third party perspective brings in the objectivity required to look at things differently. In case the relationship between a manager and a subordinate is fraught with emotional baggage, understanding such relationships objectively is difficult. A coach brings in skill and expertise to enable you to remove emotion from the equation. The coach can support you to understand your own objectives and those of the other party thus driving harmony and eventual success. 

  • Bias Recognition:

Whether it is the coachee or their manager, a coach can support you to recognise and acknowledge existing biases. Unconscious biases, by their very nature, exist and are difficult to diagnose. Coaches can help in recognising, acknowledging and supporting you as you take the first steps to resolve them. 

  • Holistic Development:

Holistic development of employees is another area organisations sometimes struggle with. A reality of modern corporate life, this may mean an organisation may miss out on identifying and developing talent. In the long run, this may mean an increase in cost due to lateral hiring or a team which is not fully utilised. It is immensely useful to recognise these future leaders early and invest in them.


  • Productivity: 

The most tangible effect of coaching on middle managers is a boost in productivity, which has a knock-on effect on the rank and file. External coaching is a positive signal for the employee, and one which has the potential to resolve long standing development issues. It is well researched and documented that employee productivity goes up when they feel valued enough to be developed by their organisation. 

To sum it up, organisations which look at investing in their employees and are looking at long term benefits must consider coaching to meet their managers’ development needs. L&D teams can recognise potential coachees by looking at fast trackers, high potential employee base, and employees moving to leadership roles, among others. These employees can benefit immensely from coaching, and can lead to great returns for the organisation. The idea is to leverage coaching as a means to move employees from ‘good’ to ‘great’.

We rarely feel the absence of something of which we haven’t seen the benefits. Every organisation which has experimented with good coaching has seen far reaching effects on productivity, especially in continental Europe and the US. The best leaders in the industry vouch for the phenomena that is coaching, especially if the grounds for success is based on employee and inter-departmental support.

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