10 Tips for Coaching Employees: The Leap from Contributor to Manager

By Barbara McAllister, MS, MCC.

I don’t know about you, but I have found that some clients are very challenged transitioning from individual contributor to manager. I understand this, because in my organizational career I took this leap, walked in the shoes of some of my current clients, and had my own set of fears and challenges. There seem to be a number of reasons this leap can feel big and scary, including: lack of understanding what they are getting into; inadequate preparation; and a strong pull to keep doing what they did as an individual contributor because they were good at it!

What are some things we as coaches can do to support our clients who have taken this leap? Who do we need to be to help with a smooth transition?

  1. ‘Normalize’ their fear. “Of course this leap has taken you out of your comfort zone!”
  1. Explore their fear. What is your current relationship with your fear? What are you afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen? In what way is your fear a gift?
  1. Ask the client to remind themselves what motivated them to take on this challenge.
  1. Ask them to think of a time they took on another big challenge. What qualities do they possess that helped them overcome that challenge? What do they already know about themselves that will help them succeed?
  1. Support your client to create their vision of the kind of manager they aspire to be.  What qualities are part of this vision? Do they have role models that help them get clear who they want to be? Where are they today in their journey from individual contributor to manager? What is the gap between where they are today and what they aspire to be?
  1. Notice where your client is spending their time. Identify if time management is an area of focus. Support the client to be conscious of the time they spend doing their own work vs. supporting employees to do their work.
  1. Help your client brainstorm what soft skills they need to cultivate. Examples include the art of delegation; giving and receiving feedback; and active listening. Help them get clear what support they need in terms of resources, training, and mentorship.
  1. Work with your client to put a plan in place to close their gaps and keep them focused on managerial duties. Revisit the plan every coaching session. Encourage your client to take baby steps towards their desired future. If they get stuck, ‘normalize’ that and help them get unstuck.
  1. Say what you see. Be a mirror so your client can get an unbiased view of how they are showing up.
  1. Last but not least. Provide genuine acknowledgement of the qualities you see in them which are helping them move through any fear to a place of confidence.

For more about coaching your employees from individual contributor to manager and developing their leadership skills, schedule a consultation with Barb.