6 Free Tools and Coaching Tips for Managers

Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United football club from 1986 to 2013 and is the most successful football coach of all time. In his book, Leading, he describes how he told his players why we have two ears, two eyes and one mouth. “It’s so you can listen and watch twice as much as you talk. Best of all, listening costs you nothing.” What coaching tips for managers can we learn from Sir Ferguson’s wise words? Let’s explore the role of coaching at work and how managers can better coach their team.

While managers have long been taught to be decisive and able to give instructions, organisations and their leaders have realized the need for better listening and coaching skills. When management used to be top-down, roles have been reversed in many companies. We have seen a shift from industrial-era organisations to post-modern tech companies adopting Holacracy, Teal and other self-organised management approaches. (Check out this HBR article for a view of pros, cons and common misconceptions around self-organisation.)

Whether your organization is a flat and agile start-up or an old school corporation, managers can definitely benefit from better listening and coaching skills. Hilkka Alatalo- Korpi, former VP at Finnish multinational Valmet and a professional Coach, says “We all know that a coaching approach in leadership makes the impossible possible and creates growth and learning in an efficient way. Managers and leaders really benefit from developing of coaching approach. Sometimes finding a new question for opening the dialogue and working together with challenges can create something new.”

Let’s take a look at a couple of coaching tips recommended by experts, followed by tangible tools to empower peer-coaching.


1. Care Personally and Challenge Directly

In her book Radical Candor, former VP of Operations at Google Kim Scott writes about the importance of Caring Personally and Challenging Directly. Scott argues that in order to be candid and direct with people, it is important to also bring your humanity to work. “This can be as simple as showing enough vulnerability to admit when you’re having a bad day, and creating a safe place for others to do the same.” Challenging directly does not mean that whatever you think is the absolute truth, it just means that you share your opinions directly.

2. Listen with Empathy

Understanding coaching tools and processes is important, but some of the “softer skills” are often the ones that are actually harder to master. Michael Ventura, founder and CEO of Sub Rosa, looks at empathy in a systemic perspective. In his book Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership, he talks about the basic human need to be understood and how understanding yourself is as important.

3. Encourage Peer Coaching

Coaching doesn’t need to be the job of managers and leaders. By encouraging peer coaching, everyone can support each other. As a plus, it’s effective, saves costs and can empower everyone in the company to improve culture and results. Polly Parker & co have a hands-on guide about how to make this happen in their book Peer Coaching at Work: Principles and Practices.


At World of Insights, our whole company is driven by the idea that concrete learning tools and job aids will help take learning into action. Here are a few resources to get started with coaching at work.

1. Unstuck

We are a big fan of Unstuck. Having used it several times over the past couple of years, I can say from a personal experience that this is great. Check out the digital coaching app on http://qa.unstuck.com/

2. Online Coaching Templates

These guys have a whole range of printable templates that can be used in face-to-face interventions with employees and clients (if you are a consultant who coaches others). One example is a tool on getting to understand your goals more deeply by asking Why: https://www.thecoachingtoolscompany.com/products/understanding-the-why-of-your-goals/

3. Coaching Canvas

Illustration: Coaching coaching canvas tool

This free tool is our very own making and we use it together with our GROW Coaching Game (€28 excl VAT), but you can use it very well without the cards for free. The Canvas is based on the popular GROW model, and helps you to individually, in pairs or in small groups coach each other and articulate (or doodle) your Goal, Reality, Options and Way forward. You can download the free tool here.

Applying coaching (or any other approach) successfully usually requires a combination of understanding both the principles, process and some actual tools. While mastery comes with experience, it will only come by embarking on the journey. Have a good one! ?

++ BONUS: Grow: Coaching Game for “Managers as Coach” program

Our Grow: Coaching Game based on the reknown Grow model encourages peer coaching and helps managers to practice a coaching approach without the need to be a certified coach. Interested? Check it out here!

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