Guide: Coach managers to coach


Google Manager Behaviors 1 Is a good coach.

Google's manager research revealed that one of the most important behaviors of the highest scoring managers was that they were effective coaches. This is seen in other professions, as well. For example, in sports, many former athletes can tell stories about how a coach changed their life by identifying strengths, unlocking their potential, and encouraging them to persevere. You can help managers be effective coaches by encouraging them to focus on the individual needs of each team member. It is also important for managers to be able to flex their coaching styles - for example, the needs of individual team members may require them to be a “teaching” coach where the manager passes along an expertise to achieve something concrete, or a “facilitating coach” where the manager asks questions and listens instead of telling or giving answers.

Across the coaching continuum, here are some tips to share with your managers:

  • Have regular 1:1s with your team member and be fully present and focused on the team member
  • Be aware of your own mindset and that of the team member
  • Practice active listening and ask open-ended questions to facilitate the team member’s own insight (questions that start with “what” and “how” encourage expansive thinking)
  • Provide specific and timely feedback
  • Balance positive (motivational) and negative (constructive) feedback and understand the unique strengths and development areas of each team member
Guide: Coach managers to coach

Coach with the GROW model

GROW is a simple framework developed in the United Kingdom and is one of the tools Google uses to teach managers about coaching conversations. This model stresses the importance of adapting and flexing coaching styles based on the team member’s needs and receptiveness. Generally, the GROW model is effective when:

The Team Member (employee)

  • wants to be coached
  • chooses their own challenges or issues to discuss

The Coach (manager)

  • reflects on their own assumptions
  • facilitates a two-way discussion
  • structures the conversation towards some resolution
  • knows when to stop giving advice and lets the team member choose their next steps

    GROW coaching model

build Tool: Hold effective 1:1 meetings

In the Project Oxygen study, the team found that our higher-scoring managers are more likely than lower-scoring managers to have frequent 1:1 (“one-on-one”) meetings with their team members. Meeting frequently and individually with team members can require a large time investment, but can identify issues early and provides a forum for the manager to give feedback and guidance. The team asked our best managers how they hold effective 1:1 meetings. Here’s a collection of some of those tips:

Set up a regular meeting

  • Choose a consistent time, generally lasting 30-60 minutes, every week or two.
  • Have the 1:1 meeting away from a conference room or desk - head outside for a walk.

Determine the agenda of the meeting

  • Set up a shared agenda document to help structure your discussion time. Both the manager and team member should contribute.
  • Here are some agenda items to get you started:
    • Check-in and catch-up questions: “What can I help you with?” and “What have you been up to?”
    • Roadblocks or issues
    • Goal updates
    • Administrative topics (e.g., upcoming vacations, expense reports)
    • Next steps to confirm actions and agreements
    • Career development and coaching

Meet for the 1:1

  • Be on time.
  • Stick to the agenda, whenever possible.
  • Give the meeting your full attention.
  • Ask for feedback: “Is there anything I should be doing for you that I am not doing?” or “Anything I should be doing better or more often?"
  • Review action items and things to discuss in the next 1:1.
  • Ask "What else?" (It's surprising to see what can come up as an afterthought!)

Make it your own: customize the tool below.

1:1 Meeting Agenda Template

Use this template to help prepare for, structure, and record 1:1 meetings.