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The 6 Greatest Obstacles to Developing Managers as Leader-Coaches

If the power of managers as leader-coaches has become so well documented, why do so many L&D leaders still feel like they’re fighting a constant battle — without the necessary weapons — to move toward this type of development? Here are six common reasons.


1. Lack of people resources

L&D and training always seem to be strapped for people to meet the strategic goals leadership sets. No wonder the first reaction toward committing staff to learning and administering one more manager-related initiative is often a very visceral, “We’d love to, but we just don’t have the people.”

That response toward tackling something like this is heightened by today’s uncertain business environment, seemingly more important immediate needs, and a lack of L&D staff because of furloughs and layoffs.


2. Lack of budget

Finding money for new L&D programs is always a challenge — and another hurdle that’s exacerbated by the current economic crisis. This roadblock to improved leadership development usually occurs when an L&D leader comes up against one of three barriers:

  • They lose the allocated budget.
  • They’re unable to find new budget to make the investment.
  • Another initiative has taken precedence over their 360 strategy.


3. Current professional development already encompasses manager training

Many L&D leaders feel this way. If not you, your managers may certainly feel they have all of their development needs covered. Either way, there’s a belief that adding another layer of review is redundant and just asking for trouble. This is often the case when L&D or training leaders aren’t connected with their assessment and training vendors as partners who can explain the breadth of what their tools can and can’t do. Each type of tool has its unique purpose; just because you’re using some of those tools doesn’t mean your job is done — or is being done as well as it could be.


4. Uncertainty around which leadership skills to focus on developing — and for which managers

Very few companies have the insight, data, or processes to most optimally focus their L&D efforts. Research from Hewitt Associates and the Human Capital Institute found that only 7% of organizations consistently hold managers accountable for developing their direct reports. No wonder most managers lack the basic capability to develop talent effectively: Only 5% of organizations say their managers have the skills to grow people in their jobs or to provide the constructive feedback that supports and encourages employee development consistently across the organization.


5. Manager reluctance to take on the role of coach to their employees

In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character is counseled, “If you build it, he will come.” That isn’t necessarily true for L&D leaders trying to encourage managers to embrace one more development style or initiative. The simple reason is that although leadership-style training for managers might not be a novel concept for L&D leaders, it might be new to many of your managers.

We’d agree with these five reasons from LinkedIn about why managers fear coaching:

  • Lack of support — from the organization, their supervisor, or even their team members
  • Lack of belief or mindset — common internal thinking such as: “I don’t have all the answers,” “It’s gonna take too long,” “I have too many direct reports,” or “I’m not going to see the results in my effort, so why bother”
  • Lack of commitment from their team members — usually the result of weak engagement between managers and their teams, leaving everyone defensive and adding uncertainty and confusion to the mix
  • Lack of skills — being asked to do something without being enabled with the right skills or a path toward developing those skills
  • Lack of structure — lack of a clear and defined process upfront creates a struggle in finding the right time and cadence for managers to work with their people


6. Lack of C-suite buy-in

Research consistently proves that a culture of coaching is necessary if you want your managers to model coaching behavior. Managers already buried with meetings, emails, and more meetings won’t find the time to embrace coaching unless it’s embedded within the company psyche itself.

It is clear that investing in coaching development, despite any difficulties involved, has many advantages. This can improve onboarding, engagement, performance, knowledge transfer and development as well as looking after the wellbeing of teams. Therefore, making coaching a major priority in an organization can produce good results in numerous ways which cannot be overlooked.