How I learned from failure to become successful as a coaching manager?

by Ebru Sznapkova

My first coach training was back in 2007. I still remember my excitement at learning a new tool that can help my team to perform better. It was only a 3 day course and was designed around coaching performance. Before that training, we often talked about coaching at management meetings but honestly no one was properly trained at the leadership level on professional coaching skills.

So I decided to practice this amazing tool. It was always in my DNA to work with teams for success. I was very eager to create winning teams. Since we all have been measured by numbers, I had to prove that my new training should support the overall performance.

To add to my excitement, we were also given as an additional KPI from management, to coach our people a certain number of hours per month. I informed my team about this amazing tool that will help us all to perform better. Amazing isn’t it! 

I expected them to get excited at least as much as I was and support me in the process. Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened. It simply didn’t work as I’d hoped.


First of all, the only coaching tools we had been given were coaching questions and goal setting. That’s it.

So while I was trying to practice my newly adapted coaching skills, I made a lot of mistakes;

I was so eager to ask questions that I was only listening to ask more questions.

I was the manager of the team. We had a great bonding and rapport which I thought had been established earlier. I quickly learned that this was not enough to coach your team.

After a while they began telling me that they did not enjoy the coaching sessions. They felt like they were being pushed into a corner by the questions. I really appreciated this level of honesty, so I stopped until my next coaching skills training. That was another 3-day course and there were additional coaching tools in the package, but this time I was more cautious.

Imagine you run weekly forecast meetings with each team member and you deep dive into each deal in the pipeline, questioning why, when, how and how much. These are the calls where we sweat a lot, no matter what level you have in the organisation.

Over the years, I learnt how to embed my coaching conversations into pipeline reviews or even coffee breaks. There was no need to schedule additional coaching sessions by my request but my team began doing this themselves as they needed it.

 I purposely changed my language and we created a strong base of trust and growth space. The end performance came the culture turned into a real winning one.

Years later, I got my accredited professional coaching certificate program and I noticed that developing coaching skills requires a real commitment and desire to practice, practice, practice. The more you coach, the more you develop that muscle. After 5 years from that training, I repeated the ACCT training again but with a different perspective. I am committed to continuing growth and development. So what did I learn as a manager by failing with my coaching practice as a newbie in those days;

–  Coaching your direct reports is possible.

–  Coaching can be initiated even through a short conversation.

–  Coaching has so many different forms and shapes.

–  Coaching can not be forced or process cannot be manipulated by the manager.

–  There are so many different coaching tools available.

– Coaching has transactional and transformational journey

– Inspiring the self-trust is the most important aspect of coaching.

–  It is all about the person you coach and nothing to do with you as a manager.

 Looking back over these 14 years of experience gained in this area, I now have fully understood the true perspective of what coaching really is. Today coaching is nothing more than a leadership language for me, lead with or without title.

To your success.

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