Coaching’s Fine – but I don’t have the time…

By Karen Amos

I was asked in a webinar this week what I would say to the viewpoint that managers are too busy to coach.  This is something I hear often – and as someone with years of management experience, I completely get it.  You want to develop your team. You can see there are issues and want to find solutions, but the issues are pressing, there are a hundred other items on your to-do list and everyone is demanding your attention.  And that’s on a good week!

It’s hard to find a sustainable way out of this.  I recall when I was most under pressure, the first thing to slip would be staff one-to-ones, with the inevitable conflicts and crises because I’d taken my eye off the ball from what really made the difference – the day to day support and performance of the team.

Stephen Covey succinctly captured the importance of ongoing team support and development in his Time Management Matrix. (1)


Quadrant 2 is where the real performance happens.  The times you and your team have been in a ‘flow state’, or ‘in the zone’, where everyone is fully engaged, energised, focused and committed to the task in hand, that’s Quadrant 2.

Unfortunately, these periods rarely last in practice and we find quadrant 1 and 3 activities impinging and taking over, leading to more firefighting and round it all goes again.

Rather than leading us to Quadrant 2, the current circumstances with the pandemic have dumped us right in the centre of Quadrant 1, whether we like it or not – with a huge heap of Quadrant 3’s calls, meetings and emails for good measure.  And with this comes overwhelm.

‘I don’t have time to coach…’

This is where I would suggest you don’t have time to NOT coach your team.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been there with the 12 hour days and 6/7 day weeks and know how hard it is to see daylight.

By taking a coaching approach with your team – asking incisive questions, understanding what the problem is and giving back personal and collective responsibility – you free yourself up and stop trying to be a one person solution to everything.

Coaching is an investment…

See time spent coaching as an investment.  A small investment of time and effort for exponential gain. The investment that will move you out of your current situation.  The one where your team don’t look to you for every answer and you can finally begin to concentrate on the things that really count.

One-to-one coaching, particularly from an external coach brings amazing results to the workplace, but it does come at a cost.  If this is outside your budget there are other options.  You can introduce Team Coaching, where with facilitation, the team coach themselves to find solutions to issues.

Additionally, you can introduce ‘Coaching Conversations’ as part of your organisational culture. Culture being ‘the way we do things around here’.  This means any conversation in the workplace can be a coaching opportunity, whether that’s an informal catch up over zoom, whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, or in a one-to-one meeting.  All of these can be based on the coaching principles of ‘ask not tell’.  A powerful way to generate positive action and buy-in from your team.

So before you tell yourself you don’t have time – why not have a coaching conversation with yourself and ask what you’ll gain from a relatively small investment of your time to introduce coaching to your team.

  1. Covey S.R., (2020). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Simon & Schuster. UK

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.