Rule 8: Managers make the difference - involve them everywhere.

Written by Alistair Gordon, 04 Jun 2020

While it is important to engage with the leaders’ leaders in any leadership program, there is perhaps no more important level to do this at effectively than with front-line leaders. In many organisations the leaders of front-line leaders have as much need for development of the participants on the program.

Small group coaching allows you to engage managers of participants in a far richer and more relevant way than typical face-to-face large workshops.

Because the program is episodic, your engagement with the managers can be too. Because the program design allows for ‘one topic at a time’, you can make communication with managers very specific – and also, ‘news they can use’.

All of these interactions are designed to help the manager of participants contribute their advice, enthusiasm, and experience – coming from the same curriculum base – to their participants.

In our experience, often organisations get a double-impact effect – where the participants are learning, but subtly, their managers are too.

Best practices to engage managers with coaching for their reports

Pre-nomination briefing

About the program, the responsibilities of managers who nominate their reports, and the responsibilities of the participants themselves.

Post nomination briefing

What we expect, dates and deadlines, rules of engagement (use it or lose it) and so on.

3-way check-ins, early

These are virtual meetings between the participant, their manager, and their pod coach to discuss the contents of the participants’ Personal Growth Plans.

Usually occurring after session #1, they allow the manager to meet the coach and vice versa, and the participants to outline what’s in their development plans and why. It provides the manager an opportunity to validate, add to, and talk about the support needed to execute these plans.

Manager toolkits

These exist in many programs professionals design, but with small group coaching they can be delivered one topic at a time. “Your participants just did a session on change, and here are the models and punchlines they would have been exposed to.”

Appropriately shaped and communicated, these help the leaders of participants get up to date, or refresh, or learn for the first time the same content that their reports have been exposed to, therefore giving them confidence to have meaningful conversations with their participants regularly throughout the program.


Mid-cycle and end-of-cycle surveys always go to managers as well as participants – have you seen a difference, and if so how?

Access to learning portals

All the program materials and associated content and artifacts collected in one place on an LMS or elsewhere, and managers are given full access to all of these materials.

3-way check-outs

Again involving participant, manager and coach – the two key questions are: did the Personal Growth Plan get executed, and what should go into the next one? The check-out allows contracting between the manager and participant to continue the professional growth beyond the life of the small group coaching program.


We invest a great deal of time making sure managers attend the briefings at the beginning of the program. Once they understand the rules, and that we will be monitoring them and their participants, we find most managers strongly support both the program and their participants.

In fact, it’s almost a certainty that the very people who don’t turn up to the briefings are the managers we most need to keep our eyes on.

The rule should be this: if the manager doesn’t attend the briefing, the participant will be taken off the program. This achieves a much higher attendance rate among managers than usual, and those who don’t attend have to show why they should still be allowed to send their report on the program. You need strong executive sponsorship in order to be able to put such rules in place.

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