Coaching at Work road-tests Coaching Card for Managers

09 Jan 2014

Coaching at Work road-tests Barefoot Coaching's Coaching Cards for Managers in the latest CAW Magazine:

1 The tool

What is it?

The Coaching Cards For Managers is part of a series of coaching and supervision card decks produced by Barefoot Coaching. Each of the 40 cards contains a powerful coaching question and is designed so that managers can easily and quickly have questions to hand. The cards have multiple usages and can be applied to sessions with colleagues or in team meetings.

How does it work?

Barefoot Coaching, which has been training coaches since 2001, developed its range of coaching cards because, according to founder Kim Morgan, “the ability to ask great questions is a key coaching skill”.

The cards seek to help coaches hone their questioning skills, using questions outside their usual style. They can be used with clients, at CPD sessions and in supervision with other coaches, or even at networking events and conferences to encourage people to get to know one another.

Some organisations buy the cards to further coaching conversations in the workplace, or to use as team-building activities or as ice-breakers on training days or at meetings.

-For more information on this tool, visit:

-To buy the cards go here: Coaching Cards

2 The coach/administrator

The experience

I’ve introduced the cards over a range of coach training programmes (ILM Level 3 & 5 in Coaching and Mentoring) and Action Learning Sets and have applied Coaching Cards for Managers to one-to-one coaching sessions.

The cards are a practical way of getting individuals and teams to be self-reflective. They provide a creative management and leadership intervention using powerful coaching questions that facilitate and enhance learning and thinking.

Select cards either randomly or self-select. It’s good to have a sense of your own possible responses and reactions and then think about the possible responses and parallel processes across different groups and teams. You create more congruency and coherence when you have direct experience of the cards. To review further you could:

-Pick out the coaching questions you felt most comfortable with

-And those you were least comfortable/confident answering

-Identify and remove questions from the deck that lack relevance for the groups or teams you are working with.

The application

Here are some of examples of how I’ve applied the cards in different groups, teams and individuals.

How to use the cards in coach training

coaching cards for managers

Table Top Layout

  • -Place the pre-selected cards best suited to the group face down on a clear table top

-Working in pairs, each select two or three cards from the deck. (Some people will turn the cards over and self-select. Observe and then, in a debrief, explore their reasons for this, identifying the questions that were de-selected)
-Share one question at a time and pose it to your partner
-Listen to their response for the agreed set time
-Swap over and do the same again.

Personal reflective responses in notebook or journal

The group select two or three questions from the table top and record their answers in writing (10-15 mins)

Reflect and debrief in main group.

This helps to focus group attention and is a form of mindfulness preparation at the start of coach training or an Action Learning Set.

Coaching one-to-one sessions and performance appraisal sessions

Managers have used the questions successfully in performance appraisal conversations. Feedback reflects that the use of the questions has turned a mundane, ‘let’s go through the motions’ annual performance appraisal session – normally just another tick box conversation – into an engaged, purposeful conversation with meaning.

Some of the questions (‘How can your manager get the best out of you?’; ‘How do you like to be managed?’; ‘What would you do if time were not an issue?’; ‘In which aspects of your work are you least confident and comfortable?’) are not the type of questions many managers would normally ask, and requires a healthy degree of self-reflection and willingness to take responsibility.

These are best delivered in the context of a safe and harmonious relationship (but with a degree of challenge) between manager and direct report/coachee.

Team coaching

Recently, I used the cards with a senior leadership team. The questions supported the team in getting to know each other more authentically and helped to shift the dynamics in their one-to-one and team relationships.

Two more organisational and systems-focused questions in the set (‘What changes would you make if you were in charge of this organisation?’; and ‘How do you think other people at work are feeling at the moment?’)

were particularly helpful during another round of organisational change. The questions have been further incorporated into team meetings and one-to-one supervision and performance appraisals.

Using the tool

The verdict

If the evidence of my well-worn ‘falling to bits’ box is anything to go by, my deck of Coaching Cards For Managers has many uses – it’s not just another resource that sits on a shelf. It is full of creative, solutions-focused coaching questions that stimulate deeper, more engaged conversations.

I appreciate the richness of dialogues that the cards generate and the platforms from which a range of conversations can be developed with teams and in one-to-one sessions.

I loved this particular, fun question: ‘If you could give yourself a more imaginative job title, what would it be?’

About the review authorJackee Holder - Jackee is an executive and leadership coach specialising in coach training, and one-to-one coaching with senior leaders, entrepreneurs and creatives. She is the author of 49 Ways To Write Yourself Well and Be Your Own Best Life Coach.