BBK Magazine 41

200th Anniversary Edition

Turning Managers into Great Coaches

Farley Thomas (MA Applied Linguistics, 2014)

After 20 years in financial services, Farley Thomas left the industry to start Manageable, a new business focused on applying the mechanisms of language learning to training managers to become better coaches.

“I wanted to build a business that could give everyone the gift of a great manager”

Farley recalls “dragging hoovers around offices” while helping his mum on cleaning jobs aged 14. “We grew up in a council house after emigrating from India in the eighties,” he explains. “So I always worked throughout my school years and it probably did distract me. I got itchy feet and left education early to work as an accounts clerk.” But soon feeling he had missed out, Farley saved up to finish his A-Levels at night school before applying to the University of Manchester.

Having grown up bilingual, speaking Tamil and English, he was interested in language acquisition and opted to study linguistics. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduating, but someone took a chance on me in financial services, and I ended up spending 20 years there!” After a decade in global roles for HSBC, Farley started to realise he needed a new challenge altogether.

Taking on a Master’s in Applied Linguistics at Birkbeck proved a turning point: “You can’t help but be inspired by the students, from all walks of life, eager to learn and prove it’s never too late.” While writing his thesis, Farley began to formulate links between learning language, using it as a change agent and how this interplayed with executive coaching — an area he felt passionately about, having been involved in coaching throughout his career. After Birkbeck and further study, Farley went on to set up an advisory service for coaching top-level executives and CEOs.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report estimates that just 9% of employees in the UK feel engaged with their job, and research indicates that managers play a major role in building employee engagement, wellbeing and motivation. A lot of evidence shows that the best-performing teams are led by managers with a coaching style. During the pandemic, Farley realised that “by doing this on my own I wasn’t solving the issue that many managers, through no fault of their own, are often not equipped to do a brilliant job. So why don’t I create something, using technology and a community of expert coaches, that helps managers coach their teams. I wanted to build a business that could give everyone the gift of a great manager.”

Farley and the steadily growing team at Manageable designed the platform’s learning experience based on how humans learn language: “I see coaching as a language. If you don’t learn, test and practise, you won’t be able to speak it fluently.”

Manageable is now piloting a partnership to offer free coaching to Birkbeck alumni. “We want to prioritise supporting under-represented groups, but we also want to support people who might be pivoting in their career. So who better than a diverse, ambitious community, already in the workforce and engaged with learning? It couldn’t be anywhere else.”

To learn more about the coaching available through this pilot project with Manageable, click below: