What is Coaching?

A great company is only as good as its employees.  Employees are only as good as the coaching they receive.


What can you do as a manager to improve performance?  What is coaching?  How can you use coaching opportunities to improve the performance of your employees? These are questions any manager worth their salt needs to be asking on a daily basis. Great coaching is one way to take your employees to the next level.

Ara Parseghian once said “a good coach will make his or her players see what they can be rather than what they are”.  What does this old football coach have to do with your business, you ask?  As leaders, it is your job to help employees succeed. Employees are part of a greater team, and their actions and decisions have an impact on the overall business.

Each and every one of us has the ability to be a great “coach” by taking an active approach in the professional lives of our colleagues, whether we manage people or not. Effective coaching sessions build rapport, passion and dedication with your employees. The premise of coaching is that those receiving it already have the answers they need in order to address the issues being raised—and the role of the coach is to help them find those answers. Coaching is not about offering advice, serving as a role model, or acting as a therapist. Rather it is about asking the right questions, digging beneath the surface, and helping the participant move forward to reach his or her development goals.

Great Coaching IS Progress

Coaching recognizes the participant as the one with the expertise, and the coach is completely focused on him or her. A coach and participant relationship can range from a single conversation to a multi-year engagement. Coaches master skills such as asking powerful questions, staying curious, listening emphatically, re-framing situations, celebrating successes, and giving feedback. If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at something that is personally meaningful. The implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

What drives them?

You must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. Regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential. In fact, according to recent research, the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching. Can you teach old-school, results-focused managers to coach their employees? Absolutely. And the training boosts performance in both directions. It’s a powerful experience to create a connection with another person, help them to achieve something they care about, and to become more of who they want to be. If there’s anything an effective, resonant coaching conversation produces, its positive energy.

Starting Today…

You can be significantly more effective as a manager — and enjoy your job more — by engaging in regular coaching conversations with employees.  Consider what it feels like when you’re trying to convey something important to a person who has many things on their mind. You can open a coaching conversation with a question such as “How would you like to grow this month?” Your choice of words is less important than your intention to clear your mind, listen with your full attention, and create a high-quality connection that invites your driver to open up and to think creatively.

Voice of the Employee

As a manager, you have a high level of expertise that you’re used to sharing, often in a directive manner. In a coaching conversation, it’s essential to restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Your path is not your employee’s path. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers.

Solution Focused

While your role as a coach is not to provide answers, supporting your employees developmental goals and strategies is essential. Follow-up is critical to build trust and to make your coaching more effective. The more you follow through on supporting your employee’s developmental plans, the more productive your coaching becomes, the greater your employee’s trust you, and the more engaged you all become. It’s a virtuous cycle. Often times in a coaching conversation, the person you’re coaching will get caught up in detailing their frustrations.  While it can provide temporary relief to vent, it doesn’t generate solutions. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations. Encourage them to think about how to move past their frustrations, be solution focused.

Following through on any commitments you make to your employee builds accountability for the employee’s side of formulating and implementing developmental plans. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness. The time managers spend in performance coaching with their best, most contributing employees is time well spent. It is more likely to produce increasing results for the organization.

Focus on Over-Performing

Most managers spend the majority of their time with their troubled, or under-performing employees. Whereas the most significant value of their time and energy investment actually comes from the opposite. It is an effective tool for managers to deploy in their efforts to help employees succeed, and especially, help employees increase their skills and their potential opportunities for promotion. Discuss potential solutions to the problem or improvement actions to take. Ask the employee for ideas on how to correct the problem, or prevent it from happening again. With a high performing employee, talk about continuous improvement.

What will coaching do?

  • Builds stronger bonds between you and your employees.
  • Supports employees in taking ownership over their own learning.
  • Helps them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.

Take the plunge

So go ahead and take the “coaching” jump. You will love the thrill of coaching and find that it will make your job easier. More importantly, coaching will catapult your employees’ growth into the stratosphere. Remember, “a good coach will make their employees see what they CAN BE”!