Coaching as a Leader: 4 Steps to an Impactful Outcome

Coaching as a Leader

Coaching plays a crucial role in the growth and development of your team. It encourages individuals to discover their personal style and to develop skills to be engaged and more satisfied in their role . It helps to create an atmosphere in which everyone feels appreciated, respected and valued, which is essential for high performance. Coaching enables employees to take responsibility for their actions and improve their problem-solving capabilities, allowing them to make better decisions for themselves, the team and clients/customers/members.

Coaching should be intentional and focused, guiding employees to perform at their highest level. 


There are 4 Steps to Effective Coaching as a Leader:

Step 1:  Set the Stage

a) Set an Intention

What are your intentions for coaching your employee or team member? Do you want to help them build their credibility, have a bigger impact with clients, improve upon an ineffective habit?

What are your intentions for this coaching opportunity? Being clear with your own intentions allows you to focus on the goal. If the situation is loaded with emotions or judgment, focusing on the intention allows you to coach with an open minded approach. 

For example, an employee shows up late to work, or comes back from breaks late on a regular basis. It’s affecting her productivity and credibility. You’re frustrated with the behavior and she’s also missing deadlines, magnifying the problem. The team notices the pattern, and is also frustrated.

Ignoring the behaviors condones it. The intention is to help the employee to be a reliable member of the team, building their credibility and improving their performance.

As you consider your unique situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your goal for your employee? What do you want for them (Success? Credibility?)?
  • Is this an opportunity for growth, or a gap that needs to be closed? Or both?
  • What is the nature of the situation: A knowledge gap? A practice/process challenge? An absence of quality? A behavior?

Consider the nature of the situation and how you will frame the discussion (i.e., a problem or opportunity for growth).

b) Schedule a Coaching Discussion

Schedule a discussion to talk about the issue. Give yourself some time to reflect and ensure that your message is aligned with your intentions, and that you are calm and confident.

c) Be Prepared

Give yourself time and space to put together a meeting agenda. Write down your plan so you can easily refer to it and stay on track during your meeting. Think about the intention and strategize a few ideas about how to solve the problem, staying open for that to change based on the discussion. Be mentally prepared to listen and ask questions to your employee about the situation.


Step 2:  Define the Opportunity or Problem

When you are meeting with your employee, take time to define the situation or problem. Here are some guidelines:

a) Focus on the behavior and results, not the person:

Effective: “I’ve noticed you’ve been late to the last 3 staff meetings, and came back from breaks late twice last week.”  or “The last 2 reports have been late.”

Ineffective: “I’m concerned about your reliability.” or “You need to work on your dependability.”

Focusing on the behavior instead of the person allows the receiver to not feel personally attacked and allows them to maintain connection during the conversation. 

b) Focus on facts, not assumptions:

Effective: focused on dates/times; missing deadlines

Ineffective: “Is something going on with your family?” Assumptions about health, family, etc.

Describing facts allows you to engage in dialogue without assumptions or judgments, which can block connection, lead to misunderstandings and prevent the root cause of the  problem from being solved.

 c) Be specific, using examples, instead of vague and general:

Effective: “Meeting deliverable dates is important to our team, I noticed that you missed the deadline for the report last week.”

Ineffective: “Why are you missing deadlines?”

 d) Compare the current to the desired:

Effective: “I want you to be perceived as a strong and credible part of our team.”

Ineffective: “Your teammates are frustrated with you.”

 e) Encourage self-awareness and self-management:

Effective: “What’s the biggest challenge you face in managing conflicting priorities in your schedule?” or “What’s your strategy when you’re not sure you’ll meet a deadline?”

Ineffective: “What can you do to be on time?” or “What can I do to help you meet the deadlines?”


Step 3:  Discuss & Explore Options

Exploring options together allows your employees to take responsibility for their actions and help decide what is feasible for them to do in order to solve the problem. Asking them to come up with solutions will empower and motivate them.

When faced with different options, discuss pros and cons in order to come up with the ideal solution(s).


Step 4:  Develop a Plan

After coming up with a solution, identify a plan and set clear expectations for progress. Set a date for a follow-up meeting to promote accountability. 

Being a leader can be a challenging role especially when it comes to solving behavioral problems, and discussing hard topics. Coaching with positive intentions and a clear focused strategy, will engage and motivate your employees, leading to long lasting and high quality outcomes.