Are you an effective coach? - SmartBrief

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Are you an effective coach?

Leaders can be an effective coach for their team members by working them to establish goals and provide metrics to measure performance, writes Paul B. Thornton.

4 min read



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Leah Amico, professional speaker and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist said, “Great coaches know when to give specific instructions and when to just give encouragement.”   

The right amount of instruction gives people just enough information at the right time to help them improve. Sometimes it’s best to let the person wrestle with a problem before you jump in and start coaching. Too much coaching can feel like micro-managing and can frustrate people’s motivation. Overly coached employees often have so many ideas bouncing around in their head; they freeze when it comes to taking the right action.  At the other extreme, some leaders are absent when it comes to coaching. These leaders come across as distant and uncaring — out of touch. As a result, employees don’t get the benefits of their insights and experience.    

Are you consistently providing the right amount of coaching?  Here’s a guide to help you become an effective coach:


1. Start by building strong relationships with people. When people know you care about them and their development, they are more open to your suggestions. Make multiple observations of people’s performance. Look for the trends. Consider what they’re accomplishing, what they do well and in what areas could they improve. Does the person lack skills or motivation?  

College hockey coach Bob Emery said, “Know your follower/worker really well. Are they highly motivated or do they need a push? Are they overly sensitive when receiving feedback? Etc.”

2. Consider timing. Identify the best time to have a productive discussion about their performance. Take advantage of teachable moments — those times when people are most open and receptive to feedback.  

The coaching session

1. Start by describing the person’s current behavior or results and why improvement is needed. Do they agree or disagree? Be prepared to provide compelling reasons as to why improvement is needed.   

2. Establish an improvement goal. Use an appropriate coaching style.    

  • Directing Style: Telling them the goal and why it’s required. 
  • Discussing Style: Asking questions and together establishing a goal.    
  • Delegating Style: Ask the person to go off on their own and establish a goal. Return with a rationale for their new goal.

3. Establish a process. Change doesn’t just happen. Identify the actions that are needed to improve their performance. Focus on the one or two behaviors that will have the biggest impact. Any of the coaching styles mentioned above can be used to establish a process.  The process should include a prompt or reminder for the person to perform a specific behavior. Like the buzzer in your car, it reminds you to buckle your seat belt. 

4. Establish a metric to measure progress. Keep it simple and focus on just one metric.  

After the coaching session

1. Coaching always requires follow-up. Make additional observations of the person’s behavior to determine what results are being achieved. Is the person following the process? Are improvements occurring? Are changes to the process required? 

2. Include the person’s assessment. How do you think it’s going? Are you happy with the results?  

3. Praise improvements and offer help in areas that need more support.   

Leaders are always looking for opportunities to help people improve their performance. They have a growth mindset and believe in continuous improvement.  

To improve your coaching effectiveness, ask yourself these questions:  

  • How much coaching is needed? 
  • What’s the best timing?
  • What coaching style will be most effective with this particular person?  
  • What goals and processes will be most effective? 
  • What type of prompt will be helpful?


Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His books are available at Amazon and include: 

He frequently posts his views and opinions about leadership on LinkedIn.   

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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