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Develop a Coaching Habit

December 12, 2019   By Patrice McGuire


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Develop a Coaching Habit

If you’re a leader or manager, you have likely been introduced to the importance of coaching. You’ve maybe even heard about the concept of continuous coaching.

And what about the buzz about long-standing, once tried-and-true annual performance reviews going by the wayside. Have you heard about that?

Emerging talent within our organizations are not enamored with the formal, once-a-year-let’s-cover-everything-for-as-far-back-as-we-can-remember conversation.

Regular, ongoing, even-informal coaching conversations are more the style of today.

How often are you pausing to have conversations with your employees about the current state, how things are going, and what they need as they continue to show up every day to do the work you, your organization and your customers need them to be doing?

Are you showing up as a coach? Maybe you don’t even know.

What IS coaching? Coaching is a style of communication.

If you remember nothing else in this blog post, remember what I am about to say:  Coaching starts with questions. Not telling, not assuming, not thinking you already know, not interrupting, not jumping into action, and not spouting a lot of advice. It starts with questions.

Asking questions is the fundamental tool of curiosity.

Employees want you to be curious: curious about what they want, what matters to them, what is getting in their way of success, and what they’re up against.

Some of the simplest questions to start with for almost any situation include “What can you tell me about this?” or “What do you think?” or “What happened?”

  • “I’d like to tell you about a new idea I have for you.” (share idea). “What do you think?”
  • “I have a concern about something I’ve noticed. (share concern).” “What can you tell me about this?”
  • “We agreed you would get this to me by noon today. What happened?”

Consider the habit of asking questions your foundation. With a solid foundation in place, here are four additional ways to develop a coaching habit:

Focus on the Future:

Traditional performance review conversations have leaned toward a focus on one-way conversations with a heavy emphasis on the past. A look-back matters, of course. The challenge in these conversations, however, is that the leader does most of the talking and tends to focus on a litany of concerns over the past year.

Coaching, in contrast, focuses more successfully on looking forward into an employee’s development and growth. That’s why we at Living As A Leader call this type of coaching, “coaching for growth.”

As a leader, you get the privilege of supporting your employee by helping them identify and unlock their potential. The organization benefits by getting the greatest contribution from their employees.

Don’t Sidestep Concerns:

There are still times when you will need to address performance or behavior concerns or any unmet work-related expectations. This is what we refer to as “coaching for improvement.”

Many leaders struggle with these types of conversations and commonly avoid having them. The list of reasons for avoidance is fairly robust:

The leader:

  • Doesn’t want to offend an employee
  • Is unsure of what to say
  • Wants to avoid adversely affecting the relationship
  • Doesn’t like conflict
  • Believes the employee should know better

The easiest way to break through the avoidance is to remember the curiosity questions. Always start with a question, such as:

I noticed this; what can you tell me?

Getting into a regular routine of coaching will make it easier to address concerns soon after they occur, rather than avoiding them and hoping they’ll go away on their own or waiting until a quarterly review.

As you groom your employees to expect regular conversations, both positive and improvement oriented, they will also become more comfortable.  One of your goals is to create an environment where your employees are as comfortable talking with you about concerns as they are the accolades.

Create Clear Agreements

For coaching to be effective, create a habit of putting agreements in place with your employee about what you will each do moving forward. Without an agreement about the next steps you will each take, you risk miscommunication and wrong directions. Rather than telling your employee what to do, ask the employee:

 What are the next steps?


What actions will you be taking?

The ownership stays with the employee. You can support them while still letting them take responsibility for their role in the agreements you make together.

You provide accountability by following up on the status of your agreements in your next coaching discussion.

Even if your organization continues to practice a traditional performance review process, you can build the habit of coaching into your day-to-day employee interactions.

Show Up Frequently

Coaching works best when it’s continuous and frequent. Coaching conversations can be informally woven into daily interactions as needed. Continuous coaching helps you maintain the right balance of accountability and inspiration toward your employee.

To help you get into a rhythm of continuous coaching, start out by scheduling bi-weekly coaching discussions. Set goals for shorter timeframes, document your agreements, and check-in as needed.

Coaching is essential in today’s work environments. If you want employees on your team to be both productive and fulfilled, put on your coach hat regularly. Stand on a foundation of curiosity, driven by effective questions.  Then, focus on the future, don’t side-step issues. Instead, foster agreements and show up frequently…as a coach.

We teach leaders of all levels to become effective coaches in our workshop, “Be A Great Coach.” This workshop is included in our Leadership Development Series, which is available to your organization In-House or locally in Wisconsin.


About the Author

Patrice McGuire

Facilitator and Coach, Living As A Leader®

Patrice has more than 25 years of human resource and training experience, working with leaders at all levels from financial services, manufacturing, retail, engineering and service organizations.

Email Patrice Patrice's Bio

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