At a recent workshop, I was explaining the benefits of coaching and explaining how managers can coach their staff to deliver better performance.

Coaching is one of the most effective tools of good management. All great leaders use coaching to develop their teams and, also, to develop themselves. However, it does take a lot of practice and it can go wrong.

The purpose of coaching is to increase the effectiveness of your staff. It helps your team learn new things and deepens that learning. Coaching is based on the principle of asking and not telling. We learn more effectively when we are asked to consider our own actions and explore solutions on our own.

GROW model

The model I was using is the GROW model, as defined by Sir John Witmore in his book “Coaching for Performance”. It is a 4 step model that is based on asking open questions to allow the coachee to explore the problem and identify their own solutions. The four steps are:


Agree SMART goals with the employee. Where possible, allow they employee to define their own goals as this helps them take responsibility for their own growth. By explaining the purpose of the team it can assist the employee in choosing goals that are linked with organisational objectives.


The next step is to ask the employee to assess where they are in relation to the goal. This allows them to develop their own self-awareness (a key component of Emotional Intelligence) and allows them to gain. Deeper understanding of what needs to be done to meet the goal.


The employee can then explore alternative solutions. Allow the employee to come up with ideas but be sure you can push them to challenge their own ideas. Ask open questions to make them to think through the implications of the solution to help them identify any possible barriers.

It may be that they will come up with ideas that you do not believe they will work, if possible, allow them to try the idea and fail to aid their understanding of their thinking. It is also possible that they will come up with ideas you have not thought of and allowing them to explore new ideas sure on innovation within your team.


Finally, agree a plan with the employee. Once again, the plan should be driven by the employee, with support by you, of course. As part of the plan, agree specific times when you will get together to discuss progress.


When I asked my attendees to practice with each other, you could see them making some common mistakes:

Comfort Zone: when setting goals, especially, the coachee can sometimes pick something easily attainable. A good coach can push the coachee to be braver and more ambitious with their goal setting.

Closed questions: by asking “yes/no” questions, you are offering the coachee a way to answer quickly without reflecting. So ask open questions such as “why did that happen?”, “what options can you think of?”, “have you come across anything similar?”, “who can you can talk to to move things forward?”

Leading the way: typically, the manager will be more experienced and will have faced similar challenges and there is a real temptation to offer solutions to the coachee. But the coachee must work out the solutions themselves and must do the thinking.

Challenging mis-conceptions: sometimes your member of staff will have a skewed idea of reality. They will either under-estimate or over-estimate their current capabilities. A good coach will ask open questions to allow the coachee to reflect on reality. Having a good grasp of where the coachee is now will enable them to come up with realistic options to move forward.

These pitfalls show that being a good coach takes time to learn and lots of practice. However, it is worth the effort as coaching will super-power your team’s development. So don’t be scared .. start coaching your team today!