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The Leader as a Coach

What is your definition of effective coaching?

Every leader is responsible for casting a positive role setting "shadow". As a leader, if you expect your direct reports to develop into future leaders, you must give them an example to follow. Supporting the organizational goals, "backing up" your Supervisor/manager, making positive suggestions and being aware of other department's goals and obstacles are examples of the "shadow" you wish to cast.

If, on the other hand, you present yourself in a negative way, they will tend to follow your lead. Undermining other peers or departments will set a bad example and cause direct reports to adjust your coaching to their newly skewed perception of their personal goals.

Coaching needs to be adjusted in frequency and detail to meet the needs of the person(s) being coached. The new employee will generally need more of it (along with encouragement), as opposed to the highly skilled veteran who may need just a little confidence boost or slight push or, perhaps, just a little more information to work with.

Some managers forget that even the best and most highly skilled team player may need coaching when faced with a totally new and different task.


Wonderfully put. Adapting your coaching approach to the person is critical.

A very wonderful friend of mine who teaches children who have been abused tells me you cannot help someone unless you believe they are strong and capable. I think coaching is very similar. I cannot be a good coach if I don't truly believe that the person has the capacity to change. Everyone needs encouragement and feedback both positive and constructive.

I recommend the book "How Full Is Your Bucket" in regards to feedback for your staff. It's thought provoking and an easy read.

Lou Russell

I will pick up that book. I have been looking back on situations in the past where I have not done the best job of "fitting" the coaching peg to the staff member's complexity. Understanding your direct report's problems, tendencies, concerns and goals is a big part of getting that peg properly sized.


Do you ever use DISC profiles for coaching? We have found them to be an easy, simple language for talking to others about their strengths, weaknesses and how to adapt to others. Another good book is the 4-Dimensional Manager by Julie Straw which teaches DISC in a leadership and coaching environment. It's very actionable as well.

Lou Russell

Coaching is helping others to identify and define their specific goals, and then organize themselves to get these goals. It is important to use your own experiences to help others


I like your definition. I especially like the fact that you put the word "HELPING" in there. A coach is really a 'servant leader'... in other words, the best coaches set up a relationship so that the person being coached can grow themselves. Your stories are very powerful to coaching, whether successes or failures.

Lou Russell

The effective coaching is when you can guide people to get the goal, and inspiring in another person to put in practice knowledge and experience in a new situation; they need to learn and searching different approach to get the goals,and then you and people, both can get goal each others.

Welcome, Miguel!

Coaching can break down into these two different types:

Neutral coaching - when the coach is from outside the school or company, and has no real agenda.
Supervisor coaching - when the coach is also the supervisor and has a vested interest in moving the individual to meet the goals of the school (or leave!). This role makes it a bit harder to build complete trust.
Peer coaching - when the coach is a peer and my compete for jobs with you. This role also makes it difficult to build complete trust.

As you can see, depending on the situation, 'who' sets the goal can be very different.

Lou Russell

Coaching is one area that really requires an ability to know yourself first. I had an opportunity to coach a department which was at a low level of productivity. I was challenged by my director or increase the amount of money recovered by the department. When I took over we were 32nd out of 64 health insurance plans nationwide. After 4 years we were #2. What I discovered was that the group knew all along how to increase recoveries but were never allowed to present their ideas much less put them into practice. I held meetings where I promised to work with them and allow them to succeed or fail and that I would back them every step of the way. I had to feel confident in my decision making process to make such a bold move, knowing I was risking my entire future with the company. It worked

Miguel: I like the way you put it. Ironically we as humans tend to, as Dr. Waitley says, work toward our most dominant thought. When our most dominant is to help others succeed we will do out best work and be the most successful ourselves. One quote I like is by a man who made Ketchup; Henry J. Heinz "To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success“ was his motto. If we do the simple common things needed to coach someone to greater expectations we can assure our own success as a coach.

This is a great story. I like to think of coaching, in fact leadership, as "Strengthening the Hands of the Strong". Our jobs are to get the 'stuff' our of the way so people can use their strengths to help everyone be successful. You share a beautiful example of this.

Lou Russell

Coaching is one of the main managerial style, is an important tool in the manager’s hands, is a mean or an interactive method very appropriate, useful and effective in a large spectrum of situations and levels, is the way to maximize the coachee’s potential, and guide him or her toward the agreed goals.

Hi Luis! You're right, coaching is a very important tool that is used to empower employees to reach their potentials and accomplish their goals.

I have often found that "coaching" is confused with "correcting." Corrective discipline (a whole different process) is designed to address negative behavior or poor performance where coaching is more oriented toward starting at a positive point and then building on the employees's skills, abilities, interests and career path to maximize both potential and performance.

Both approaches have their place depending on the situation, the level of employee performance and the level of employee motivation.

Out of curiosity, what type of coaching methods or techniques work for you?

Thanks for your input!

Jay Hollowell
ML101 Guest Facilitator

The difference between being a decent coach and an amazing coach may depend on how well he/she communicates to the team member that he believes in their ability to complete the task at hand. Also, a great coach gives good suggestions and asks the person questions that stimulate "problem solving" thinking. For example, the coach should guide the team member by having them evaluate the obstacles that could arise according to their decisions. He/she should give just as much, if not more positive feedback when possible, and keep the team member accountable and motivated.

What references would you suggest for dealing with discouraged team members?

I suppose that beating them is out of the question.....? Truthfully I've found that giving my team members, who are discouraged,tasks that they can complete without too much effort. Once they succeed in these tasks they feel better and are not afraid to take on more challenging assignments.

Thanks James, I like your response! Many managers have asked that same question (smile). The building block approach to task accomplishment, as you noted, is certainly a way to empower employees to tackle more complicated tasks and take on more responsibility.

ML101 Guest Facilitator

Hi Christie! To your point, encouraging the use of problem-solving and critical thinking skills is crucial to employee empowerment. As you suggest, the coach is a guide, facilitator and motivator in the empowerment process.

I am emailing you separately regarding suggested links to information on dealing with discouraged team members.


Jay Hollowell
ML101 Guest Facilitator

Effective coaching and managing I think needs to start with proven methods and abilities. If the employee or team knows or has faith in your ability to coach they will be better coachable. I like working together with staff, they can watch me as I coach them.

Effective coaching is identifying an area where an employee can improve and looking for a win-win situation to exist. Say for example a salesperson has a very low closing rate. The "coaching" may be to sit in on their selling situation and looking for ways for them to improve. Perhaps they are not picking up on the buying signals, they may be lacking confidence in what they are selling, or may not be skilled in overcoming objections. By watching them a skilled leader can identify the problem. Once it is identified the "coaching" can begin by demonstrating to the employee their areas of weakness and how to work on overcoming it. The end result will be a salesperson who closes more sales (confidence builds) and a company who achieves their sales objectives (more operating profits). Thus a win-win situation. The bonus will be the personal rewards that the manager will experience from helping an employee and the trust that is built from the employee towards their supervisor.

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