Are You a Great Coach in the Office?

Image Courtesy of Chagin via iStock

By: Ruth Henderson

Have you heard about the concept of being a coach at work and wondered a) what does it mean, and/or b) why the fuss?

Well, let's start with the coach of a sports team. What does she do? Well, she focuses on an individual to help them build on their strengths, overcome challenges, and perform as part of an amazing team that wins games.

Now. The coach at work. Well... it's pretty much the same. He focuses on an individual to help them build on their strengths, overcome challenges, and perform as part of an amazing team that delivers results for the organization.

More and more businesses are realizing that management is more than task-based directive behavior. Effective coaching leads to more engaged employees, and research shows that engaged employees lead to happier customers which of course leads to improved business performance. In fact, according to Gallup, "business units high in employee engagement more than double their odds of above-average composite performance within their own companies, and nearly triple their chances for above-average success across business units in all companies." (Q12 Meta Analysis, Gallup Consulting)

So that's "why the fuss."

10 Questions To Help You Assess Your Coaching Style

1. Do I know what it's like to work for me? This is a tough question - do you know? Have you asked your team? Would they be honest with you? A formal 360 survey is one way to find out. If you have a good relationship with them, you can do an informal, anonymous survey as well.

2. Am I aware of the impact my moods have on my team? You may have a bad day and try to shelter your team from it, but storming through the work area on your way to your office is going to give off a vibe. If this happens frequently, it will impact your approachability.

3. Do I refer to my employees as my "staff" or my "team"? Think about this. Doesn't it sound nicer (and more coach-like) to refer to your "team"?

4. Do I schedule regular coaching sessions? When is the last time you had a coaching session with one of your team members? Was it during a performance discussion? Which brings us to...

5. Am I aware of the difference between coaching and performance reviews? All performance review discussions should contain an element of coaching. But all coaching is NOT performance-based. This is a very important thing to remember.

6. Do I take advantage of "coachable moments"? This is a great phrase to work into your business vernacular. It helps create the employee's awareness that they are actually being coached, and they unconsciously listen a little bit harder. It also helps your awareness of casual opportunities for immediate coaching.

7. Am I kind and curious? I worked with an amazing coach who taught me that kindess and curiosity leave no room for anger and resentment. It's so important to consider this before jumping to conclusions about an individual's performance or behaviour.

8. Do I know things about my team that aren't work related? Do you have casual coaching in the form of discovery conversations? Do you know their spouse's name, how many kids they have, and what they love to do on the weekends? This kind of information is important in establishing trust.

9. Do I avoid difficult conversations? Oh we all hate these. You have to talk to someone about an outburst, a body odour issue, or a performance problem. Avoiding confrontation is so natural, and yet so damaging to an effective coaching relationship. Properly handled, these conversations can build your relationship.

10. Do I provide praise and feedback in equal measure? I don't want to advise you to provide the "kick with the kiss", ie. to provide a compliment at the same time you provide difficult feedback. No, it's best to be blunt and get the feedback out there. But also be aware of opportunities to praise!

How did you do? If you noticed some gaps, you might want to consider asking someone you trust to coach YOU on building your skills. Good luck!

Ruth Henderson is one of the Founders of Whiteboard Consulting Group Inc., and an experienced blogger. You can read more blog posts at, or follow her on Twitter @WBCG_Ruth

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