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The 5 Steps to Effective Coaching

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“All coaching is, is taking [someone] where they cannot take them self.” Do you want to get better results from your team? Would you like to be better at helping others to develop? Would you like to be able to take your business to the next level?  Would you like to ensure that you retain your best people longer?[2] Whether your team consists of your children, front line employees or Fortune 500 executives, the same coaching principles apply.

Coaching is a very difficult skill to master. The good news is that the basic principles and format are very simple. In this article I will discuss the basics of coaching and how to begin improving right away. There are five steps to effective coaching which I will discuss below.

Coach 2

Step 1: Coach Preparation for the Coaching Session

The preparation is the single most important step in the coaching process. It also tends to be the most overlooked and underemphasized step in coaching. Why is it the most important step you ask, because it sets the direction for the entire coaching session. In doing your preparation you may discover that you need to have a different focus then you originally thought.

What do you do to prepare for a coaching session? First, look at the person’s current skills. In knowing what you know about the tasks they need to perform, what is the single task that is going to move their overall performance ahead the most? Using the example of someone in sales being coached, the person may to need to work on their ability to contact new prospective customers.

Once you have determined the task you need to get more specific. What aspect of this task can they use the most work on. Going back to the example of a sales person again, maybe the aspect of the task they need to work on most is how they introduce them self in the call when they contact a new customer.

Now that we have determined the specific aspect of the skill we need to determine if it is a lack of skill or willingness that is holding them back. In the example of the salesperson we may determine that it is a skill issue as they have never properly learned how to introduce them self in a call.[1]

Now that we know very specifically which skill, and what is holding them back, we will want to consider how senior this person is. Have they been in their role longer or shorter than others in similar roles? Knowing their seniority impacts how we coach them. Someone who is more junior will generally be more open to learning and suggestions than someone who has more tenure. To ensure that a more senior person is receptive, give them option in how they would like to be coached.

Step 2: Learner Preparation for the Coaching Session

For the learner’s preparation you will want to assign them very similar questions to what you answered above. Just before the coaching event begins, discuss your answers compared to the learner's. Have a discussion about how your thinking and the learner's are simialar and different. This is a great time to understand where the learner's thinking is at. Also, ensure that you ask the learner permission to give feedback.

Next, you want to ensure that the learner is excited to work on the skill. The best way to do this is by illustrating how an improvement will help in their overall performance which will, in turn, help them with their goals.

An example of this can be found by revisiting the example of the salesperson from above. For them you could show that by increasing their skill of introductions it will help them have 20% more success. Given this, they can either make 20% less introduction calls or perform 20% better in their overall performance. When you feel that the learner is excited and open to learning, move on to the event.

Coach 1

Step 3: Do the Coaching Session

Assuming that you have done all of the previous steps the coaching session itself will be very simple and straightforward. Have the learner perform the skill. A live session is always the best as it will provide a more realistic depiction of what the skill is like to perform.

An example of this for the salesperson would be to have them call and practice their introduction to three to five customers.

Step 4: Provide Feedback on the Session

For the feedback session you first want to see what the learner specifically felt did and did not go well. The learner should provide at least five points of things that did go well and five of things that did not go well.[1]

Next, you will want to provide your feedback. This feedback should begin with what they did well, what they did not do well and finally, what was exceptional. Throughout the feedback the more specifically you can outline examples the better.

At the end of the feedback the learner should have two points to continue and two to work on that you have selected together. These points should be recorded by the leaner and the coach and follow up should be scheduled.  

Step 5: Follow Up on the Session

Follow up is the second most critical aspect of coaching. In the majority of coaching sessions the follow up simply does not occur. Follow up is what brings the learning into daily practice. A learner is far more likely to take the learning points away if they know they are going to have a follow up session in the near future.

Ideally, the first follow up session should be two working days after the coaching session. The follow up does not need to be nearly as involved as the original coaching session. For this, discuss with the learner how they feel they have been doing with the skill so far and what their key learning point have been. If possible, the skill should be practiced live again. If time is tight, a simple touch point will work.

As a coach you will want to get into the practice of working on skills with a learner on a regular basis. A weekly or semi weekly coaching session tends to work well for quickly improving a learner’s skill set.

Next Steps

As much is coaching is straightforward in process it takes a great deal of practice to become a great coach. Begin working on this today by scheduling a coaching session with one of your direct reports. If you do not have direct reports, look for a not-for-profit for which you can take a leadership role in. Great not for profits that will allow for opportunity to develop these skills are minor sports teams and Toastmasters International, among others. Most importantly, enjoy and have fun.



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  1. Interpersonal Communication. Mission Viejo: Toastmasters International, 2011.
  2. Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt "How to Keep Your Top Talent." Harvard Business Review. 4/07/2014 <Web >

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