How A Leader Can Be An Effective Coach – The First Step in Preparing to Coach Someone

blog051514So you are a leader and you’ve come to the crossroads for a coaching opportunity with a fellow associate. Terrific. Clearly you have developed trust with this other individual and that is a great thing. Your ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust is paramount in any relationship, especially coaching.

Coaching is a specialized skill set that is far different from being a manager, trainer, mentor or friend. Coaching is not about giving advice or feedback that is based on your experiences and your own agenda on the situation. Save all that for a mentoring conversation. Coaching is different and you will do yourself and the other person a huge favor in understanding three key principals of a coaching relationship and conversation. But, first and don’t skip this…it is important to understand what coaching is:

Coaching is a powerful process used to empower others to:

  • Increase their self awareness in order to
  • Facilitate more conscious decision making, which
  • Forwards their decisions into focused and organized action, and that
  • Ties in the key component of accountability to measure progress

As a leader, who coaches, it is very important to understand what is required in the specific coaching interaction and to come to agreement with the person about the coaching process and relationship. You have to get mutual agreement upfront or else trust will be compromised. An effective coach understands the agenda is set by the other person, as well coming up with solutions to their targeted desires.

An effective coach never gets involved in the other person’s story and always keeps their ego, their needs and their agenda outside of this critical interaction. This conversation is totally about the other person’s agenda, needs, wants and desires. They determine everything through your effective questioning.

Also, an effective coach has the ability to focus completely on what the person is saying and not saying, understanding the meaning of what is said in context of the other desires. This is active listening with your whole body and using your intuition for further probing. Finally, an effective coach has the ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and to make interpretations that help the other person gain awareness and thereby achieve desired results.

Here is a highly effective coaching strategy in setting up the relationship and then asking the questions that fit the desired topic and outcomes of the other person. The strategy is called ACT.

  1. A = Ask what the other person wants in each and every session up front!
  2. C = Clarify the meaning of what they want
  3. T = Target their success with your brilliant coaching

ASK the Question ~ A word of caution. Sometimes a person does not answer this question – Be clear and stay focused on getting the answer and then you will both know the desired outcome and the direction you are going!

What do you want to work on today?

How can I best support you today? 

What would be the best use of our time together today to keep you moving forward? 


CLARIFY the Answer
 ~ Now you know what the other person specifically wants, but do you know what this really means? Clarify, clarify, clarify. You can easily think you know what they mean, especially when the use common words we all understand … or do we? An effective coach needs to stay curious – always interested. You want to know exactly what they are saying and truly means to them. Let them paint their picture for you.  A word of caution. It is easy to get caught up in the their story. Keep yourself and them focused in on the meaning in support of their goal. Bottom-line people back to their stated goal.

Tell me more about that?

Tell me what that means to you? 

The ability to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship is huge. Ask questions that: 1) reflect active listening and an understanding of the their perspective; 2) that evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action (those that challenges the their assumptions, beliefs or interpretations); 3) create greater clarity; 4) that moves them towards what they desire, NOT questions that ask for them to justify or look backwards.


TARGET their Success
 ~ By asking the other person what they specifically want to work on and clarifying what that means to them, you now have a TARGET – a clearly defined direction or destination for the session. You can now apply your coaching skills with an aim towards their desired outcome to target their success.

Using this strategy will set you up for a much more successful coaching session, with less stress, less defensiveness, and a much better chance for improvement on the part of the person you are coaching. And isn’t that what you are hoping for in the coaching session anyway?

Chris Craddock

As the leader of Projections' production team, Chris loves to inspire others to perform at the highest levels! From the most challenging leadership opportunities to brainstorming the latest topics leaders want to learn about, Chris provides clear direction and vision.