Leadership Skills – Lesson 7

The Coaching Model

When it comes to getting results as a coach, it helps to have a process, as long as we don’t become a slave to that process. Nobody can really design a coaching process for somebody else. However, here are four steps that find their way into most coaching models.

Step 1

Where are you and where do you want to be? Establish where the employee is in terms of competence right now, and determine where they would like to be. When establishing current competence, a facilitation coach will want to allow employees to assess themselves and set their own goals as much as possible. In this approach, the coach:

  • Puts the employee at ease
  • Prompts the employee to describe current skills
  • Asks open ended questions
  • Actively listens
  • Establishes the role the employee wants the coach to play

When agreeing on the learning objectives or goals, a good coach:

  • Prompts the employee to define his/her own objectives or goals
  • Establishes an environment in which the employee is motivated to learn (What’s in it for me?)
  • Explains the structure of the coaching process
  • Makes sure that the objectives or goals are clear and mutually understood. Have a standard that the employee is expected to reach and a timescale for achieving it.
  • Treats the discussion as a partnership
  • Summarizes agreed upon objectives at the end of the discussion

It is vital to agree on the learning objectives. Learning objectives should specify:

  • Performance (What activity is the employee aiming to improve?)
  • Standard (To what level of competence does the employee aspire?)
  • Condition (Within what time limits must progress be made?)

As much as possible put the onus on the employee for defining these terms. As Bob Pike, an experienced trainer and coach, has said, “People don’t argue with their own data.”

Step 2

What are your options? Identifying options the employee was not until now aware of is one important component of coaching. When creating a hands-on opportunity a good coach will ask questions like these:

  • Is what you are doing helping or hindering?
  • What have you tried already? What worked? What didn’t?
  • What have you seen others do that might work?
  • What are the major obstacles you will have to overcome?
  • What can you imagine yourself doing differently?
  • What if you had a magic wand and could do anything you wanted?

The coach also reassures the learner that help is available.

Step 3

What steps will you take? What type of plan can we create that will help you get to where you want to be? Be sure to identify your own limitations, and your own role, so the employee doesn’t misunderstand who must implement this plan. The employee carries the ball. A coach’s job is to stimulate, to challenge and to see around blind spots, and to ultimately work yourself out of a job. Don’t be ready to give advice too quickly. However, be ready to give suggestions if the employee hits a blank wall. Some key questions to ask include:

  • How do you want to go about accomplishing this?
  • What’s the plan, from your perspective?
  • What obstacles do you anticipate?
  • How will you work with your manager and your co-workers?
  • What support do you need?

In Step 3, the coach and employee must agree to the extent of the opportunity and the next point at which a coaching intervention will take place. Stress the fact that the hands-on opportunity is a real activity/real work experience. The plan is always to review progress on developing the skill. The employee needs to experiment and to make mistakes. This is all a part of the learning process.

Step 4

The next step is to give feedback. When giving feedback, a good coach:

  • Gives praise and encouragement
  • Uses open and probing questions to prompt self-assessment and self-review
  • Acts as a mirror rather than a critic
  • Builds on the self-assessment with a few tips
  • Encourages the learner to try again
  • Prompts adjustments before re-trying the hands-on opportunity

The most important aspect of this step is to prompt self-reflection and self-adjustment. For example:

  • How do you think that went?
  • What ideas do you have for making it better next time?

It is also a stage where suggestions and tips can be given to the employee. The tips should not be instructions per-Se but suggestions which prompt the employee’s own thoughts on the situation. When giving a recap and summary a good coach:

  • Uses questions to prompt discussion on good progress
  • Reaches agreement on progress made
  • Checks the learner’s understanding
  • Gives praise
  • Looks for good points to reinforce
  • Clarifies the next steps
  • Makes it clear that he or she is looking forward to the next stage

It is important to understand that Steps 3 and 4 may be repeated several times when coaching employees.

The Dialogue Model

“He that complies against his will is of the same opinion still.”  –  Samuel Butler

Dialogue: the free flow of meaning between two or more people. People who are skilled at initiating and maintaining dialogue are skilled at getting all the information out on the table: not just their information but the other person’s information as well. These are people who are good at helping others feel safe to say what is on their mind, to speak up about things that are bothering them. They also are skilled at finding mutual goals: benefits to both parties if everyone can speak openly and honestly. Skilled people really do have the good of everyone involved at heart.


Sometimes when issues get in the way of a good relationship, we are most likely to retain the goodwill of the person we’re standing up to if we stick with our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs, and avoid direct or implied criticism of the other person. One way to do that is to stick with “I” messages, expressed in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental tone of voice.

You Message I Message

  • You talk too loudly. I have sensitive hearing.
  • You should send out an agenda. I’d like to know what we’re going to discuss in the meeting tomorrow so I can bring the necessary information with me.

You can use this same type of message when you are giving feedback about someone else’s behavior. Again, the feedback should be non-judgmental. However it should be specific. Here is an example.

Step Goal Example

Step 1 – Non-judgmentally describe a specific behavior of the other person.

  • When you…

Step 2 – Describe as specifically as possible the effect or practical problems this behavior is causing in your life.

  • The effects are…

Step 3 – Describe how you feel as a result, without using the expression “you make me…”

  • I feel…

Step 4 – You describe what you want, preferable after you give the other person a chance to state what he or she thinks might be done.

  • I prefer/would like…

When you are stating feelings, make your statements descriptions rather than judgments:

  • State feelings, not evaluations.
  • State feelings, not solutions.
  • State feelings directly.
“An open mind is the key to communication.”


Consequences and Benefits

One technique that can be used when you want to challenge your employee to do the best he/she can do, or want him/her to change their behavior is to draw out a four quadrant matrix.

These should be filled in by the person who is being asked to make the changes (such as your employee). Often this is a way they have control over the decisions they make yet at the same time see the situation from a different perspective.