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Coaching in Business: What You Need to Know
by Wally Bock

Tom's a coach, but he'll never get a trophy for his work. Sheryl is a coach, too, but no team will ever carry her off the field on their shoulders.

Tom is a front line supervisor in a manufacturing plant. Sheryl is a middle manager in a big company. They both use coaching as a way to improve performance.

Coaching is part of every leader's job. Do it well and the performance of your team members and the team improve.

Great coaches in business understand that. They also understand that coaching has a context, a framework and techniques.

There is a context for great coaching

You have two objectives as a leader. You must accomplish the mission through the group. And you must care for your people. Those objectives create the context for coaching.

Coaching helps you accomplish the mission. It helps your team members and the team improve their performance.

Coaching is a way that you care for your people. It helps your team members grow and develop.

Coaching happens at a specific moment of contact, but that moment doesn't stand alone. It happens within a framework of leadership.

There is a framework for great coaching

Coaching is connected to everything else you do as a leader. It's also part of a process that makes each coaching session more effective.

Great coaching starts with clear expectations. If you don't tell your team members what you expect, they have to guess. If they guess wrong, your coaching session turns into a "gotcha" session.

Check for understanding. It's not enough to simply tell people what you expect. Part of your job is checking to make sure they understand.

After you set expectations, your team members go out and turn their understanding into action. Touch base to see how the understanding turns into performance.

Coaching is one response to what you discover. It's the part where you help them understand how they can improve. But it doesn't stand alone.

You will have to correct some people to stop them from doing the wrong thing. You will have to counsel so they understand the consequences of changing and not changing.

The good news is that you don't have to make this up as you go along. There are techniques to help you make it work.

There are techniques for great coaching

Great coaching is the result of several sets of skills that you must develop. Here's a quick review.

Analyze the tasks your team members must perform. Think about how you expect them to act. Then develop ways to measure and describe those things.

Work on your communications skills so that you can communicate with your team members in the way that works best for them. Make the process of checking for understanding into a habit.

Touch base a lot. Many good things come from this simple behavior. Every contact with a team member is an opportunity to have a supervisory conversation about improving behavior or performance. It's an opportunity for you to learn about each other.

Master the art of talking about performance or behavior in a way that minimizes the possibility of confrontation. In a few seconds, tell them what you're talking about and why it's important.

Then wait for your team member to talk next. Continue the conversation based on what you hear.

Both Tom and Sheryl use coaching to help improve the behavior and performance of their team members. You can, too.

Put your coaching in the context of leadership. Use the framework of all your leadership work to make your coaching more effective and productive. Develop the tools you need to do the job well.

Wally Bock may be contacted at

Wally Bock helps organizations improve productivity and morale by selecting and developing great leaders at all levels. He coaches individual managers, and is a popular speaker at meetings and conferences in the US and elsewhere. This article first appeared in the Three Star Leadership Blog ( ). It is based on material in Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit ( ). Request your free Leadership Coaching Tip Sheet and Self-Evaluation ( ).


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