Here’s How to Coach: A Simple Model

In the dynamic landscape of business leadership, we are often confronted with multifaceted challenges. Imagine a leadership paradigm that extends beyond mere management, empowering individuals to reach their utmost potential while simultaneously propelling organizational advancement. Today, I extend an invitation to explore the transformative potential of coaching, a methodology poised to redefine the essence of leadership within your esteemed enterprises.

In Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World

Marcus Buckingham says,

“Checking in with each person on a team—listening, course-correcting, adjusting, coaching, pinpointing, advising, paying attention to the intersection of the person and the real-world work—is not what you do in addition to the work of leading. This is the work of leading.”

Coaching involves developing a person’s capabilities to achieve their full potential. It’s less directive than managing and more focused on improvement in performance over time. Coaches help individuals identify their own challenges, set goals, and discover solutions through questioning and dialogue. A coach supports a learning process rather than providing answers. Coaching creates an environment that allows people to learn about themselves and identify how to do their job better. It isn’t teaching (mentoring) or directing them (managing). Great coaching is essentially a conversation that encourages a learning mindset by utilizing effective listening, asking questions, and providing feedback.

When to Apply

Use coaching when the goal is to develop critical thinking, problem-solving skills, or self-sufficiency in performance. Coaching is particularly useful when the individual is capable but needs encouragement to see and test their own solutions.


Leaders and managers who effectively coach their people have the greatest outcomes in employee engagement and retention.

Gallup finds what the whole world wants is a good job. This is especially true for millennials and even more so for Generation Z. They actually want to learn and grow. The key is to address the ‘learn and grow,’ not the free stuff.”

Two essential aspects of coaching are:

    1. It requires permission from the person you want to coach.
    2. It is about asking thoughtful questions based on careful listening. Coaching means that you avoid yes or no questions and don’t offer “hidden” solutions (such as, have you tried x, y, or z?). Your objective as a coach is to support the coachee to explore their resources and possibilities. It is not to provide solutions. This can be one of the hardest things for leaders to accept.

One tool I use for coaching is the GROW model:

GOALS: Each coaching session opens by establishing the goals of the person being coached. If one isn’t clearly defined, there are many ways to help discover what their goal is: What do you want? What is the issue you would like to work on? What is your ideal outcome? What does success look like? Why is this important to you?

REALITY: To effectively coach, you have to assess the situation. The person being coached needs to articulate the current reality, what they have done so far, and what the results have been.

OPPORTUNITIES/OBSTACLES: It is common for people not to be able to imagine opportunities beyond the current situation and what they have already done. Some questions that can help develop the possibilities are: What obstacles will you need to overcome? What has stopped you from doing more? What other options do you have? What else could you do?

WHAT’S NEXT? An effective coaching session has closure. I’ve found the best way to wrap up the conversation is by asking what they will commit to and, on a scale from 1 to 10, how committed they are to proceeding. If it isn’t a 10, ask what prevents it from being a 10 and what support they need from you.

This process may reveal that it is necessary to shift into mentoring or managing. Just remember: once your people are competent, you will get the best results by coaching them.

Insider tip! The best coaches are excellent listeners. People want to be listened to far more than they want to be told what to do. Julio Olalla, an excellent teacher and coach, taught me,

“You need three essential ingredients in coaching: listening, listening, and listening.”

The effort you put into listening better will pay off not only as a coach but in all domains of your life.


It’s about progress, not perfection. Great leaders are lifelong learners and create cultures of learning. Coaching is one of the best ways I’ve found to really support people in making progress in their growth and development. To learn more about coaching, check out my article with certified Executive Coach Irina Baranov about common questions and concerns regarding coaching.