Coaching in the workplace

We all hear a lot these days about executive coaching. The problem is that often it is expensive to bring in an external coach to work with your people.

The good news is, there is no reason a committed manager/leader can’t make coaching a more important part of what he or she does. We’re not simply talking about how to conduct an annual performance appraisal here. Real coaching is an every day thing.  It’s an attitude.  It’s a way of life in the workplace. Either you see yourself as a coach or you don’t.

The following are some helpful tips and tools to help you help your people reach their potential.

Clearly identify specific goals and actions your employee needs to work on. It is critical that he or she sees that there is a problem or a potential crisis as opposed to you telling them he or she needs coaching.

Be prepared.  Go in to the first session with a specific set of questions. Here are some examples: What do you think is getting in the way of you performing more effectively? How much passion and enthusiasm do you really feel about the work you are doing? What would make you more committed to not just the job but to our team?

Resist the urge to be the expert who has all the answers. Self-disclosure has its place but as a coach you can do too much of it. Watch how often you say things like, “If I were in your situation, I would…” or “I remember a time I had the same problem.” The key is to keep asking probing questions that help the employee come up with specific solutions on his or her own.

Agree to an action plan. Immediately after a coaching session, it is your job to generate a brief, bullet-point summary of what was just agreed to. This is critical for the employee staying on track and for you as a coach having a specific, action-oriented agenda for the next face-to-face coaching session. Without such summaries, the coach and the employee could have very different interpretations of what was just agreed to in a session.

Take notes. In order to do the above, you have to be a good note taker. However, good note taking isn’t about taking lots of notes. Rather it is about keeping your eye contact, working hard as a listener and jotting down a few important things that are said. After the session, immediately go back and put your notes in context. Doing too much note taking in a coaching session can be very distracting for both you and the person you are coaching.

Stay connected. In between your face-to-face coaching sessions, use e-mail and the telephone to keep in contact with the person you are coaching. Send them brief notes asking them what actions they took on a particular day that would help them move toward accomplishing their goals. Over the phone, just call to say hi and ask how things are going.

The key is to be there without being a pest. Let your employee know you are thinking about him or her and part of your coaching approach is to keep the lines of communication going.  Encourage them to communicate with you about specific problems or challenges they may face.

Finally, don’t be a coach to too many people. It is tremendously demanding work and requires a great commitment of time and energy. It’s not how many people you coach, but rather the impact you have on those you do.

Steve Adubato, PhD, is the author of five books including, "Lessons in Leadership.” His sixth book, "Lessons in Leadership 2.0: The Tough Stuff," will be released in summer 2023. He is an Emmy® Award-winning anchor with programs airing on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJ PBS. He has also appeared on CNN, NPR and NBC’s Today show. Steve Adubato's "Lessons in Leadership" video podcast with co-host Mary Gamba airs Sundays at 10:00 a.m. on News 12+. For more information visit