7 Practical Tips to Help Leaders Better Coach Their Teams

The benefits of coaching extend far beyond increased engagement, better performance, and empowered employees. Coaching ultimately can result in unleashed potential.

Becoming a world-class leader is about more than just working on business strategy and delegating tasks. The best leaders actively strive to build empowered teams of engaged, high-performing individuals who will have a positive impact on the organization and the bottom line. They are keenly aware that these teams don’t just form spontaneously, but that they, as leaders, play a key role in developing employees both to improve job performance and to help them achieve their own career goals. The great news is that coaching your team can become a natural, everyday interaction if you apply these seven practical tips.

1. Lead by Example

Leaders who demonstrate what is expected, how to incorporate new processes or behaviors, and how to be reliable members of the team have more credibility. This is because leaders who direct employees to do one thing while they do something else are not generally the kind of leaders employees want to follow. Before you begin coaching, it’s imperative to model the behaviors expected of your employees. Becoming a great coach means also being a good team player, living the values of the organization, and leading by example.

2. Coach Based on Defined and Mutually Agreed-Upon Expectations

Individuals and teams cannot meet or exceed a leader’s expectations if they don’t know what those expectations are. This applies not only to specific tasks, but to processes, communication, priorities, and even team and organizational culture. Yet, according to research by Gallup, only about 50 percent of employees feel they know what is expected of them at work.

Strong leaders not only clearly define their expectations but also make sure employees understand the expectations and agree to deliver on them. Taking this step ensures that employees either will have all of the information they need or they will have the opportunity to ask for clarification. Great leaders also define what their teams can expect from them. When everyone is clear on expectations, everyone can work together and perform at optimal levels.

3. Be Intentional About Recognizing What They Do Well

Coaching is not all about telling your employees what they are doing wrong or need to improve. Although coaching is an effective way to improve performance, great coaches also will recognize their employees for what they excel at, are valued for, and should continue doing for the benefit of themselves, the team, and the organization. Leaders should not only be on the lookout for in-the-moment opportunities for correcting negative behavior, they also should step in and reinforce positive behavior they want to see continue. 

4. Speak Truth and Do So with Tact

Often, leaders claim to speak the truth, but they leave out key pieces of information, because they might be embarrassing, hard to say, or received poorly. This is not speaking the truth, and it will not benefit you as the leader nor will it help the employee receiving the coaching. Recognize that, generally speaking, people want to know the truth—and although it might be unpleasant in the moment, in the long run, it is more kind, fair, and courteous to tell the truth. As a leader, your obligation is to recognize that your employees need to clearly understand the situation so they can act appropriately. They want the truth. They don’t want it masked, hidden, clouded, hinted at, implied, or skirted around. They also want and appreciate the truth given to them in the most respectful manner possible. This will allow the employee to confidently take appropriate action.

5. Allow for a Two-Way Discussion

For many, especially those in positions of leadership, listening is hard to do. But the impact of listening is tremendous. Listening demonstrates respect for others and earns personal credibility. When coaching, you should allow time for some questions and answers or dialogue where the coach takes the role of the listener. People tend to absorb information better when they have a chance to discuss among themselves or mull it over together. For maximum effectiveness, ask questions during moments of coaching to ensure clarity and alignment, and gain a deeper understanding of the employees’ perspectives. 

6. Capitalize on “in-the-Moment” Opportunities for Coaching

The coaches who inspire the greatest changes in their employees are the ones who do not wait for a set time to provide feedback. Instead, they scan every situation for opportunities to provide coaching and feedback to employees that will improve individual and team performance or allow the coach to affirm behavior he or she wants to continue. This also ensures that the coaching provided is optimally relevant and can be applied effectively at that moment, not long after the fact.

7. Hold Employees Accountable for Putting Feedback into Practice

Once the coaching has been provided, coaches can ensure individuals are held accountable by providing a timetable for reaching specific milestones and by establishing regular checkpoints to review and discuss progress. In addition, providing timely feedback helps people see what they’re doing well and what still needs work. Requiring accountability of the employee who has received coaching also ensures that the coaching effort was worthwhile for everyone: the leader, the employee, the team, and the organization as a whole.

The benefits of coaching extend far beyond increased engagement, better performance, and empowered employees. Coaching ultimately can result in unleashed potential. To unleash that potential, leaders will need to be developed and trained through hands-on coaching to use their skills and techniques appropriately on the job. That said, it is possible to have an organization of leaders at every level who capitalize on every coachable moment that happens in the workplace every day—it just takes training and a focus on applying these seven tips.

Since 1991, John Wright  has acquired extensive experience in the design and delivery of a diverse portfolio of programs. In addition to his executive responsibilities as president of Eagle Flight’s Leadership Development and Learning Events, he is considered a valued partner to many executive teams. His insight and experience enable him to effectively diagnose, design, and implement complex culture change initiatives in a collaborative and engaging manner. Moreover, Wright’s experience in global implementations allows him to draw from a deep well of history to create unique and customized solutions. His passion for developing people makes him a sought-after speaker, partner, and coach.