The 6 Steps Of A Basic Coaching Conversation … and why most managers forget number 2

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I have coached many managers who have been in the organisations a long time but their boss has got to the end of his/her tether with them. Problems in the way they behave have finally got too much to bear, senior leaders have a low opinion of them, their staff are not usually delivering, but they just won’t change. The time arrives to spend money on a, sometimes potentially final, last ditch attempt to change behaviour.

So what do we have to do as managers to nip underperformance in the bud BEFORE it gets expensive to rectify?

Because most performance issues can be improved (my coaching successes far outweigh the failures as proof) and it’s best not to leave it to too late in the day.

  • If you’re in HR you might want to share this blog and ebooklet with your managers.
  • If you’re a manager this will save you grief and can only enhance your reputation.

1. Don’t stick your head in the sand

Tackle issues as they arise. It’s tempting to hope that the problem will go away…but it never does; it just gets worse, and usually with an unhappy ending for everyone involved.

2. Give people techniques

If someone won’t change, can’t change, it’s probably really because they don’t know what to do, or more likely, how to do it.

You’ve probably made it clear what you want from them? (See point 1) Helping them work out how to is another matter.

Once we get stuck in a particular groove of behaviour it becomes very difficult to get out of it. Old habits die hard; we all settle into a pattern or style of behaviour that becomes comfortable. Once in that holding pattern it feels almost impossible to change tactics. But, in my experience, most people only need to change a few tactics to feel and demonstrate an improvement. In fact people visibly relax when I assure them they don’t need to change the personalities or characters (that would be too big an ask and actually not necessary), just find some new ways of doing things.

Take Fred for example. He had a member of staff that failed to get the promotion they wanted and was moping around the office, dragging his heels and irritating the entire team. Fred didn’t want a confrontation so left it to stew. As soon as we went through the techniques of a basic coaching conversation he got it; it’s really not difficult once someone explains it. Off he went and engaged the would be “failure” in a serious discussion, as demonstrated by the same coaching we were engaged in, and got a positive result. Which leads me to the next point.

3. Quick wins are so powerful

One small tactic, a change of result from the one expected or currently in evidence, and suddenly we have momentum. The coachee (someone come up with a better word please) has proof that they can do things differently and are open to other changes.

4. And finally, coach don’t tell

Take some time to dig a little deeper, understand their thinking. Ask open and probing questions.

What would be a good result for them? What would success look like? How much easier could work be for them if they changed tactics? Get them to look over the parapet and articulate what they really want from a change. This is the start in achieving some action; being able to see just how things could be better, easier, less stressful. We all have to have an incentive to get out of our current holding pattern.

Discuss options. Try to get them to find their own techniques but if that’s the stumbling block suggest a tactic and get a quick win.

Get commitment for some action. Praise any steps taken and keep the coaching process going. Move on to the next technique.

This article is the background to the 6 steps of a coaching conversation. It wouldn’t be right for me to just give you the background without suggesting HOW to do it so….

Download the ebooklet for the 6 steps at  and share; it’s free so why not?

And tell me why stage 2 is so important and why you think managers miss it out?

Try our video “How to Conduct a Coaching Conversation”

This is just the first in a series of regular ebooklets that we can deliver straight to your inbox. Just sign up (email address only…we don’t  ask for all your details) down at the bottom on the right.

The next one is “What every Manager Ought To Know About Giving Feedback” …. now that would be worth sharing.

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