Using a Coaching Approach to Maximize Your Impact at Work and in Life


Many studies have shown coaching is a great strategy for engaging employees and elevating performance in the workplace. It can also be a great strategy to employ in other areas of your life. So, what is coaching? It involves formal or informal conversations between a coach (you) and a learner (someone else) intended to produce positive changes in behaviors.

Coaching helps individuals tap into their innate reflection, critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities. It involves asking open-ended questions and listening actively to help guide others toward their own solutions.

Coaching isn’t appropriate for every situation, so let’s review when it might be used most effectively. At work, coaching might be used when you are:

  • Teaching new job skills
  • Assisting someone in preparing for a new challenging job assignment
  • Supporting someone in setting development goals
  • Helping someone make better decisions or become more self-aware

Similarly, outside of work, you might use coaching to help someone else improve his/her skills, make decisions or grow and develop in another way. Personally, I wish I had used it more with my children as they were growing up as it is a great tool for helping them grow and improve, and they have more buy-in to the solution since they were an active part of the process.

To be a good coach, you have to have a growth mindset, meaning that you believe that the skills and talents of others can be improved with effort. You also need to have a trusting relationship with the other person. If they don’t trust you, coaching isn’t going to work very well. Finally, you need to be skilled at asking appropriate questions and listening actively.

Since coaching is a great strategy, why don’t we use it more? Some of us don’t do it because we aren’t sure how. Further, coaching takes more time than just giving someone advice on how to do something. And, admit it, we sometimes enjoy being a resource and sharing our wisdom with others! I use coaching a lot at work and even facilitate classes about it, but honestly, I  never thought much about using it with my children or in forums outside of work.

As mentioned, asking open-ended questions is a critical skill for coaching. You can start a coaching conversation with something like, “What’s on your mind?” Or, if someone comes to you for advice on something, you can flip it and ask, “What are your thoughts on what you could do?” Then, as they share their thoughts, you can ask, “And, what else?” Then, you keep doing that until there are no more And, what else’s”.

Additional questions that you might employ in coaching include:

  • What would you like to achieve?
  • What do you want?
  • What is the situation currently?
  • What could you do to reach your goal?
  • What will you do to move forward? How can I support you? When will we follow up?

Now that you have some information on how to coach effectively, what could cause problems? A common derailer includes asking leading questions which means sharing your solution in the form of a question. It can also disrupt a coaching conversation if you jump to fill in periods of silence because people need time to process. Finally, not listening actively and imposing your solution (even though you know better) will negatively impact your ability to coach.

Ready to give it a try? You can practice over the coming weeks by using a coaching approach to guide others towards results instead of jumping in to solve their problem or giving advice.


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