What Works in Professional Development: You are a Coach, Act Like One

If there is someone in your life that looks to you for guidance, you are a coach. It could be […]

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If there is someone in your life that looks to you for guidance, you are a coach. It could be employees, coworkers, family, friends, your local pee-wee soccer team, etc. The majority of people are coaches, and the hard truth is the majority fail. It’s time to step up, accept that you are a coach, and act like one.

Coaching is not about telling people what to do and when. Coaching is about getting to know people, discovering their strengths and weaknesses (and appreciating those), and empowering them to continually grow and be their best. Coaching is all about letting the coaches arrive at their own solution or goal. If they come up with the solution or goal, they are more likely to achieve it.

Benefits of coaching in the workplace include:

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Stronger organizational culture
  • Improved work relationships
  • More productive and motivated work groups
  • More consistent, replicable bottom-line results
  • A work environment characterized by flexibility, innovation, and loyalty

Build Intentional Connections

A coach needs to be intentional about building a sense of connectedness and appreciation for those they are coaching. A coach must show inclusion and recognition, give clear directions, have meaningful interaction, and provide feedback.

A good place to start building intentional connections is simply by communicating. If you don’t know your coaches strengths, goals, passions, etc., don’t be afraid to flat out ask them. Build this time into your schedule. The more you do it, the more natural it will come. “What would you say are your strengths?” “How could we further improve on those strengths?” “What are your weaknesses?” “How could we improve on those?” “What are your goals for this week, quarter, year?” “What can I do to help you achieve those goals?” “What are some areas where you would like to develop?” “How do you suggest we promote your development in that area?”

It’s not up to you as the coach to solve things. You are there to get them thinking, to assist them in achieving their goals, and to be their advocate so they can to become the very best version of themselves.

Effective communication plays a large role in coaching. According to the Harvard Business Review, the following are the top communication issues people say are preventing business leaders from being effective:

  • Not recognizing employee achievements
  • Not giving clear directions
  • Not having time to meet with employees
  • Refusing to talk to subordinates
  • Taking credit for others’ ideas
  • Not offering constructive criticism
  • Not knowing employees’ names
  • Refusing to talk to people on the phone/in person
  • Not asking about employees’ lives outside work

It takes time and effort to intentionally communicate with and empower others. Begin to open the doors of communication by calling those you coach by their names (the correct name they like to go by) and telling them weekly “I appreciate,” “Thank you for,” “I would like to get your opinion on,” “Let’s meet at this same time and place next week to follow up on….”

Be Trustworthy

The data above shows that the vast majority of leaders (coaches) are not engaging in crucial moments that could help employees see them as trustworthy. Trust is everything. Without trust, the goals of coaching cannot be accomplished.

Trust is when others have the feeling that they can count on youyou have their best interest at heart, care about how they are doing, want them to be successful. This relationship is based on mutual respect and confidence that you will keep information that is confidential private. Your offers of help are sincere, and you will go out of your way to assist if needed. The greatest value you provide as a coach is showing others that you are invested in their success.


Believe in those you coach. If you don’t believe in the person you are coaching, they aren’t likely to grow. Believing in someone helps empower them to see or develop strengths in themselves that they may not have realized they had before. Be encouraging and positive.

As a leader, of any kind, you must believe in those on your team. Your role is to coach and develop them. It’s no longer about you and what you can personally achieve. Your success is dependent on the success of your team. If they are failing, it’s because you are failing. Your team is a direct reflection of you. Believe in them; get to know them. Learn their strengths and weaknesses, and have them come up with a plan for improvement.

When I think of a leader believing in the person they coach, a powerful scene from the movie Facing the Giants comes to mind. The coach asks an influential young man on his team to crawl across the field with another teammate on his back. The football player is reluctant and claims that at his very best, he could make it to the 30-yard line. The coach blindfolds him and tells him to try his very best, no matter what. As the football player slowly maneuvers down the field, the coach stands with him and encourages him every step of the way. The coach tells him to keep going, keep pushing, don’t quit, 10 more steps, almost there, etc. The coach truly believes that this player can achieve a much bigger goal than the 30-yard goal the player has set for himself. By the time the football player gives up on the crawl he has made it 100 yards, all the way into the end zone. It’s one of those hit-you-in-the-heart empowering moments. We should all strive to be that coach. Make the difference in the lives of those we coach and believe in them, without fault, so that they can see what you see in them and learn to believe in themselves.

Walk the Walk

Many coaches talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Words are cheap. If you are coaching others to deliver their best, you must do the same. Live what you are selling. If you have coached an employee that is often late to work, and they came up with a game plan to arrive on time every day, you better live up to that same standard and be on time every day. You set the example for what is expected based on your actions.

Telling a coachee something isn’t going to empower them. You must lead by example, show them WHY it’s important so that they make the internal decision to grow in that area. Empowering others is all about letting the coachee arrive at their own solution. If they come up with the solution, they are likely to follow it.

Business is all about people. People don’t leave companies, they leave people. Coaches don’t fail because they don’t understand the business. They fail because they don’t understand and empower the people who work for them. Be the difference. Build intentional connections, be trustworthy, believe in others, and walk the walk.

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