How to be a brilliant coach in your workplace

Chris Steer

We often talk about developing a strong coaching culture within your business, and there is a good reason for that: coaching is one of the most effective ways to get the best out of your staff at any level, making them more self-aware and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own development. Research from the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and International Coaching Federation (ICF) last year found that companies with a coaching culture are likely to see higher employee engagement levels, better retention rates, and increased revenue. The ability to coach is therefore hugely valuable for any manager, not just in terms of helping employees find solutions to existing problems, but also as a way to help them reach future goals.

When coaching at leadership level, organisations tend to look externally, bringing in professionally qualified people. But what about the rest of the people in the business who could benefit from coaching? The problem is: most organisations, particularly large ones, simply do not have the budget to send every member of staff on regular professional coaching sessions. That is why talk about embedding a coaching culture, and part of that is about understanding what makes a good coach and how, as a manager, you can use coaching to have a positive impact on your team.

It’s also about understanding that you don’t need to be a professional coach in order to coach effectively. There are a number of behaviours you can practise that will enable you to use coaching as part of your everyday management process.

Ask the right questions

The first point to note about effective coaching is that it is all about asking questions, rather than telling people what you think is the right course of action. In this way, coaching is a fairly strong demonstration of the way in which management styles have changed over the years, shifting away from being ‘dictatorial’ in nature (i.e. “I am the boss so do what I say”), and moving more towards enabling and supporting.

By asking questions, you not only identify what the coachee’s challenges are (therefore making you better able to help them), but also potentially highlight specific learning and development needs which may otherwise have been overlooked.


Asking questions, of course, is only the first part of the equation. In order to coach effectively, you also need to be a great listener. That means not just waiting for your turn to speak, but really hearing, understanding, and acknowledging what the coachee has to say.

Listening in this way will enable you to ask better, more relevant, questions that will help both you and the coachee get to the heart of the issue and come to a resolution more quickly and effectively.

Be emotionally intelligent

Emotional intelligence is hugely important in coaching. A high level of emotional intelligence will enable you, as the coach, to pick up on emotional signals such as body language or tone of voice and react to that in a way that resonates with the emotional state the coachee is in.

Some people are more emotionally intelligent that others, of course, but there are a number of ways in which you can develop your own emotional intelligence, and doing so will almost certainly have a positive impact on your ability as a coach.

Find the time

As with any development activity, coaching requires a certain investment of time in order for it to be effective. It is therefore vital that you find (or make) the time to sit down and coach your employees, away from the usual distractions of the workplace. This could be achieved through regular one-to-ones, or on an ad-hoc basis as and when needed.

People feel increasingly pushed for time these days, and sometimes it can seem impossible to put aside an hour of your day to focus on the development of your staff. But the long-term impact of taking that time to sit down and coach your team members regularly will far outweigh any damage caused by the initial loss of time.

Be approachable

Even if you don’t set up regular time slots in order to coach your team members, being a good coach to them could start with simply making yourself approachable so that employees know they can come to you, as their manager and coach, with any challenges they are struggling to overcome by themselves.

You don’t need to have a sign on your desk saying ‘Happy to Talk,’ but it might help to just communicate with your team members and let them know that they can approach you when needed, and tell them the best way to approach you.

Help people take ownership

Remember: coaching is not about telling people how to solve their problems. You want to help them solve those, problems, yes, but it is important for the coachee to take ownership and come to conclusions themselves.

By doing this, coaching empowers people and encourages them to find ways through their own challenges. This empowerment, in turn, makes them feel more engaged, which will only ever have a positive impact on their productivity and make them more likely to want to stay and help the team, and the business, succeed.

If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to read our article on the differences between mentorship and coaching in the seventh issue of Enhance.