3 Things Every Leader Should Know About Coaching

3 Things Every Leader Should Know About Coaching



By Dr. James Eyring, Chief Operating Officer, Organisation Solutions



Whether you are coaching your team members to help them improve performance or being professionally coached, there are a few key things you should know about coaching.


1.Coaching Can Get Real Results

Professional coaching can significantly impact leaders. Research over the last 10 years shows that coaching:

  • Helps leaders monitor and regulate their behaviour (i.e. stop bad behaviours!)
  • Improve their performance (as measured by KPIs and their manager)
  • Improve their capabilities
  • Adjust their attitudes and gain perspective and insights
  • Improve their well-being
  • Cope better when things don’t go their way

There is less research on manager-subordinate coaching, but studies show that managers who frequently coach their subordinates are more likely to see improved employee performance. This is true even when looking at objective measures of performance (e.g., sales attainment).


2.But Not All Coaching Gets Results

Some coaching gets great results and other coaching doesn’t deliver. Recent research shows that this is determined by:

  • The Leader. Leaders must want and be open to coaching and believe it can help them make the changes they desire. If a leader on your team is reluctant or does not put coaching into action on-the-job, then cut the coaching short now.
  • Support. Stakeholders including the manager, peers, and the organisation need to support coaching. They must be able to observe and support change as it occurs. The coach can help ensure stakeholders are involved, but if the organisation is unforgiving and unwilling to let the leader change, coaching will not get results.
  • Coach Capability. Coaches matter. Internally, leaders get better performance results when their managers have more coaching experience and skill. Externally, coaching varies tremendously. Some coaches receive minimal training/accreditation, some practice coaching techniques that don’t work (e.g., Neurolinguistic programming), and others are overly wedded to a specific tool and approach. Make sure you know what you are looking for when hiring a coach.

Also, remember that coaching takes time. If you have a leader who is not performing well and has been struggling for some time, don’t expect a coach to come in and turn this around in 30 days. The leader needs time to act and stakeholders need time to observe the change. If you have limited time, don’t waste your money. Instead, spend it on a coach who will accelerate the development of one of your high potentials.


3.You Can’t Always Get What You Want (from a Coach)

Most coaches are trained to ask questions in order to get leaders to reflect, gain insight, find solutions to their problems, and commit to implementing these solutions. This is an important and impactful element of coaching. However, if you stop and think for a moment, would your subordinate want you to always ask questions to drive these outcomes?

We find that leaders often want and need different things from their coach. Coaches can play many roles, including the following:

  • Trusted Advisor. After going through coaching, some leaders want to enter a new relationship where they can call on the coach as a trusted advisor when needed. The coach may play many roles in this relationship.
  • Sounding Board. Senior leaders often don’t have anyone they can speak with openly and honestly. They sometimes need a coach to give them feedback and point out risks of actions they are considering.
  • Expert. Some leaders want advice or expertise that they can consider as they look for their own answers. This stimulates their thinking and offers new solutions to old problems.
  • Trainer. Some leaders want content, tools, or knowledge to help them tackle a challenge. Understanding best practices and having tools help leaders learn and act. Subsequent coaching helps bring out insight.


Whether you are looking to hire a coach or are acting as a coach to your subordinate, make sure you know what role is needed when and ensure the coach has the capabilities needed to deliver.


Building coaching capability and knowledge is a journey. If you are a manager and want to help your direct reports improve performance, focus on understanding the drivers of coaching success and learn new techniques that will expand your coaching toolkit. If you are a leader looking to hire a coach, make sure you take these factors into consideration so as to get results and not waste company resources on ineffective coaching.


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Dr. James Eyring
is the Chief Operating Officer of Organisation Solutions and leads the global consulting practice. In addition, he specialises in leadership and talent management and works with companies and executives to build capabilities they need to fuel future growth. As part of his role, he provides coaching to global and top regional leaders. Contact James




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