Coaching – A Secret Ingredient for Effective Leadership

by Rick Johnson

A prerequisite for effective leadership is the ability to coach your employees. Don't confuse coaching with mentoring. There is a subtle difference between coaching and mentoring.

Coaching means; to help improve performance by encouraging, motivating and directing others to achieve their goals.

Mentoring means; becoming a confidant - leading through the use of past examples and experience

Coaching is the front-line to improved employee performance. Mentoring is a skill required for selected employee long-term development. We are going to focus on coaching in this article. Coaching is proven to work when these two factors are present. First, the employee is willing and wants to grow, second, there is a gap between where they are now and where they want to be. These two basic factors are absolutely essential for you and the employee to solve problems, create a new life, turn a business around, to increase sales and profitability, and design and implement a plan of action.

Ultimately humans consistently do only that which they naturally and effortlessly love to do. Finding that passion again and determining what you really want for yourself and your business is your first task. Coaching will help distinguish between what the employee "should want" and "have to want" from what they truly want for themselves. Once you help them develop their vision, they are much more likely to naturally and consistently proceed in that direction.

Very few people ever learn the skills of how to think. In our schools, families, and social structures, we learn "how" and "what" to do and we learn "what" to think. Our world is full of individuals who have chosen dependent, me first, excuse-ridden attitudes. It has become a way of life. This type of attitude is a dead end for employees. It is unwanted, unproductive, and unprofitable. Possibility thinking through coaching opens the door to a whole new way of seeing and interacting within the environment of the business world we find ourselves in.

The old saying "No Pain, No Gain" is exactly the same as the scientific principle of cause and effect. The employees you select to coach and mentor will learn to produce more with less effort. They become more productive and more valuable to the organization. Coaching can help employees eliminate roadblocks and help identify if not eliminate critical constraints that prevent success. Coaching helps employees intensify their focus and become more visionary and productive. Supportive and mutually beneficial relationships are what business and a friendly family culture are all about. Unfortunately, few people learn the communication, decision-making, and perception skills needed to nurture these incredible skills. It is amazing how simple they are to understand and how difficult they are to implement. Coaching can increase the skill level in each of these areas.

The Five Key Objectives of Coaching

  1. Identifying the obstacles to success and helping the employee overcome them. Personal and professional success comes much more easily when you have a strong coach or mentor.
  2. Better decisions are a result of the willingness to discuss ideas and concerns. Winners are always seeking feedback from others.
  3. Expand the self imposed horizon and boundaries the employee has created for themselves.
  4. Setting individual goals and objectives.
  5. Identifying and working on individual weaknesses that can impede success.

The Umbrella Principles

Think of coaching like an umbrella. There are several principles that fall under this umbrella that support the five key objectives of coaching, these include:

  • Observing Behavior
  • Effective listening
  • Providing Feedback
  • Recognizing performance
  • Training

The Five Steps in the Coaching Process

An effective coaching process requires that goals and expectations are clearly understood. It is essential that the employee being coached receive all the appropriate training based on his job responsibilities and future developmental needs. Behavior observation, communication and finally behavior modification are essential to success at coaching. This includes feedback and positive reinforcement.

  1. Set clear goals and expectations Setting goals and objectives is no easy task. They must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. (SMART) Goals and objectives are the very first step in effective coaching. The employee should participate in this process. After all, the goals should be specific to that individual and they must take ownership. As goals or expectations change, it is your job as coach to communicate these changes to your employees. The goal should be negotiated, not dictated.
  2. Training To be an effective coach, you need to understand the employee's strengths and weaknesses. This includes a thorough understanding of their training needs and accomplishments. Do they have the necessary skills and knowledge to accomplish the goals and objectives that have been set? Making sure that the employee has the opportunity to get the required training to develop their skill set is a prerequisite to effective coaching. One of your basic challenging responsibilities as a coach is to identify the skills and knowledge the employee needs and then arrange for the appropriate training.
  3. Behavior Observation How does the employee react to a crisis? How do they handle themselves when they are placed in leadership situations? How do they react to peer pressure? As a coach observing the employee's behavior and noting specifics that need attention and discussion is a primary responsibility. It is important that you collect and record both positive and negative performance along the way to add credibility to your feedback.
  4. Feedback Meeting with the employee regularly to discuss performance and other issues is absolutely critical to their development. The key is not in telling the employee what to do but it is helping the employee find the answers on their own. This can be done by asking very specific thought provoking questions. Make sure you give the employee kudos for all the positive behavior you have observed.
  5. Positive Reinforcement Believe it or not, employees want to be held accountable. If we re going to hold employees accountable, they have to know how they are performing. Specifically we should emphasize the positive aspects of their performance. Focusing on the good things an employee accomplishes will motivate them to continue to do good work, and in turn will ensure repeat performance.

It's About Leadership

Make no mistake, coaching and mentoring is about leadership. It is difficult to be a coach or a mentor without leadership skills. Coaching and mentoring is all about the development of others. It requires effective development activities and projects related to current and future performance expectations. It requires the unique ability to recognize potential skill and ability in others that is worthy of development. A good coach, an effective leader, possesses an innate ability to motivate and inspire others to achieve stretch goals. They have the ability, the knowledge and the sensitivity to generate an adaptive style according to the individual and circumstances at hand earning respect and trust.

Copyright © Rick Johnson

About the Author

Dr. Rick Johnson is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC. an experienced based firm specializing in leadership and the creation of competitive advantage in wholesale distribution. CEO Strategist LLC. works in an advisory capacity with distributor executives in board representation, executive coaching, team coaching and education and training to make the changes necessary to create or maintain competitive advantage. You can contact them by calling 352-750-0868, email at or visit for more information. CEO Strategist – experts in Strategic Leadership in Wholesale Distribution.

We Recommend
Two Way Feedback e-book

Find out more about building the coaching skills of managers in your organization. Get Jennifer McCoy's practical guide, 2 Way Feedback, today. This compact e-book is packed with strategies for strengthening trust and creating a high performance culture in your workplace. Visit the 2 Way Feedback information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using this practical guide today.

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