Coaching isn’t just something that specialized professionals do. In fact, some of the most powerful coaching experiences are informal exchanges in the hallways, cafeterias, offices, and other workspaces in the course of everyday work.

Coaching conversations are an important means by which experiences are turned into learning, and nearly anyone can conduct them.

Through coaching, you help people become more self-aware. You reinforce strengths and explore challenges. You also help people take responsibility for their actions and their development.

More broadly, organizations benefit from a coaching culture through:

  • Increased employee engagement;
  • Increased job satisfaction and morale;
  • Increased collaboration;
  • Improved teamwork; and
  • Increased bench strength.

Being a coach — developing others — is part of leadership. There are techniques or tools that you may learn, skills to practice, and context to consider.

But any effective coaching conversation requires you to do 3 things:

Infographic: How to Have a Coaching Conversation

1. Listen carefully. Don’t assume what the conversation is about or what path it should take. Truly listen. Allow space — create a comfort level — for others to think, reflect, and express themselves.

2. Respond thoughtfully. Coaching isn’t about the quick fix or first solution. It’s about uncovering answers though inquiry, openness, and exploration. Start by asking questions that draw out more information or stretch the other person’s thinking, such as:

  • What else could you do?
  • What else occurs to you?
  • Who else have you talked to about this?
  • Who else is affected in this situation?

3. Resist imposing your own solution. Shift from the norm of telling, problem-solving, and giving advice. There are times to direct or give answers, but coaching conversations are about the other person’s learning — not about your opinion or expertise. Again, asking questions will help him or her see possible solutions:

  • How could you look at the situation in a different way?
  • What other alternatives can you think of?
  • What are you not considering?

And, when a choice isn’t one you would make — don’t shut it down.

When you are able to listen carefully, respond thoughtfully, and resist imposing your own solution, you have the basis of a coaching conversation.

So whether that conversation was a planned coaching session or an impromptu moment, you’ve opened the door to new thinking, new action, and valuable learning.

This article is based on The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Coaching in Organizations. Learn more about our Coaching for Human Resource Professionals (CHRP) program and other Coaching Services.

2 thoughts on “How to Have a Coaching Conversation

  1. Dick LaFever says:

    Especially like #3 – Resist imposing your own solution. Be present, listen attentively, and avoid platitudes.

  2. Dick LaFever says:

    Especially like #3 – Resist imposing your own solution. Be present, listen attentively, and avoid platitudes.

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