Becoming a Workplace Coach for Your Team

February 29th, 2012 by Kelly Kienzle

If I asked you to choose between attending a 5-hour training session in a windowless room with a soggy sandwich for lunch, or… holding a meaningful dialogue with members of your team on a highly specific and profoundly important topic, which would you choose?

If you chose the second option with excitement (and relief), then you would probably make a great coach for your team.  In other words, most of us prefer some kind of dialogue.

A deep need exists in most workplaces for us to come out from behind our
e-mail and on-line training manuals to engage directly with people in active conversation.  Having a lively discussion about achieving the goals of your workplace can be more intellectually invigorating for your team and more tailored for your business’ particular needs than sitting through a training seminar.

But how to start the conversation?  What questions could you ask?

Here are some insider tips on how to become the workplace coach for your team.  (Note: All people are eligible for this role; do not wait for or assume that your designated “leader” will be the coach.  You can coach from any rung of the hierarchical ladder.)  Here’s how:

  • Set the vision.  This can be a grandiose vision-setting for the year or simply asking what does the team want to accomplish by the end of the day?  Or by the end of this meeting?  What do they want to stand for in the next year/month/hour?
  • Clarify what is at stake.  Clarifying what is at stake plants the seed in people of just how great it would be to actually achieve this goal.  You can ask them: What would it feel like to realize this vision?  How would you be affected by accomplishing this goal?  What possibilities open up for your team if you were to meet this challenge?
  • Identify what is missing.  Now it’s time to get practical.  What kinds of tools would you need that you don’t have now?  What preliminary steps must be put in place?  Who or what type of talent is missing from your team that you need to enlist?
  • Hold ‘em accountable.  Go back to the people who made those suggestions for next steps and ask if they can take responsibility for them.  (If you are not the official leader of the group, you may need to ask him/her to take over for you at this point.)  Write down the tasks and post them later where all can see them (the team room wall, the office kitchen fridge, your screensavers, the bathroom doors) and put due dates and names next to each one of them.
  • Re-cap with the vision.  Ask them to say again why it is important for them personally that they pursue this vision.  Having people use their own words makes it real and personal for them.

That’s it.  You have just led a discussion by only asking questions.  Being a coach is about asking the right questions, so your colleagues can discover the right answer for themselves.  Incidentally, this is also what it means to be a great leader.

And here’s the bonus: If they discover and articulate the answer themselves, they will get on board with more dedication and gusto to see it through.  Because after all, whose brilliant idea was this anyway?


If you want to build your skills as a coach for your team, please contact me.  I reserve a handful of complimentary sessions each week and would be excited to give this opportunity to you or one of your colleagues.

“Coaching is learning without teaching.” Georgetown University Coaching Faculty Member

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