Workplace Coaching: A Six Step Guide for Coaching at Work

Timothy Gallwey

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.

The Growth of Coaching in the Workplace

Over many years, life coaching has steadily grown in popularity. It has spread across the globe, and now forms the bedrock of a thriving self-development industry.

Today, life coaches specialize in relationship coaching, in career coaching, in life skills coaching, in business coaching, and in many other facets of life. They help people solve problems, achieve their goals, and live life in optimal ways.

Life coaching, however, isn’t just about personal coaching. These days, corporations are hiring life coaches to work with their staff. Specifically, they are hiring life coaches to motivate, inspire, and improve worker productivity. The idea is that highly motivated and productive employees will help boost the company’s bottom line.

Workplace coaching provides a platform for continuous learning and development. It creates conditions for setting higher standards of excellence across the organization. It also bridges the gap between current and desired performance levels.

All this, of course, leads to the achievement of organization-wide goals and objectives, which, subsequently, helps improve an organization’s bottom line.

The True Value of Coaching at Work

What value does workplace coaching bring to an organization? This is a tough question to answer, as it really just depends on an organization’s goals.

Workplace coaching is for the primary benefit of the employee. But, of course, as the employee benefits, so does the organization as a whole.

If we were to look at this in a general way, then we could conceivably highlight several benefits of workplace coaching. These benefits are focused on helping employees gain the confidence and direction they need to perform at a high level.

Given this, let’s explore the value of coaching in the workplace. Let’s examine how life coaching can help employees to optimize how they work and live their life.

A life coach can help employees in the workplace in the following ways:

This, of course, isn’t a comprehensive list, but it does highlight the tremendous value of workplace coaching.

Workplace Coaching

The Working Mechanics of Workplace Coaching

Workplace coaching is only as effective as the coach doing the actual coaching. In other words, a life coach must be a good fit for the organization. They must not only know how to coach but must also understand the organization as a whole. Specifically, the culture and the dynamics of the organization.

Given this, finding the right coach isn’t an easy task. A life coach must for starters be a good fit. Moreover, they must have specific qualities and traits that help them excel in this role. Furthermore, their coaching approach must be conducive toward growth and development. 

With this in mind, let’s explore the anatomy of a workplace coach. Let’s examine the ideal coaching approach that will help get the best possible results.

The Coaching Approach of a Workplace Coach

There are five indispensable traits that form the foundations for coaching at work. These traits include empathy, patience, honesty, open-mindedness, and persistence.

Every life coach must work on cultivating these traits to gain optimal results from each coaching session.

Along with these traits, a workplace coach must focus all their energies on helping their coachee excel at work. Typical roles and responsibilities include:

  • Assisting the coachee in setting long-term developmental goals. Then progressively working through those goals.
  • Working with the coachee through potential risks and the uncertainties they face.
  • Building the coachee’s strengths and skills to improve their performance.
  • Exploring past successes to improve output and results.
  • Assisting the coachee to adapt to changing work conditions and circumstances.
  • Helping the coachee work through challenges using manageable steps.
  • Directing the coachee to reach their own conclusions, then guiding them down an optimal path.
  • Helping the coachee take personal initiative at work.
  • Assisting the coachee to take personal responsibility for their mistakes, problems, and decisions.
  • Helping the coachee view their setbacks as lessons or as stepping stones toward success.

Along with these responsibilities, a workplace coach must be skilled at using responsive language. They must provide their coachee with feedback that is specific, factual, and objective.

The feedback that a coach provides comes from a mutual assessment of performance. In other words, it’s something that the coach and coachee work through together.

In the end, the guidance that the life coach provides must stimulate positive change and transformation. This guidance, of course, comes disguised as a set of questions.

A life coach will rarely if ever, give direct instructions. Instructions are only provided towards the end of a session for implementation purposes. Otherwise, the focus is on asking effective questions.

These questions are designed to draw out answers, ideas, and solutions. Using these insights, the coachee feels empowered to make their own choices and decisions.

Coaching at work does, however, present its own set of unique challenges for the life coach. Inexperienced workplace coaches will be prone to making the following common coaching mistakes. But with time, experience, and practice the coach learns to work with coachees in more optimal ways.

The Workplace Coach

Breaking Down the Workplace Life Coaching Process

Here in this final section, let’s break down the workplace life coaching process. This process is divided into six-steps that explore how to coach in a work environment. These steps include:

  1. Determine Purpose and Performance Goals
  2. Analyze Performance and Strengths
  3. Explore Obstacles and Options
  4. Commit to Taking Specific Action
  5. Implement the Agreed Actions
  6. Review the Progress Made and Lessons Learned

Use these six-steps and guidelines to help you develop a robust framework for coaching your work colleagues.

It’s important to point out though, that this is a process. It’s a process that involves multiple coaching sessions over a period of time. How many sessions might be needed depends entirely on the circumstances and on the coachee.

In general, workplace coaching must be seen as an ongoing medium for growth and development. It’s a neverending process of growth and transformation. It evolves and changes over time. And these changes depend entirely on the coachee and the organization.

With this in mind, it’s important to take a long-term approach. Coaching requires flexibility and adaptation to changing conditions over time.

With that said, let’s explore the six-steps in a little more detail.

Step 1: Determine Purpose and Performance Goals

The first step of the workplace coaching process involves laying down the foundations. These foundations will form the bedrock of the coaching sessions that follow.

A coachee could, of course, bring to mind various issues and/or struggles they face at work. As a workplace coach, you must adapt your approach accordingly. Treat every coachee as an individual, and work through issues in a structured way.

When it comes to workplace coaching, it’s not necessarily about the individual or about the coachee. That’s what personal coaching is for.

Workplace coaching is instead about the individual and the role they play within the organization. It’s about them learning to adapt, excel, and thrive in their work environment.

The end goal isn’t so much about the individual, but rather about their influence on the organization as a whole. 

With this in mind, your first interaction with the coachee must address performance goals. Understanding these performance goals will help unlock the purpose of the coaching session.

To begin exploring these performance goals, you must first get to know your coachee. Specifically, you must understand the role they play within the organization. Furthermore, you must gain clarity about their struggles, then work on guiding them down an optimal path.

Given this, here are several questions worth asking at this early stage of the coaching process:

What is your role within the organization?

What major goals and objectives do you have assigned to that role?

Do you believe that these goals are realistic and achievable?

What would be the ideal outcome you would like to realize?

How exactly will you feel when it has been achieved?

From here, the coaching session could move forward in various directions. However, for the purposes of our discussion, let’s assume that the coachee has some struggles. Specifically, let’s assume that they just don’t believe they can hit their targets.

This lack of confidence is an early sign that they are likely to struggle to meet company objectives. As a coach, your purpose is to help guide them down an optimal path toward a desired outcome. But to get there, you first need to obtain more information.

Step 2: Analyze Performance and Strengths

The second step of this process involves assessing the coachee’s current reality. This primarily comes down to an analysis of their performance and strengths.

It’s important to gain clarity in these areas as they will shed light on their personal struggles.

With this in mind, question the coachee about their current reality and circumstances:

What does the current situation look like?

What struggles are most evident?

What about this situation is within your control?

What about this situation is not within your control?

Why do you believe you are unable to control these things?

You should now have a good understanding of your coachee’s present reality. With this in mind, let’s explore their strengths and how that relates back to their performance.

What do you consider to be your strengths?

How have these strengths served you in the past?

How could your strengths be of value in this particular situation?

What’s working for you right now in this situation?

What has worked for you before in this or a similar situation?

How exactly did you handle things?

How can you take those lessons and apply them to this situation?

Your goal at this stage of the coaching process is to build confidence. Your coachee must feel that they have the self-confidence needed to handle their current predicament.

Finally, keep in mind that the questions you just asked have put the coachee into a solution-focused frame-of-mind. In this state, they are more open and receptive to exploring options for moving forward. This, of course, brings us to the next stage of the workplace coaching process.

Step 3: Explore Obstacles and Options

Having put your coachee into a more positive state-of-mind, it’s now time to explore options for moving forward.

But just before you take that step, it’s helpful to first identify potential obstacles. These are obstacles that could hinder their progress.

Ask your coachee the following questions:

Given what you now know, what obstacles could hinder your progress?

Are there any obstacles you feel you might struggle to overcome?

Why do you feel that way about these obstacles?

What if you could overcome these obstacles? How would that make you feel?

Here, you have yet again put the coachee into a positive and receptive state-of-mind. This, of course, is helpful as it encourages them to see possibilities rather than problems.

Your next objective is to pave the way forward. In other words, you must discuss options for overcoming each obstacle.

In an ideal world, what could we do in this instance?

What is the best solution for the team?

What could we see here if we stepped away from the situation?

What do you feel is a practical way to achieve this?

What’s another way of looking at this that could be of value?

Is there anything we’re missing here that could help?

Who could assist us to work through all this? How exactly could they help?

Given all this, how could we move forward? What’s the best option?

These questions are designed to help encourage creative insights and ideas. Moreover, they are framed in such a way that promotes team-oriented thinking.

Framing the questions from a “we” perspective makes the coachee sense that they are not in this alone. They are rather one cog in a bigger wheel that needs to work in unison to solve the shared problem.

This is where workplace coaching has tremendous value. It turns individual effort into team effort in the pursuit of organization-wide goals and objectives. 

Workplace Coaching Process

Step 4: Commit to Taking Specific Actions

The next step in the workplace coaching process involves making a commitment to action.

From a coaching perspective, you should by this stage have a fair idea of what the coachee is capable of. In other words, you will have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Using this knowledge, it’s now time to assign tasks that have specific targets in mind.

The tasks you assign the coachee must match their level of competence and confidence. Moreover, you must specify a timeframe for the accomplishment of each task.

Here are several questions to ask the coachee to get the ball rolling:

What options do you think will work best?

How soon can you begin working on this?

What are the key priorities you will need to work on?

What are the first steps of this process?

How will you make the time to do this?

Do you have the necessary resources?

How will you acquire any missing resources?

How will you measure your progress?

How will you know you’re on target?

How best could I support you along this journey?

How will others support you with this?

When would be a good time to review your progress?

These questions will lay down the foundations for what needs to get done. You may, however, need to also help your coachee develop adequate contingency plans. This is, of course, of most value when things don’t entirely go to plan.

Contingency plans will help the coachee adapt their approach when facing setbacks. It will also give them the confidence they need to independently work through problems.

Step 5: Implement the Agreed Actions

The next step is to reach an agreement with the coachee that they will implement the agreed upon actions.

For smaller tasks, this can be in the form of a simple verbal agreement. However, for larger tasks and projects it can be helpful to put the agreement in writing.

As a general rule of thumb, there’s tremendous value in writing down all the actions points on paper. Having a written/visual representation helps keep the coachee accountable for their actions.

Step 6: Review the Progress Made and Lessons Learned

In the final step of the workplace coaching process, you become more of an accountability partner rather than a coach.

Your role is to keep the coachee accountable for their actions. You do this by reviewing their progress at regular intervals. This of course involves:

  • Exploring the progress the coachee has made.
  • Identifying what worked and didn’t work for them.
  • Reviewing the lessons learned from their experience.
  • Assessing how they could’ve done things better.
  • Outlining the next steps moving forward.

This review process could, of course, take some time. Depending on the project or tasks, it’s something that could take several weeks or months to finalize.

Over this period you must work on continuing to develop a supportive working relationship with the coachee. In the long-run, this will build trust and help improve performance and results.

How to Coach in the Workplace

Concluding Thoughts

Workplace coaching is a rewarding yet challenging process that requires ongoing work and development. It’s something that can bring tremendous value to an organization wanting to boost productivity and improve performance.

Having a workplace coach will not only keep your staff motivated but also accountable for their actions. With accountability comes responsibility, and this, of course, leads to higher level results across the organization.

In the end, the additional costs of coaching often pale in comparison to the increased output generated as a result of the coaching process.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Coaching at Work

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.