Written By Chris Ihrig

Published on January 25, 2023

It’s not enough to steer your team from afar, meeting with members once a year for performance reviews, and remaining detached from their goals, struggles, and ambitions. An effective leader is someone who is willing to step forward and truly act as a coach for their team members

As Tim and I wrote in our book, Would You Work for You? — The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within, “Team members have made it widely known that they want more timely feedback and an ongoing growth and development plan. In other words, they want your help. Effective leadership involves setting up a scheduled time to work with team members individually on their growth.”

The Behaviors That Allow You to Be a Great Coach

Some leaders might fall naturally into the role of coach, while others have to put more effort and intentionality into developing the skills that allow them to act as a coach to their team.

Regardless, there are a few universal behaviors that the most effective coaches all share:

  • They’re supportive and encouraging
  • Not only do they set standards for growth, personal development, workplace behavior, and productivity, but they also make sure to exemplify those standards
  • When standards are met or exceeded, they make sure to offer acknowledgments and praise.
  • When team members fall short of standards, they provide correction and offer strategies and support for improvement

Why Coaching Matters in the Workplace

It’s no secret that organizations with highly engaged workforces are more competitive, creative, and productive. They experience lower rates of turnover and attract great talent because people want to be part of a great team. But engagement isn’t something that simply occurs without a leader’s guidance and investment.

Not only do team members consistently need coaching, they’re also hungry for it. People desire feedback and want to know that their leader actually cares about their progress and performance. Otherwise, they can lose interest and start believing that what they do doesn’t matter.

Another reason good coaching matters is the realities of today’s business world. As this article from Quantic points out, “change will be the norm moving forward. Likewise, team and organizational success will be dependent on individual resilience and performance.”

Embracing What it Means to be a Coach

Many leaders are comfortable with the supportive aspects of coaching but not the responsibility (and duty) of having to follow through on the negative feedback side. 

Correcting missed standards is an issue that can be uncomfortable to address, especially if one is averse to conflict. However, leadership requires leaning into discomfort, rather than trying to avoid it. The ability to provide negative feedback is what makes the difference between a great coach/manager and an average/poor one. 

To become more comfortable with providing negative feedback, it’s important to chart out a roadmap for making coaching more comfortable — not just for you, but your employees as well.  This article from Harvard Business Review goes into detail about how to handle the delicate art of feedback, but, in general, there are some key areas to focus on:

  • Setting the right expectations for yourself and your employees
  • Agreeing on those expectations as a team
  • Detailing specific misses that have happened, with examples
  • Embracing the mindset that good coaches correct and provide guidance
  • Taking pride in maintaining a standard and now allowing those on your team to miss the mark

Leading Others to Become Leaders

Effective coaching is a vital skill for leaders to refine. It helps your employees grow in their roles and has the added business benefits of reducing turnover, keeping your team members engaged, and creating an environment that encourages consistent excellence.

Yes, delivering negative feedback is hard. But it is a critical component of being a leader, and it’s your job to get comfortable having the occasional uncomfortable conversation. It’s what you signed up for, after all.