Blairgowrie Associates

Blairgowrie - Customer Experience and Organisational Efficiency Specialists

Are you an effective coach? 10 checkpoints to consider ...


People by their very nature are highly complex beings. All have varying talents. All have a set of unique life and work experiences and very few actually recognise or attain their true potential. The nature of business is centered around people and so, it clearly doesn't require a huge leap of faith to recognise that effective people can significantly enhance the organisations for which they work.

Coaching is not about being 'pink and fluffy' (a term I probably use too much). It is about helping people recognise, understand and ultimately achieve their potential. It is not limited to any particular group. Effective coaching can help young, old, new, long-standing, CEO's right through to the lowest in any organisational structure - Why should coaching be considered across such a broad range of people? Well put simply, you never know the scale of someone's potential. Perhaps the lowest ranked person, could have the greatest potential to enhance a business....?

I am incredibly fortunate that I get to work with some great people and see the results that effective coaching can bring, whether that be from an outside organisation such as ourselves, or through internal resources coaching each other. Over the years, it has been interesting to see how people coach and what works and what doesn't. There is no special set formula for coaching but there are some key points that anyone provding coaching should at least consider.

Anyway, lets get to the point that you are probably reading this. Everyone loves a list!

If you coach or plan to coach someone in the future, this may help (although it does require some humility and willingness for self-reflection, so be warned).

  • 1. Ask open and probing questions which generate an answer requiring thought. Too many people ask closed questions requiring just a "yes" or "no" or worse still, ask a question that already contains the perceived answer. 
  • 2. Listen and respond to what has been said. This confirms understanding and interest. Do not cut across someone who is answering as this is the ultimate way of saying "I dont really care or have any interest in you, it's all about me".
  • 3. Build a trusted rapport but, be very careful not to share confidential information about other colleagues. It is a fine line to maintain between being authentic and having a trusted relationship, yet not breaking confidences. Coaching is all about trust.
  • 4. Be clear from the start and agree specific outcomes that energise and are achievable. Coaching should always lead to agreed outcomes otherwise, it simply becomes "a nice chat" (another term I use regularly!).
  • 5. Absolutely do not tell people what to do. Ever heard "well, if I were you ...". Does that really create buy-in? Instead, explore, challenge and prompt people to identify and recognise solutions that they believe in. If you are going to also mentor, be clear from the start that it is part coaching and mentoring.
  • 6. Be focused on the individual. This is valuable time. Checking emails or taking calls during a coaching session sends one of the worst messages possible (yes, I've seen it happen too many times). The solution is simple, turn the PC or phone off. Easy!
  • 7. Use tools carefully and sparingly and only when required. It is not about the coach showing how smart they are. Tools are simply a means to an end. Keep things simple and focused upon the outcome. That said, don't be afraid to use a suitable tool to overcome a blockage.
  • 8. Structure the approach and prepare beforehand. Follow-up afterwards. A coaching session is merely a trigger. The real values comes from what is achieved outside of it. Without preparation, it becomes (dare I say again), just a nice chat.
  • 9. If undertaking several coaching sessions, ensure that there is linkage between these. The 'thread' should be maintained to ensure discussion around what was agreed previously, actions, subsequent new thinking and experiences and results.  
  • 10. Adjust your style to what works for the recipient. This can be hard for two reasons. Firstly to recognise when a style is/is not working and secondly, to have the humilty and ability to adapt. The best way is to ask if it is working. Do not plough on with the same approach and expect things to change. 

Of course, there are many other considerations however, these 10 seem to be the most challenging when coaching for consistency. Good coaching can produce truly amazing results.

Finally, if you are being coached, then do consider if your coach demonstrates these points consistently. If you are a coach no matter how experienced, it is worth a moment of reflection to check your approach. After all, any coach that believes they have no need to improve may be a prime candiate for recieving some coaching themselves .......


John provides leadership coaching for teams and individuals, combined (when appropriate) with 'real-world' consultancy. John can be contacted through the contact page on Blairgowrie Associates website -