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Are You Coaching Your People?

People are your most valuable asset. We know that we should invest in people and help them be more effective, but daily demands and other “priorities” get in the way week-after-week.

The real question remains, “What are you actually doing about it? Are you growing the capability of your people? Are you taking an interest in their development? Are you current with the review cycle? Are you a coaching your people?”

Developing people is more important than ever. The ability to change and grow is taking on more and more importance today. The pace of change is faster in every industry, and the complexity of work is greater. Organizations are flatter, especially in regards to decision making. Being a manager that not only achieves results but can develop people is more valuable than ever.

Focus on development

Before talking about specific actions you can take, there are some important differences from straight-up managing to consider. As a manager, results need to come first. It is your top priority to achieve the results you have for your area of expertise. To be a coaching leader means to focus on the results and development of people. There will be times when the results have to come first. The trick is to not let development fall completely off your agenda.

Another difference is how you approach something that needs to get done. Being a manager often requires you to direct people (“this needs to be done, go get it done”). Developing people requires a different approach. Instead of just focusing on the pure delegation of getting the job done, you need to focus on “how” to get it done or what skills are needed to complete the task. You can engage with your direct report about different ways to get things done?this could be likely different from your preferred approach?so be ready for that.

Finally, the underlying factor of a coaching leader is to take a genuine interest in the other person’s development. You need to think like a coach. Are you willing to help others achieve new capabilities and reach higher levels of performance? Will you be able to focus on results and development?  Be sure the answer is yes before taking this on.


So how should you go about it? A must-do step is to be current on your organization’s review cycle. You should be doing a stellar job with performance appraisals, taking the time to think through the key skills the person needs. A coaching leader focuses equally on the development needs and evaluating performance. Take advantage of this. If it is a daunting process, think about changing your approach to it. Another important piece of background work for a coaching leader is to be current on your organization’s competency model if one exists. You should understand it fully and align your efforts to it. There is absolutely no need to re-invent the wheel.


Use this five-part approach to start coaching your direct reports:

  • jointly identify clear goals
  • create a written plan to guide efforts
  • implement goals
  • provide reinforcement
  • check in on the progress. 

Though these five parts are easy to understand, the magic and growth happens with the specifics and particulars you do in each phase, such as the specific goals you identify,  the way the goals get written up, or the clever way you help someone implement a goal. Sometimes it requires creativity, insight, or simply stepping back and letting the employee take charge.
Jointly identify goals. With your reviews in hand, examine what your people are doing and how they are doing it. Ask some straightforward questions: How can they improve? What do they need to advance to the next level or the higher end of their current role? It is imperative that this discussion take place  jointly with your direct report. Come to an agreement on what the goals are. This builds commitment and shared understanding. It shouldn’t be too hard to settle on a few clear, well described professional development goals. 

Create a written plan.  Have your direct report create a written plan. Nothing helps focus any development efforts like having a written plan. It gives both of you something to consistently refer to. Describe the goals in enough detail so they uniquely apply to your direct report. Include specific action steps that the person can accomplish. Without this “tool,” you’ll most likely end up having just random, unfocused discussions. Work the language of the organizations’ competencies into the plan. That action helps to create a common language.

Implement.  The rubber meets the road in the actual growth someone experiences. The key is to help them achieve their goals through their work and assignments. Find opportunities in their work where the goals can be practiced. Once you get good at this, work becomes a target rich environment for virtually any development goal. Use delegation as a development opportunity--when you delegate a piece of work, highlight the development goal it relates to.

Another key implementation idea is to think “real time” development. As work is progressing, spot the development possibilities in it. Take a moment or two to discuss the situation. For example, if you have a direct report that is working on presentation skills, be sure to review and discuss some key presentations with them. Explain how you go about it. What you do to prepare. How you figure out the audience. How you handle questions.

Provide reinforcement. Look for reinforcement opportunities--both positive and constructive. It is important to highlight wins along the way. This should be another “real time” action.

Check in on progress. Finally, have meetings on a regular basis--maybe once per quarter--to track progress.  Make this separate from an “operational” meeting where you go over the needs, issues, and decisions of the day. The development meeting is an opportunity to talk about progress and challenges.

By working through these steps, you can begin to take a focused and forward-thinking approach to becoming a coaching leader that develops people. Being a coaching leader can get your group to higher levels of performance.


Robert P. Hewes, PhD, is a senior partner at Camden Consulting Group, where he works with clients to help them reach higher levels of leadership and management capability. He designs and delivers executive coaching and leadership development services for clients.

About the Author

Senior Partner, Camden Consulting Group 

Bob is a senior partner with Camden Consulting Group, overseeing leadership development and management training. A skilled strategist, facilitator, and executive coach, he designs and delivers executive coaching and leadership development services for Camden's clients.

Camden Consulting is a consulting firm that provides focused, practical, customized, and integrated human capital management, leadership development, executive coaching, and training services to organizations and their employees. Visit them at

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