Dr. Anju Chawla




2 Sep 2023, By Dr. Anju Chawal

  1. ESTABlishing THE purpose and mapping with outcome

The beginning of any coaching interaction needs to start with a clear purpose. The purpose tends to be one of three types of conversations: developmental (optimizing strengths), career (preparing for another role), or performance (overcoming obstacles or dealing with performance gaps).

To clarify this objective or purpose of the conversation, ask the coaching participant the following types of questions:

  • What would you like to have accomplished at the end of this conversation?
  • What does success look, feel or sound like when we are finished today?
  • What would you like to achieve because of our time together?
  • How will you know session is a success for you?

It is important to ask and confirm this objective so there is mutual understanding and agreement. Clearly mutual agreement can be challenging when there is a performance gap, however this is the first step in creating a successful coaching conversation and needs to be clarified as much as possible.

  1. Building psychological safety and trust for and with client to tap into inner potential of client

This is a key step in any coaching conversation and requires the coach to ask insightful questions, actively listen, be comfortable with silence, and see the situation through multiple perspectives. Leaders may assume they know the situation already or feel they have all of the facts. However, asking open-ended and probing follow up questions is critical in helping create a safe, accurate, and positive environment for the coaching participants to open up, self-discover, and effectively work with the coach.

To help do this assessment step, consider asking these kinds of questions (these will vary based on the objective of the conversation):

  • What three things did you learn from this past project?
  • What three things will you do differently in the future?
  • What three skills are you actively working on to develop yourself for future roles?

It is important to keep the assessment questions open-ended and devoid of trigger or leading words like “why” (causes defensiveness) or “right” (especially at the end of a sentence). Also, learn about past history, but spend more time in helping the coaching participant prepare for the future. Describing the past can take a lot of valuable time and it can’t be changed, but the future is the place that is unwritten and full of possibilities.

  1. Sharing observations with permission

This step provides the opportunity for the coach to share observations with the coaching participant. While this can be a positive and insightful experience, it can also become detrimental if not handled well. In the role of a coach, it is important to allow the other person to identify their own focus areas whenever possible. However, hearing fact-based observations and suggestions from the coach is a powerful source for increasing self awareness and seeing new ideas. Connect the feedback to the purpose of the conversation, focus on the behavior and not your own interpretation of the behavior, and emphasize the impact of the behavior and how it helps or hinders the coaching participant from accomplishing the desired business and people results. Consider making these kinds of statements:

  • The way you delivered the presentation helped everyone understand and become committed to the call to action. [positive feedback comment highlighting impact]
  • Your whole face lights up when you talk about XYZ, tell me more about what you really enjoy about it. [coach observation of non-verbal signs from coaching participant]
  • When you were late for the deadline, you let your team down. What can you do to ensure this does not happen again? [constructive feedback that focuses on behavior and impact]


  1. Goal Maaping with identified actions

Goal setting is where the assessment and feedback turn into action to accomplish the purpose of the conversation. It is an important step in helping the coaching participant move forward and achieve a positive outcome. Guide the coaching participant to select a measurable goal that will stretch and challenge them, but will have at least a 50 percent chance of success. Choosing a goal with a low chance of success will likely create disengagement. Also, keep the number of goals and follow up actions small (one goal with 2-3 actions) to ensure focus. Be sure to discuss how these actions will support achieving the organization’s overall results. The following are examples of questions you can ask during this step:

  • What are the three specific actions that will help you succeed?
  • When will you accomplish these actions?
  • How do these specific actions align with your overall performance targets?


  1. Deciding Accountability

This last step ensures accountability and provides encouragement to the coaching participant as they reach their goals. Unfortunately, this step is too often forgotten or not valued. Following up on the participant’s agreed upon goals is critical in making sure actions happen. To this end, a great coach exhibits two skills: 1) recognizing progress and wins, and 2) encouraging the participant to manage through obstacles and secure the needed guidance to be successful. These two skills are essential to implementing and supporting action plans. The following are questions you could ask during this step in the coaching process:

  • Who will support and celebrate with you in accomplishing your goals?
  • What are possible obstacles that might prevent you from accomplishing them?
  • When will we follow up again to check on your progress?


Aha moments come with meaningful coaching

Epiphany moments can happen all of the time, coaches ensure you catch them as they are born. Great coaches, and thus great leaders, seize those moments and have the courage to ask, listen, and turn insight into action. Much like breathing is to singing, strong coaching is at the root of strong leadership. Use these six steps to build your coaching skills, develop your people, and accomplish amazing business and people results. 

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