When to Coach… and When Not To

August 7, 2017

“How can I get my leaders to do a better job coaching their teams?”

That’s a question I frequently field from the executives and HR partners I support. I hope you’ve asked that question for yourself as well, because it means developing your team is high on your radar. I’ve shared the key skills of coaching as well as my favorite coaching conversational model GROW. That said, a new question arises, which is when should you coach and when shouldn’t you?

If you get this question wrong, you’re likely to either confuse your team or neglect to use your coaching skills to their maximum effectiveness. But if you get it right, you’ll grow as a coach and so will your employees.

Here are three situations when you should not coach and five situations when you should.

You should NOT coach when…

Explicit directions are necessary – Coaching is the art of helping the employee take ownership of a situation and rise to the occasion. It’s not appropriate when you need to step into “take charge” mode – such as an emergency situation.

Your employee is too new to benefit – When employees are new, their biggest need is often to learn the expectations and specific situations they are walking into. It’s much more efficient to share this information upfront and begin coaching a little further down the road.

You have important information to pass along – Employees aren’t mind-readers. If you are privy to information that will effect the outcome of an action they take, always share it upfront.

You SHOULD coach when…

Brainstorming – If your employee needs an idea, take a minute to brainstorm together. Resist solving the problem on your own.

Planning – If your employee will be leading a project or initiative, coach through the planning process. Start with their ideas first before giving yours.

Giving After-Action Feedback – As your employees perform in new ways, you’ll need to provide feedback on how they’re doing. Start with their own assessment of their performance – what went well and what they’d like to do better next time. Then augment with your own.

Decision-making – Help your employees think through how to make a tough decision rather than simply telling what to do – or even what you would do as your default response.

Development Planning – Unfortunately this area often falls off the radar for many leaders altogether. When they do commit to helping their employees develop, they often simply tell them what they need to work on. Instead, take the time to understand their career and development goals and ask for their development goals first.

Coaching your employees takes extra time… at the beginning. But keep it up and you’ll save the time back as your employees execute without your active involvement.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader. Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or follow him on Twitter.