Leader as a coach

Think about a leader you admire. What makes them such a great leader? For me, one of the best leaders I know is empathetic, calm, listens, respects and values my opinion. These principles are important to carry forward as a coach.

To coach or not to coach?

In the last blog post, we talked about setting a north star. A goal helps to keep the coaching session focused. Following a structure can be tough. Conversations are organic.

Sometimes coaching isn’t always appropriate. I had identified someone who would benefit from coaching. When we met, I quickly realised that this person wanted to know more about my experience as a Product Manager, and that they wanted to know how I approached certain problems. For this individual, mentoring was more important.

Coaching in short bursts

Coaching can be applied in many situations. You don’t necessarily need to schedule a coaching session. You may identify a situation where coaching might help in a 5-10 minute chat.

Here’s some useful questions to ask:

  • what do you want the end result to be?
  • what are your thoughts?
  • what have you done so far?
  • what has worked in the past?
  • what fresh thoughts are coming to you now?
  • how do you want to feel?
  • what could you do about it?
  • what else?

Rest Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photograph-of-men-having-conversation-seating-on-chair-1015568/

Find your style

There’s no one way to coach. Some coaches might spend more time focusing on goals. Some coaches like to be neutral in their body language. Personally, I like to show empathy. I want to acknowledge that sometimes something isn’t so great, and I hear the difficulties the coachee is going through.

What happens after setting the North Star?

It’s now your second session with coachee. What do you do now?

Set the scene

  • make sure they are comfortable.
  • ask how they are.

Revisit the goals

  • remind me of your three goals?
  • use one word to describe how you are feeling about each goal?
  • it’s useful to playback the one word to coachees.
  • remember that it is possible for coachees goals to change, and they may have made progress or no progress at all from the last session.
  • this is all about getting from a ‘helicopter’ view to something more focused for the session.

Get the outcome

  • what does the coachee want to achieve?
  • if they are struggling you can guide the coachee e.g. “you mentioned this….is this a good place to start?”

Use the GROW model for each goal

  • you can use one session to focus on one goal or go through them all.


  • confirm to the coachee what they have agreed.
  • affirm good progress and offer positive feedback.

Reflections on practice

  • if the coachee is struggling I like to refocus on the goal to remind them of what they are trying to achieve.
  • some other coaches I notice like to focus on two goals to demonstrate how they are connected.
  • I love the question “what do you want it to be?” for the goal section in the GROW model.
  • I like to ask coachees to tell me what their first step will be as some goals feel so daunting it’s hard to work out whether to start.
  • the a-ha moment when a coachee feels so motivated to do something about their goal is so special. It’s why I want to be coach for moments like that.

You can read part 1, part 2 and part 4!