Boosting Performance: Leadership & Coaching Tactics

Benjamin Gruber


A coach representing leadership while coaching people to boost performance
A coach representing leadership while coaching people to boost performance

"Coaching Skills for Leaders in the Workplace" by Jackie Arnold serves as a concise guide to mastering coaching in a professional setting. It focuses on how leaders can adopt coaching techniques to unlock team potential, improve communication, and transition from traditional to empathetic leadership.

What Is the Purpose of Coaching?

Coaching is a supportive and empowering process that focuses on aiding individuals, known as coachees, in reaching their goals and developing new skills. The essence of coaching lies in the unique relationship between the coach and the coachee. A coach, unlike a mentor or instructor, does not need to be an expert in the coachee's field of work. Instead, they are professionals trained in methods that encourage positive development and change.

The coach's approach is characterized by non-judgmental listening and reflection, creating a space where coachees feel valued and understood. This environment encourages them to explore their thoughts and challenges independently, fostering self-discovery and accountability. Coaches refrain from imposing their own ideas or solutions, focusing instead on unlocking the coachee's potential.

This process is not solely about dealing with current issues; it also involves preparing for future challenges and opportunities. Coaches help coachees to not only navigate their present situation but also to envision and plan for their future, emphasizing growth and development.

The Key Benefits of Coaching

Coaching is essential in organizations for fostering individual growth and unlocking potential. It provides a safe space for exploring and realizing undiscovered abilities, encouraging personal and professional development. Coaching moves away from traditional authoritative management styles, focusing instead on nurturing individual talents and skills. This approach boosts self-esteem, growth, and job performance.

Coaching is not just about performance improvement; it transforms work scenarios into learning opportunities. It introduces a collaborative approach in areas like appraisals, performance management, and group discussions. By focusing on both strengths and development areas, coaching challenges self-limiting beliefs and fosters personalized advancement.

The value of coaching lies in its ability to enhance confidence, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, lead to effective problem-solving, and promote career advancement. It improves decision-making, time and stress management, and communication skills. Thus, coaching is a pivotal tool for holistic development in the modern workplace.

Leadership & Coaching

Reflecting on impactful leadership, the text explores the characteristics of individuals who have been influential leaders in one's life, such as a teacher, parent, or manager. These leaders often exhibit behaviors that inspire and resonate deeply, including:

  • Effective listening and understanding others' perspectives.

  • Being non-judgmental and offering unconditional praise.

  • Allowing room for growth and learning from mistakes.

  • Sharing their knowledge and wisdom generously.

  • Making individuals feel valued and worthy.

These behaviors are indicative of high Emotional Intelligence (EI), a key component in effective leadership.

Lead as Example

In the role of a leader, you are more than a guide towards goals; you are a role model who inspires and supports your team. The essence of effective leadership, exemplified by figures like Martin Luther King, lies in:

  • Inspiring Pride and Enjoyment: Going beyond achieving goals to making the journey enjoyable and memorable.

  • Authenticity: Speaking and acting from the heart, which fosters trust and strong relationships.

  • Vision and Influence: Having a clear vision and the ability to communicate and share this vision with others.

    As a leader, especially in a coaching capacity, key qualities include:

  • Trustworthiness: Earning and inspiring trust in others.

  • Consistency: Being consistent in interactions with people.

  • Support for Mistakes: Encouraging learning from errors.

  • Motivational Skills: Motivating others towards their goals.

  • Active Listening: Taking the time to listen and understand.

  • Unconditional Praise: Recognizing and appreciating efforts.

  • Effective Delegation: Empowering others through delegation.

  • Influence: Having a significant impact on your team.

  • Managing Expectations: Handling both successes and disappointments.

  • Decision Justification: Being able to justify and stand by decisions.

  • Proactivity: Energizing and inspiring action in others.

These qualities collectively define a leader who is not only in charge but also an influential and inspiring figure within their organization.

Essential Qualities and Skills of Outstanding Leaders

Outstanding leaders are characterized by a combination of qualities and skills:

  • Passion: A deep love for their work and the ability to express it.

  • Courage: Facing fears and taking action regardless.

  • Humility: Acknowledging the importance of their team.

  • Perseverance: Persistent in finding solutions.

  • Compassion: Treating others with respect and kindness.

  • Forgiveness: Allowing learning from mistakes.

  • Patience: Exhibiting patience with themselves and others.

  • Strong Values: Being authentic, trustworthy, honest, reliable, committed, consultative, and loyal.

Key skills and their impacts include:

  • Effective Communication: Leading to positive action.

  • Valuing People: Boosting motivation.

  • Listening Deeply: Making others feel heard and valued.

Differences Between Coaching and Mentoring


  • Creates space for independent thinking.

  • Maintains a non-judgmental approach.

  • Empowers individuals to take ownership.

  • Challenges beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors.

  • Does not require being an expert in the field.

  • Takes a step back, giving responsibility to the individual.

  • Focuses on specific development areas within a set time frame.

  • Involves asking questions like "What decision?" and drawing out examples and ideas.


  • May involve making judgments.

  • Leads by example and helps in development.

  • Generally more experienced than the mentee.

  • Stands close, sometimes feeling responsible.

  • Shares knowledge and experience.

  • Guides to a decision, often giving examples and ideas.

  • Takes a broader view and may work over a longer period.

  • Provides advice and suggestions.

Coaching Tactics and Models

Coaching, especially for those transitioning from specialized fields like finance, engineering, or IT, can be challenging due to a potential lack of people skills. Coaching models offer structured methods for conducting sessions, useful when clear goals are present. However, their use varies; some coaches rely on models, while others develop an instinctual approach over time. The appropriateness of a model depends on the session's context and the coachee's needs, as sometimes a more reflective, exploratory approach is better without a rigid model.

The GROW Model

The GROW model is a prominent coaching tool designed for problem-solving and development, developed by Graham Alexander and Sir John Whitmore. It supports individuals in progressing from goal identification to action:

  • Goals: Identifying long-term or short-term objectives.

  • Reality: Exploring the current situation, focusing on finding positive aspects.

  • Options: Discussing available choices, strategies, and possibilities.

  • What: Determining the actions to be taken, who will do them, and the timelines. Assessing the commitment to action.

Key Points:

  • The GROW model is effective when used to enhance awareness and responsibility. Without these, it becomes a mere problem-solving tool and may not lead to optimal performance.

  • If the coachee lacks a specific goal, starting with 'reality' and 'options' might be more beneficial.

  • The coach introduces the model and guides the coachee through each phase using open questions and other coaching methods described in the book.

Open Questions

Open questions can be used for both coaching and mentoring. Below, you can find a list of some great questions that you can use.

  • Anything else/what else? (Repeated several times as needed.)

  • What could be done to move this forward?

  • What’s stopping you?

  • How far is that true/is that a belief?

  • If you were to do X, what would the consequences be?

  • What would that result in?

  • How do you see your role in this?

  • What needs to happen now?

  • What one action would make a difference?

  • What I heard you say was... is this correct?

  • So what you mean is... is that correct?

  • What resources/skills/people do you need?

  • How can they/I support you?

  • What have you already got in place?

  • How can you find alternative ways to explore/use this information?

  • What assumptions could you be making?

  • In what way are these assumptions valid, relevant, true?

  • What are the implications of this?

  • Have you considered X/Y?

  • Would you agree that we’ve covered X/Y?

  • Are you happy to take this forward?

  • What actions can you now commit to?

  • Who else will you need to involve?

  • When will you report back to me on this?

  • How will you measure your success/results?

  • On a scale of 1–10, how do you feel this session has worked for you?

  • What would you like to focus on in the next session?

  • If you had an outcome for this session, what would that be?

The ERR Model

The ERR model is designed for coaching sessions where emotions are intense. It stands for Emotion, Reality, and Responsibility:

  • Acknowledging Emotion: Recognize and acknowledge the coachee's emotions. For example, if a coachee expresses frustration, responses can range from simple acknowledgment to more emotionally intelligent engagements that recognize and validate their feelings while shifting focus to what has been accomplished.

  • Recognizing Reality: Once emotions are acknowledged and the coachee agrees to proceed, the focus shifts to reality. This involves asking questions about the facts of the situation, what the coachee knows, and specifically identifying the issue. The aim is to reflect the coachee's thoughts back to them and focus on positive aspects.

  • Taking Responsibility: Guide the coachee to take responsibility for future actions. Questions may include what needs to happen now, what the coachee wants to do, what support they need, and what actions they will take. Reflecting or summarizing for the coachee reinforces their ability to find solutions and gives them a sense of being heard and appreciated.

Note: If emotions are overwhelming or linked to issues outside the coach's comfort zone, referral to a counselor may be necessary.

Patience In Leadership

The "Situation + Thoughts + Reactions = Result" model, inspired by Viktor Frankl's concept of Space, is useful in coaching situations involving high emotions. This model illustrates the impact of a coach's internal thought process on the outcome of a coaching session:

  • Situation: The coachee presents a proposal during the session.

  • Thoughts: The coach internally views the proposal as a waste of time, leading to disengagement.

  • Reaction: This leads to the coachee feeling hesitant and the coach's increased frustration.

  • Result: The session ends negatively, damaging the coach-coachee relationship.

Inserting a 'Space' between thoughts and reaction can change the outcome. By considering the proposal openly and listening without judgment, the coach's positive reaction can encourage the coachee to explain their idea better. This approach can lead to a more constructive session with beneficial outcomes for both parties, embodying Frankl's idea that "In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

The Johari Window

The Johari window, created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, is a model used in coaching and mentoring to understand human interaction. It divides personal awareness into four areas:

  1. Open Quadrant: Represents what the coachee knows about themselves, such as personal information, feelings, and values. This quadrant expands as the coachee shares more with the coach.

  2. Blind Quadrant: Contains aspects others notice about the coachee but the coachee is unaware of, like using an incorrect term or a wardrobe mishap.

  3. Hidden Quadrant: Includes information the coachee knows about themselves but hasn't shared, like personal history or preferences. As trust builds between the coach and coachee, this quadrant shrinks, and more information moves to the open quadrant.

  4. Unknown Quadrant: Covers aspects unknown to both the coachee and the coach. During coaching, discussions might reveal new insights to both, fostering personal growth.

The goal in coaching is to expand the open quadrant, thereby reducing the others, to enhance self-awareness and personal growth.

The Power Of Communication

Effective coaching language is characterized by its simplicity and clarity. Key elements include:

  • Short, Curious Questions: Examples include "What else?", "Is there anything else about that?", "What do you mean exactly?", "What needs to happen now?", and "How do you feel about that?".

  • Reflective Listening: Using the coachee's own language when reflecting their words back to them enhances their understanding of their thoughts and feelings.

This approach fosters clear communication and deeper understanding in coaching sessions.

The Art Of Listening

Effective communication in coaching involves three levels of listening:

  1. Superficial Listening: Hearing without full attention, where the listener is distracted or preoccupied with other thoughts.

  2. Active Listening: Engagement in the conversation with visual cues like nodding or verbal affirmations, but the listener may still be waiting for a chance to speak or share their perspective.

  3. Deep Listening: Total engagement with the speaker, focusing solely on their words, thoughts, and feelings, while being aware of their body language and speech patterns. This level involves being non-judgmental and fully present, allowing the speaker to explore their situation freely.

Deep listening is particularly empowering for coachees, making them feel truly heard and their ideas deeply valued. The coach’s state of mind, or ‘presence’, significantly influences the effectiveness of the session and the coachee's sense of being understood. A calm and focused presence enables coaches to facilitate expanded thinking and pick up on unspoken insights.

Providing Constructive Feedback

Comprehensive Summary with Open Questions:

Effective questioning is a vital skill in coaching and mentoring. It's not necessary to have a predefined list of questions, nor is there a concept of 'right' or 'wrong' questions. The key is to listen deeply to the coachee and let questions arise naturally from their language and context.

Key Aspects of Effective Questioning:

  • Focus on the coachee's language and style.

  • Listen at a deep level to understand the coachee's perspective.

  • Encourage coachees to expand their thinking and explore their own solutions.

  • Avoid leading the coachee or imposing your thoughts.

Effective Open Questions:

  • What else can you say about that?

  • What kind of x is that? (Using the coachee's own words)

  • What would that involve?

  • Anything else?

  • What needs to happen now?

  • If a specific issue is raised (e.g., time management), ask targeted questions like "What aspect of time management exactly do you feel needs improvement?"

  • In later stages of the session, consider questions such as:

    • How could you take this forward?

    • Who else may be involved?

Approach to Questioning:

  • Assume the coachee has the answers.

  • Give coachees space and time to think without interruption.

  • Be prepared for coachees to come up with unexpected answers.

  • Provide the benefit of the doubt; the coachee's solution might be better or more effective.

Handling Situations Where the Coach Disagrees:

  • If the coach believes a solution may not work, they can offer advice as one of the options.

  • Encourage coachees to consider all possibilities and involve them in the decision-making process.

Tone and Communication:

  • Maintain a neutral tone and be aware of stress patterns in your voice.

  • Do not pressure the coachee or indicate judgment through tone or emphasis on certain words.

This approach not only helps in the development of the coachee's problem-solving skills but also empowers them to grow independently, reducing their reliance on constant advice. Coaches should focus on supporting coachees to expand their thinking, which is particularly crucial when leading an organization and needing to focus on one's own role.

Quick Q and A Recap

  1. Q: What is the primary focus of coaching in a workplace setting?
    A: The primary focus of coaching in the workplace is to encourage and support individuals in achieving their goals and developing their skills, with a special emphasis on personal growth and potential.

  2. Q: How does coaching differ from mentoring?
    A: Coaching differs from mentoring in that coaching is more about creating a space for the coachee to think and take ownership of their actions, while mentoring often involves giving advice, sharing knowledge, and leading by example.

  3. Q: What are some effective coaching techniques mentioned in the book?
    A: Effective coaching techniques include deep listening, asking open-ended questions, and reflecting the coachee's language to help them understand their own meaning.

  4. Q: What is the significance of the GROW model in coaching?
    A: The GROW model is a well-known coaching tool that stands for Goals, Reality, Options, and What/Will. It helps structure a coaching session by focusing on the coachee's objectives, current situation, available options, and commitment to action.

  5. Q: Why is it important for a coach to maintain a neutral tone during a session?
    A: Maintaining a neutral tone is important as it prevents the coach from influencing the coachee's thoughts with their own biases or judgments, allowing the coachee to explore and articulate their thoughts independently.

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