Kevin Eikenberry

coaching-questions-450x350pxThere are plenty of questions I get asked about coaching, but there are two I think are important that aren’t often broached. So while there are plenty of coaching questions we can and should ask ourselves as leaders, I want to highlight these two.

Here they are, and why they are so important.

1. When should I start coaching?

Most people don’t ask this question because they have an assumed answer. It’s the answer they’ve learned through their experience and by what has been modeled for them: “I should start coaching when there is a problem.”

While I agree that if there is a performance gap or problem, coaching is valuable, is that the best time to start?

A better answer is: “I’m always coaching, so the only time to start is when I have a new team member.”


Repeat after me: The best leaders are always coaching.

They see their role as helping people continue to improve towards their needed performance or possible performance. Coaching isn’t just about problems or mistakes. Coaching is foundational and, when done well, is one of the best ways for anyone to learn and grow.

2. Who should I coach (more)?

The reason this question isn’t asked more is related to the assumptions underlying not asking the first. If we are only coaching people when there are problems, it is simple: That is who we coach.

But now we have established (or at least I have proposed) that coaching is a powerful learning and development strategy and not just about a problem. Since coaching is about closing a gap between current performance and possible performance, everyone can gain from coaching.

To help you answer this question, let me ask you three more:

  1. Who are you coaching now?
  2. Who aren’t you coaching now?
  3. Are you satisfied with those answers?

Hint: If you came up with any names as answers to the second question, you should be dissatisfied.

While I don’t know your specific answers, I know the odds are in my favor if I guess you aren’t coaching your high performers much, or not at all.

If this is true, and you have lost any high performers, I bet I know why. Think about it this way: Are you getting as much coaching, feedback, encouragement and course correction as you want?

If you want to support the growth of your team, build commitment and loyalty and get better results, you need to consistently coach everybody, even your standouts.

Remember that coaching doesn’t carry a budget line cost, and that is an important part of your job. If you feel you don’t have time to coach, compare the relative value of some of your other activities to the value of time spent coaching.

Now I have three more questions for you:

  1. What are your answers to these questions?
  2. What will you change today, if anything, based on those answers?
  3. And if you make those changes, how will they help those you lead be more successful?

I hope you consider all the questions I have posed to you. If you answer them carefully and act on your answers, I am confident you will be a more effective, successful and confident coach.