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Performance coaching – getting the most from your team

Performance coaching is a day to day management tool that can be used by leaders,  supervisors and managers to enhance their employees’ performance and  enable them to get the most from their teams.

What is coaching?

The aim of coaching is to bring about high performance and improvement at work.  It can be used to focus on developing specific skills and goals but can also be used as the basis of an ongoing management style.  It moves away from more traditional top down, autocratic management styles, in favour of an employee led method of performance improvement.

An effective coach doesn’t see themselves as an expert who has all the answers.  Instead, they are committed to supporting the individual in achieving their goals and helping them learn.  Below highlights some of the key elements of performance coaching.

  • It is a non-directive form of development
  • It focusses on improving performance and developing individual skills
  • Its emphasis is on work performance, although sometimes personal issues may be discussed (in situations where personal issues are becoming a barrier to work performance, it may be useful to discuss them)
  • Coaching is focussed on working on and achieving both company and individual goals
  • It’s an opportunity to discuss an individual’s strengths and areas for development
  • It’s important that the coach is trained to carry out their role effectively

The GROW model

The GROW model is commonly used in coaching situations to help the individual find their own solutions to achieving their goals and was developed by Alexander Graham, Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the 1980s. GROW stands for:


This relates to the behaviour that needs changing and should be turned into a goal or objective.  Ensure that the goal is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).  For example, if you are working with a member of staff who has received negative feedback about their customer service skills, a SMART objective might be: ‘To improve my customer feedback rating by 10% by the end of the performance year’.

It’s really important to check out with the individual how they will know when they have achieved this goal and how this fits into a wider set of goals they might be working on.


This is about finding out what is happening now.  This is the point to explore how the employee knows the behaviour needs changing, why it’s important that the behaviour changes, and to test assumptions.  It provides the individual the opportunity to self-assess and consider where they are starting from.  It’s also an opportunity to find out what the individual has already done to try and achieve their goal and explore where these interventions have helped and hindered.


This is the stage where the coach helps the individual to identify the options available to them to reach their goal.  It’s important that the individual comes up with the options available to them but the coach can assist by asking questions such as:

  • What else could you do?
  • If this constraint was removed, how would this change things?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What do you need to stop doing to achieve your goal?
  • What do you need to start doing to achieve your goal?


This stage is about checking out the level of commitment and will of the individual for achieving the goal. In order for the goal to be achieved, the individual’s behaviour will have to change.  This stage is about identifying what the individual will do to ensure the change happens.  The coach would ask questions along the following lines:

  • What do you need to do now?
  • What could stop you moving forward?
  • How can you keep yourself motivated?
  • When will you review progress?

By asking these questions, it not only helps the individual to identify what they need to do personally but it also helps them to identify things that might stand in their way.  Being aware of these obstacles helps the individual to put things in place to reduce the chance of them slowing down progress.

Coaching skills

As you can see from the GROW model, coaching is about facilitating and supporting an individual to come up with their own work goals to help improve personal and organisational performance.  It’s not about finding solutions for others or telling them what to do.  Therefore, the skill set required may be different from some of the more traditional managerial styles.  Here are some of the key skills needed to be a good coach:

  • Ability to explore the needs, motivations, desires, skills and thought processes to assist the individual to make lasting change and meet their objectives
  • Ability to use questioning techniques to help the individual identify solutions to problems and set the direction in which they need to go
  • Support the individual in setting goals and methods of assessing progress in relation to these goals
  • Observe, listen and ask questions
  • Encourage a commitment to action
  • Be supportive and non-judgemental
  • Evaluate the outcomes of the process
  • Encourage individuals to continually improve their competencies

What should we do next if we want to introduce coaching in our company?

In many organisations, managers will be informally using some coaching techniques without this being formally identified. However, introducing coaching into your company should be carefully thought through.  Here are some things to consider.

Why do we need it? – Consider your organisation’s strategy and how coaching would help you achieve this. In fact, you could use the GROW model on yourself to answer this question!  When you’ve identified how coaching can help, communicate this and ensure your teams understand the link.

Discuss and consult with your leaders – introducing a coaching approach in the organisation will only work if your leaders are on board with it and are able to ‘walk the talk’. Consult with them to test out whether they want to be part of the culture you want to develop.

Basic training for managers – Training your managers in coaching techniques will help to ensure one to one and appraisal meetings are aligned with a coaching methodology.

Internal and/or external coaching capability – Depending on the size of your organisation and the extent of coaching you want to implement, it’s worth considering having some external coaches to support your leadership teams and some internal coaches to act as coaches for other departments or to train managers in coaching skills.

Build coaching into HR processes – for coaching to be truly effective, it should be embedded into HR processes. Coaching behaviours should be included in reward strategies, job descriptions, recruitment and promotion selection criteria, competency frameworks and performance criteria.

If we can help you to develop a coaching culture in your company, please do contact us on 01271 859 267 or email office@fitzgeraldhr.co.uk.