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The chief executive as coach

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How a chief executive can coach colleagues through problems or issues they are facing.

Some chief executives get over-involved in the detail of their colleagues’ work, while others go to the opposite extreme and offer no guidance or feedback beyond formal processes such as planning and appraisals. Neither of these approaches is effective. Regardless of seniority, most people value regular feedback and blossom when they are acknowledged for something they have achieved or done well.

The coaching role

A step further on from giving feedback is coaching. In this role, the chief executive can help colleagues to improve their performance and effectiveness, or simply find better solutions to the challenges they take on.

Coaching involves asking questions and listening. It is emerging as a profession in itself but the basic tools of coaching can be invaluable to chief executives who want to help their teams grow and perform to their fullest potential.

The power of coaching

When a colleague asks for advice about a challenge or problem, the chief executive might offer suggestions or share their experiences of similar situations. These approaches can be useful, but coaching can be more powerful and deliver longer-lasting benefits.

The coaching approach acknowledges that the person experiencing the problem has a unique perspective on their situation. Rather than giving them a ready-made solution, the chief executive can guide their colleague in finding their own solution to the problem, helping them to think it through and develop their ideas and skills.

Coaching models


The best known coaching approach was created by John Whitmore and is known as GROW:

  • goal: What do you want to achieve?
  • reality: What is the current situation?
  • options: What strategies or courses of action could you use?
  • what is to be done, when, by whom and the will to do it.

The person being coached is given plenty of time to think about and respond to these questions, while the coach listens without interrupting, perhaps even through some periods of silence.

Speed coaching

Another very simple tool is the ‘5 minute speed coaching structure’, which uses a series of quick questions and answers to guide people through a problem or challenge.

The speed coaching model can be used with individuals or groups of people, with each participant thinking about a different challenge.

Download '5 minute speed coaching structure' (Word)

Source: Coaching for Performance, John Whitmore, Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Page last edited Jul 13, 2017

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