Good Coaching…Not for Sissies

This is a refreshed version of a post I wrote a few years ago.  I’m presenting it again because I believe coaching  is a major part of a good leader’s life.  Done well, it can create amazing results, enthusiasm for work and optimal achievement.  Done badly, it can demotivate even the most confident of people and undermine the most honest of efforts too.  In other words: Coaching is a big deal….and it’s not for sissies.


Coaching is one of those words that tends to lace everyday language at work. I wonder though, how many people who are supposed to be doing it, actually know what it means or what it takes to do it properly?

Well, I don’t really know the answer to that question but here’s what it means to me.

if I were to ask you to coach me, I’d be looking for:

  • Genuine interest in knowing me

This doesn’t mean I expect you to be my best friend.  What it does mean is that you will make an effort to understand my values, capabilities, ambitions and development needs.  If you don’t take the time to know these things, you will be hard-pressed to know if you are getting my best performance

  • The willingness to look past my excuses and challenge me to do my best

Sometimes, I won’t be able to see myself as you see me. Sometimes I will not want to stretch myself for fear that I might fail.  As my coach, you will challenge me to go beyond the unspoken boundaries I have set for myself.  You will not accept my excuses.  You will show your faith in my abilities and my potential to do more by demanding more.  And, should I fail, you will help me to extract the learning from it and move on.

  • The courage to hold me accountable for the commitments I make

When a new idea captures my imagination, it is easy for me to envision bringing it into reality.   And yet, while I will understand the importance of it, there will be times when I need your help to stay the course.  Starting is usually easy.  Finishing is harder.  As my coach I will rely on you to remind me of the importance of completing what I set out to do.  And, if I shift my focus, you will help me ensure that my reasons are valid.

  • The empathy to encourage me, support my efforts and celebrate with me when the time is right

There will be times when I question my own abilities; when I need guidance and resources to help me do my work and: when I need acknowledgement for the work I have already done.  As my coach, I will count on you to deliver these things at the times when they are most appropriate.  That will require you to talk with me regularly. Our talks do not have to be long but they must be truthful.  The success of our relationship will depend on it.

So, that’s what a good coach looks like to me.  But, what must a person have in his or her own “kit bag” of characteristics before s/he can hope to successfully fill the role of “good coach”?  Well, I expect there are many but the four that come quickly to my mind are these:

  • Self AssuranceIf you are to be successful in your coaching efforts, you will often have to suspend your own desire for acknowledgement and work in service of helping someone else shine.  This can be hard on the ego and as such, a healthy sense of self, both in terms of assurance and awareness, will be important.
  • Self Discipline – As much as it is important for those you coach to follow through on their commitments, it is as, if not more, important for you, as coach to hold yourself accountable for the commitments you make to them.
  • Courage – Coaching often requires difficult conversations.  Courage is a cornerstone of good coaching and of good leadership.  For a good coach or leader there is usually no place to hide.
  • A sense of humour – Most good coaches know the value of humour, particularly the self-deprecating kind.  It is an essential tool at work and in life.

If this is all sounding just a tad onerous, you may be wondering what’s in it for you to be a good coach.  Where’s the payoff?  This is where I think it is:

  • When those whom you coach, do well, you do well.
  • When you coach others to do their best work, chances are, you’ll get optimal results for your organization.
  • Good coaches are often recognized as having valuable leadership capability. And that opens doors for you.

The reality is, there is no magic formula that will transform us into good coaches.  Like most things, it takes work.  I happen to think it is very worthwhile work too.

What do you think?

P.S. In case you’re curious, here’s a clip about coaching that demonstrates how NOT to do it.  Ever been on the receiving end of some of this?


Filed under communication, Employee engagement, Human Resources, Leadership, Leadership Development

13 responses to “Good Coaching…Not for Sissies

  1. brandonjones208626736


    This is a great post! I have never been in a business coaching relationship, so I can’t completely relate in those terms. I have, however, gone to a lot of school and been in leadership roles where coaching is required. I completely agree with putting yourself in the situation where you want to have coaches think of you as a person. I have had teachers or coworkers that haven’t cared at all about me or my success. When I have experienced this, it is a major turn-off. As a leader myself, I try to put my employees first and let the work and everything else follow. Thanks for the great post!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Brandon ~ Yes, to be a good coach, you really have to start with caring. In fact, if caring about the person you’re coaching is absent, you might as well not bother because then it becomes about technique rather than a sincere wish for someone else to find his or her way to success. Thanks for adding that and for your kind words too.

  2. djgreer

    Hi Gwyn,

    I think that you missed a really important reason for being a coach. When you coach others what is reflected back to you causes and forces you to grow both personally and professionally.

    In the moments of coaching, this is often easy to miss. Over time, when I look back at the people I’ve helped move to the next level, there has always been critical growth and learning for me. And sometimes, those moments hit you over the head as you are given situations that you have never experienced and you have to rise to the occasion.

    As my coach reminds me, coaches don’t have to know the answers. They just have to have the questions.

    Thanks for sharing. Your posts make me think about my experience and about how I can help myself to the next level. By helping others.



    • Gwyn Teatro

      David ~ You are absolutely right. In fact, among all of the “what’s in it for me” reasons to be a good coach, that is the most important and lasting one. Thank you for the reminder and for sharing your experience of coaching here.

    • Hi Sir david, I so loved your message here, full of wisdom! as well as with Coach Gwyn=) I learned something significant. i loved this. Thank you for sharing!


      • Gwyn Teatro

        Hi Liza ~ I really like it when a post I’ve written is enhanced and made more meaningful by the people who read and comment on it. Thank you, Liza for reading and commenting on this post. And thank you, David for making it a better one. 🙂

  3. Lawrence "Larry" Berezin

    Good morning.
    This is a wonderful, timeless, post that is actionable in and outside the workplace.


  4. Pingback: Good Coaching…Not for Sissies | digitalNow |

  5. Gwyn, Clearly to me courage is the differentiating factor for all good leaders even when they aren’t coaching. I would add to the list of having the ability to put our own opinions aside and be keenly aware of coaching opportunities to coach in the moment. This requires keen observation skills and emotional intelligence to understand when coaching is appropriate based on the specific situation. Thanks for reminding all that coaching, if done well has a huge return to all involved!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Beth ~ Yes,great points. Suspending our own opinions and judgement takes great self control and total focus on the other person. For most of us, that’s a very hard thing to do. And, knowing when to do what is critically important too. For instance, being in the middle of an emergency situation, is possibly not the right time to have a ‘coaching moment’. But afterwards, when the crisis is over, there is probably some learning to extract on reflection.
      Thanks for that and for bringing taking the time to comment.

  6. Good title. Getting the most out of coaching is also not for sissies. I think we often spend too much time on the style of coaching versus the content. Yes it is much nicer to have people provide coaching with style. But if I had to chose between good ideas presented poorly and poor idea presented well I would choose good ideas.

    You list of traits of a good coach is good. I would include something on knowledge of the topic (I would imagine it is assumed but I would make it explicit because I have seen far too many people try to give advice on topics they don’t understand) and the ability to communicate. Communication is obviously a key but it is so important and can encompass many of the ideas. If you know exactly what the person should do and can’t convey it in a way they will accept or understand it doesn’t do any good. And the ability to listen is often underrated. So many get hung up on the lessons they want to provide they can’t listen to discover where the person is now – and what guidance may be useful.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi John ~ I agree that good ideas are good ideas regardless of how they are presented. When ‘style’ becomes about the coach then, in my book anyway, it ceases to be coaching and turns into something more self satisfying which is not the idea at all. Being knowledgeable on the topic is of course very helpful but in my experience not essential. I say this, not because I think we should be giving advice about things we don’t understand but because a successful coaching experience usually includes joint exploration and discovery between the coach and the person s/he is coaching. In this context, it is more important to know the right questions than to have right answers. Like you, I believe that the ability and discipline to listen is key to the success of any coaching relationship. As someone said, “that’s why we have two ears and one mouth” 🙂
      Thank you for taking the time to share your views and experience here. It is much appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s