THE concept of workplace coaching appears to be taking the work world by storm. I am concerned about the impact of this because not everyone can be a coach and with so many people certified within organisations as coaches, I wonder if we are being led off track by another fad.

Don’t get me wrong. I think coaching within the context of the workplace is great, but it is important to frame it when we work with managers on their coaching skills.

Sometimes, an inexperienced “coach” will delve into areas that touch on someone else’s values and beliefs. This is encroaching on someone’s personal space and unless you are a highly trained coach in this field (like a psychologist), it is best to stay focused on specific work and performance-related areas.

With so many “coaches” being sponsored for training by their companies, it is timely that the companies fully understand the process and set the parameters for coaching within their organisation. Here are some tips:

• Stick to performance coaching: This is an area that most managers struggle with and where they can improve their skills. Teaching managers how to coach performance is appropriate and relevant. This is also an area where they can get a lot of practice, as it is something they have to do every day.

• Note the difference between competencies and behaviours: Managers often think that once they have listed for staff all the competencies they need, their job is done. The reality is that unless managers focus on specific behaviours that demonstrate those competencies, these competencies will just remain a checklist.

• Recognise good performance: Managers must be taught how to notice and reinforce good performance. Good performance is behaviour that has reached a stipulated standard. When an employee reaches this standard of behaviour, his manager must acknowledge this desired behaviour to ensure it is repeated. This is an important part of coaching that must be taught to managers.

• Learn to ask good questions: Good coaches ask good questions. An organisation’s leaders must teach their managers to ask questions that are relevant to performance coaching. They must learn how to take an employee from learning curve to habit strength. What good questions can they ask so they build a learning culture?

•      Encourage peer coaching: One of the benefits of coaching performance is to help others learn. When managers learn how to run effective meetings that focus on good performance and how it was achieved, they build an environment for peer coaching.

To sum up, coaching is a powerful tool, but without a skilled practitioner to use it wisely, it is like giving a knife to a child. What most managers need to improve on is performance coaching. Effective behavioural coaching produces long-lasting results.


Article by Laletha Nithiyanandan, the founder of the Behavioural Consulting Group and Talent Design Potential. She is passionate about doing good, ethical business and transforming the workplace. For more information, visit or