BEFORE life coaching was founded 30 years ago, most people would have associated coaching only with sports.
In the sports courts and fields, coaches were an important part of the landscape. Over the years, coaching has evolved to include areas outside sports. We now have coaches in life skills, career, business, communication, performance, health, weight management, relationship and spirituality, to name a few. In the corporate world, managers and supervisors often also play the role of a coach in the workplace. They have to motivate, guide and lead their team members and subordinates to meet key performance indicators (KPI) and achieve organisational objectives.

Broadly, coaching at the workplace aims to bring about the following outcomes:

Each of your subordinates should feel personally responsible for his work performance and results. Instead of attributing losses and failures to external parties and factors, he takes responsibility and becomes resourceful in correcting situations. A team with highly accountable members is set for success against all odds.

Core inner motivation is the key here, where your team members are deeply motivated from within. Thus, regardless of environmental changes, they still remain driven to deliver excellence in their work. To achieve this, the leader must see each team member as an individual and discover what his core inner motivators are.

With accountability and motivation, your employees are just short of one other element that will help them achieve a breakthrough in their performance — clarity.

When you know exactly what the issues, challenges and problems are, you are prompted to take action and do something about it. Ambiguity breeds fear and disables people. Clarity breeds confidence and enables action.

Coaching skills needed
Are you and your managers well-equipped to coach your staff to break down problems and deliver better performance? With their professional expertise and experience, most managers and supervisors would be comfortable mentoring, sharing with, and imparting knowledge to their subordinates. However, for them to be effective coaches at work, they need to be equipped with the following skills and knowledge:

• Fundamentals of human behaviour
From their research, human behaviour experts have concluded that human beings are predictable. We have common cognitive and emotional processes that cause us to act, respond and react in certain ways.
Managers who coach actively will do better with a basic understanding of what drives human behaviour. This usually includes knowledge of the mind-emotion-behaviour relationship, how beliefs and values affect one’s actions and results, and how past experience can influence a person subconsciously.

• Observation and assessment
When a manager is doing one-to-one coaching with his subordinate, he must be able to see and hear not only what is communicated explicitly to him, but also what is communicated indirectly via non-verbal cues such as body language and subconscious expressions.
This acute observational skill will empower the manager to see beyond superficial communication and make assessments with more accuracy. Thereafter, he will be able to help his subordinate see a situation more clearly and facilitate constructive actions and improvements.

• Deductive questioning
Coaches ask questions, and they do so to get deeper into the presenting problem. Managers who coach subordinates at the workplace must know what questions to ask and how to ask them effectively. This allows them to discover important information to bring about more clarity for the subordinate.
Ordinary questions such as “Why did you do this?” will compromise the quality of the answer, and thus affect the effectiveness of the coaching. Deductive questioning involves asking both open and close-ended questions neutrally.

• Motivational communication
Some supervisors are more comfortable with negative language when dealing with their subordinates. They ask questions like: “Are you sure you can achieve it?”; “This seems to be an impossible target for you”; or “I really hope you won’t disappoint us again”. Such statements question a person’s ability and discourage motivation.
Managers must employ motivational communication in speaking to their subordinates during coaching. This will inspire confidence and enthusiasm, and increase the probability of a performance breakthrough and success.

Article by Jensen Siaw, a performance breakthrough coach who specialises in helping sales professionals and leaders achieve greater results. To contact him, e-mail Richard Gavriel Speaker Management at