How to coach to win

There is a need to be both innovative and proactive to continue to achieve high performance in a team. Coaching is an important tool in your repertoire – and you don’t have to be an expert to do it. It is about helping people to find their own way out of a hole – supporting and challenging them to achieve more than they thought they could and encouraging them to come up with solutions and ideas.

Learning to solve their own problems and gaining new skills will help them and the team to be more successful.

Consider the 2012 Olympic Games which brought the world’s top athletes and their coaches together. The individual performed at a higher standard than the coach – but the role of the coach is to work with the individual and teams through observation, support and feedback to help them achieve their potential. If you want your team to operate at peak performance, take a look at the ten tips below and resolve to coach your team to success.

Coaching Is For Everyone

Coaching can be a tool to both help your best people excel and boost those in the team who need extra support. It is all about learning new skills and gaining confidence. So agree some learning goals with your team members.

Ask them what would they like to focus on this year. This can include improving their presentation skills, developing their technical abilities, and learning how to influence and manage others.

Advice Trap

One of the traps managers can fall into is to come up with solutions and give too much advice. If you tell people what to do, they will always expect you to sort out their problems. You also miss giving others the opportunity for others to come up with ideas. People also feel more committed if they feel part of the solution.

Asking open questions is another vital coaching skill. The questions should be focused on helping the other person to come up with ideas and stretch their thinking. Good questions encourage moves towards a solution. They include: ‘What have you done so far? What do you want to achieve? When do you think you will be able to do this by? Is there anyone who can help?’. Avoid leading questions such as ‘Have you thought about….?’ This is just another way of giving advice.

Rather than give advice, sit back, listen and ask questions to help the individual think through the issue. This is not always easy when you are busy, but it is one of the main skills of coaching. Only by listening will you know what the individual has already done and what they need to do to progress. You will also be able to pick up on their concerns and interests. This in turn will help you to build on their ideas and ask questions to support and challenge their thinking.


We often have a tendency to home in on what is going wrong and why someone has a problem or difficulty. This might well have a place, but be aware that focusing on ‘the problem’ can lead to despondency and a loss of confidence. It is often much more fruitful to focus on solutions, on aspects of the situation that are working and on other things that can be done to achieve an improvement in the situation. This creates a much more positive mind set and helps people to find solutions and move towards them.


In any coaching situation, it is important to set clear goals.

What is it you want to achieve? When do you want to achieve it by? How will you measure success? What differences will others notice? Once you both know what it is you are trying to achieve, you can set some timescales and focus on what you need to do to get there. It’s worth spending a bit of time being clear about the outcome, as often the initial issue isn’t the real one. For example, one person I worked with wanted to improve their presentation skills, but as we discussed the issue it turned out that their real need was to gain more confidence to influence senior managers.

Current situation

Once you have agreed an outcome, the next step is to examine what the individual has already done. It is important to find out what they have achieved so far, what solutions they have looked at and who have they spoken to. Ask them if they have they come across similar issues before and how they tackled them. Once you know this, you can explore what else they need to do to move ahead.

For the future

Helping the individual to come up with their own options and next steps is a vital part of the coaching

  1. Help people find their own solutions
  2. Build coaching into everyday conversation
  3. Focus on outcomes and provide support
  4. Tell people what to do
  5. Focus on what isn’t working

Ignore people’s development needs process. This is where the new ideas emerge and where the commitment and enthusiasm to develop them comes from. It is also the time when it is most tempting as a coach to provide solutions and come in with advice, so beware. Try to keep the conversation focused on what the individual can do to move forward.

Ask questions that make them think for themselves, such as: ‘What do you think would help you to develop the project? Is there anyone else who can provide support? What resources do you think you will need?’ This type of question will help the individual to take responsibility and design a solution that they can implement.


Once you have exhausted all the possible ideas and options, the next stage is to agree an action plan with some review dates. You can help the individual think about who they need to involve, and when they need to achieve it by. It is also good at this stage to agree some review dates as your work as a coach is not finished. You will need to encourage and help the individual to get to the final goal, provide feedback and support, and hopefully help them to achieve a personal best for themselves and the team.

Coaching into your everyday approach

Coaching is something you can build into your everyday approach. The next time someone comes to you with a problem, don’t jump in with an answer.

Ask them some coaching questions instead to help them to come up with a solution. In this way, you will be helping to develop your team, saving yourself time in the long term, and probably coming up with some new ways of meeting the challenges you face in 2012.