Workplace Coaching Techniques: 11 Ways To Guide Employees

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 12, 2022 | Published December 14, 2021

Updated September 12, 2022

Published December 14, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A small team gathers on an empty office floor to discuss strategy.

Whether you're a career coach or a supervisor looking to guide your staff, you may wonder how best to help employees further develop and achieve their professional goals. Many coaches rely on standard techniques that they can adapt to suit their unique coaching philosophy. Implementing appropriate coaching techniques can help you create realistic team goals and keep employees motivated.

In this article, we'll discuss 11 coaching techniques, plus teach you how to implement them in the workplace.

11 coaching techniques to use in the workplace

Here are 11 coaching techniques you can use in the workplace:

1. Send pre-session questionnaires

Before your first session with an employee, consider having them complete a questionnaire about their professional development. These surveys can help you understand why the client wants to meet with a coach and plan their first session according to their goals. Questions you might include on your survey include:

  • Are you satisfied with your current career?

  • What do you want your career to look like in five years?

  • What aspects of your career do you find challenging?

  • What does your current goal-setting process look like?

Even after the employee's first session, you can continue to use pre-session questionnaires. Consider altering the questions to help the employee evaluate how effective your advice is. For instance, you might ask them to reflect on how they used your suggestions to further their professional development.

Pre-session questionnaires are also ideal for identifying professional challenges and developing future sessions that provide solutions. For instance, if an employee indicates their struggle to motivate their team, their next session might focus on fostering a healthy team culture.

Related: 72 Effective Team-Building Icebreaker Questions To Develop Rapport

2. Use SMART goal setting

One of the most important components of professional coaching is goal setting. Goals help clients stay motivated and remain accountable for their progress. You can begin by asking them what they would like to achieve and why.

Most clients list broad goals that you can help them elaborate on by using the SMART goal-setting technique. This technique involves being as specific as possible with your goals while ensuring they're attainable.

For instance, if a client says that they want to grow their business, you might ask questions to help them be more clear about their intentions. Your discussions could lead them to specify that they want to gain 20 new clients within a month.

They could also specify that they plan to achieve this goal by asking for referrals and advertising on social media. By implementing the SMART technique, you help clients turn their broad goals into measurable and attainable objectives.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

3. Use relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques are a simple yet effective way to help you and the employee remain present throughout the session. Many coaches lead employees in deep breathing exercises before a session to ensure employees can focus on their suggestions and adopt a positive attitude.

These exercises are also useful during a session before discussing a challenging subject. Deep breaths can calm the heart rate and make employees more receptive to new ideas that conflict with their existing strategies. Aside from deep breathing exercises, you might use other techniques like mindful meditation or progressive muscle relaxation.

Related: 9 Ways To Calm Your Job Interview Nerves

4. Ask open-ended questions

Instead of soliciting yes or no responses, open-ended questions help employees reflect on their professional careers. Their broad nature encourages employees to talk about their true thoughts and feelings on a subject. For instance, a coach might ask, "How do you know when you're successful in your career?" This question is open-ended, meaning there are several ways someone could respond.

How the employee chooses to answer reveals what they value most in their professional life and helps them set the appropriate goals. For instance, if an employee says that their professional advancement is a sign of success, you might help them create short-term goals to work toward a promotion.

Related: Open-Ended vs. Close-Ended Questions (Plus Examples)

5. Use active listening

Active listening is the practice of understanding what someone is actually saying. It helps employees feel more comfortable sharing their true thoughts and ensures you accurately process their messages. You can implement this practice by allowing employees to finish talking before interrupting or asking questions.

As you listen, consider using gestures like nodding to indicate that you understand. After the employee finishes talking, you can repeat their sentiments and ask questions to clarify what they said. The goal is to assure employees you recognize their feelings without inserting your personal opinions.

Related: Improve Your Listening in the Workplace (With Tips)

6. Discover biases

Employees often have personal biases that can prevent them from achieving their professional goals. As a coach, it's essential to discover these biases to ensure employees can advance their professional development without restrictions. For instance, you might learn that an employee fears public speaking that stems from an unsuccessful business pitch.

This knowledge allows you to help the employee learn from their shortcomings and overcome their fears. You could recommend participation in small networking opportunities to boost their confidence and prepare them for future public speaking opportunities.

Related: 22 Types of Cognitive Bias and How They Affect the Workplace

7. Use journaling

Journaling can be a powerful coaching tool to encourage creativity and reduce stress. By having employees write their short- and long-term goals, you can help them think of objectives they may not have thought of otherwise and ensure they remain accountable.

Writing is also useful for identifying challenges the employee might not feel comfortable talking about aloud. For instance, if an employee encounters conflict with a supervisor, they might prefer to write about the details than discuss them with you. Simply writing about the encounter can help them reflect on the situation and be more receptive to potential solutions.

8. Provide motivation

While coaches give honest feedback about their employees' progress, they also provide motivation to facilitate a positive attitude. Motivation may comprise praise for an employee's progress or adherence to the coach's suggestions.

You might also determine personal rewards the employee would enjoy once they meet a specific goal. For instance, if an employee earns a promotion, you might suggest that they reward themselves by going on a vacation.

Related: How To Motivate Employees in the Workplace

9. Role-play various scenarios

Though your coaching role requires you to offer advice, you can also help employees practice before they implement your suggestions. For instance, you might prepare an employee for their upcoming interview by roleplaying as an interviewer.

You can ask them questions they might hear, evaluate their responses and help them accurately highlight their skills. You might also help employees prepare to deliver a speech or confront an uncooperative team member.

Related: How To Conduct Role-Play Training in 5 Steps

10. Reflect at the end of each session

At the end of each session, consider having the employee reflect on the material you discussed. You can ask them to write the most valuable information they gained during the session and whether you covered the topics they wanted you to discuss. These reflections can help you plan for future sessions and clarify any misunderstandings.

11. Assign homework

Consider assigning employees homework to ensure they follow your suggestions and work toward their goals. Homework can be as simple as journaling about their professional development or talking to a certain number of people at a networking event. Regardless, try to make the homework measurable to ensure employees remain accountable.

Related: Employee Motivational Speech: The Failproof Formula

In this video, Jenn, a certified career coach, will share a winning, 5-step strategy for connecting with your audience and motivating them to achieve the task at hand.


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