How To Be a Good Coach at Work

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated September 14, 2021 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated September 14, 2021

Published December 12, 2019

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

Coaching in the workplace is an important component of any business wanting to improve internal culture, employee satisfaction and productivity. It uses one-on-one communication to provide advice and guidance to others in your company. When performance coaching is implemented, it can have a significant positive effect on both your employees’ professional development and your company as a whole. In this article, we discuss what workplace coaching is and how you can be the best coach for your staff.

What is coaching in the workplace?

Workplace coaching is the process in which employees are given the feedback, tools and opportunities needed to grow professionally and improve overall productivity at work. Coaching can be seen as something similar to mentorship. For example, a more experienced colleague may lead a junior colleague through the steps to be successful in their position, answering their questions and making suggestions as to how to improve their performance. Workplace coaches help employees identify the problems or weak areas in their performance and develop ways to target those issues in collaboration with them.

Related: What Is Career Counseling and Coaching?

Why is workplace coaching important?

Coaching in the workplace is an important aspect of employee professional development and can offer several benefits on both a personal and organizational level. For example, a coaching program can help to drastically improve work performance across the workplace. Additional benefits of coaching at work include:

  • Increases engagement among employees

  • Improves individual employee productivity

  • Encourages employees to take responsibility

  • Increases employee accountability

  • Motivates staff to perform better

  • Increases employee potential

  • Helps identify employee and organizational strengths and weaknesses

  • Increases opportunities for employee and company development

  • Better prepares employees for change within the workplace

  • Portrays a company’s commitment to employee development

How to be an effective coach at work

To be a successful workplace coach, you should strive to be good at creating relationships with multiple individuals. A good coach can take multiple levels of analysis into account and be able to collaborate with the individuals they are coaching. Good coaches encourage individuals to look at all aspects of themselves during the performance review process, including but not limited to the quality and quantity of their work, the company values, their personal needs and the needs that they have for career development.

Coaching should not only be a tool that is used for individuals who have performance problems but also a way to help individuals grow personally and professionally. As a coach, you should focus on developing a culture that is trust-based and allows for the free-flow of both ideas and constructive feedback between supervisors and employees.

Several important characteristics make a successful coach. These include:

1. Trustworthiness

For people to evaluate themselves and their actions, there is a need for a feeling of safety. As a coach, you should strive to form a level of trust between you and the employees you are coaching.

2. Good listening skills

Knowing how to effectively listen can ensure that your employees not only feel heard but also that you truly understand their concerns and where they are coming from. Practicing active listening skills when coaching in the workplace can improve your relationship with your employees and help them feel comfortable when discussing and addressing any misunderstandings or areas that need improvement.

3. Ability to deliver clear, actionable and meaningful feedback

Feedback that isn’t clear and actionable can leave employees feeling confused about the goals you have for them or improvements they need to work on. Conveying your feedback in a meaningful and considerate way can help employees better understand what they need to work on as well as motivate them to do so.

4. Consistent expectations

Consistency doesn’t mean comparing people, but rather having the same expectations for all individuals working with you. Constantly changing your expectations can make it challenging for employees to understand and follow feedback for improvement. If a goal is continuously moving, it can create a sense of frustration that can get in the way of a positive and beneficial coaching experience.

5. Realistic expectations

It would be wonderful if an individual could achieve every single goal set for every single review period, but that doesn’t always happen. A good coach understands what is actually doable in a given time period and that sometimes a goal appears to be realistic and doable at the time of setting it, but for whatever reason becomes less realistic as the period goes on. Being able to account for potential setbacks and having realistic expectations can improve your coaching abilities and effectiveness.

6. Empathy and understanding

Being able to empathize with and understand your employees is an important part of being a good coach in the workplace. For example, maybe one of your employees is finding a particular task challenging that other employees find easy. Sitting down with your employee to truly understand the reasons behind their difficulties with that task and working towards an achievable goal together can drastically increase their productivity and motivation to improve.

7. Organizational skills

A good workplace coach should be organized and have the ability to both prepare and follow up promptly. Preparation means not only knowing who you are going to be coaching but also having information to help them during the coaching session. Keeping track of progress made and following up to ensure goals are being met can improve your success as a coach as well as your employees’ ability to grow within the workplace.

8. Time management

As a coach, you’ll need to set goals for coaching sessions, make sure that you discuss any issues or concerns that the individuals have and work with them to ensure an effective solution is agreed upon. All of these aspects take time, and knowing how to properly manage the time you spend coaching can increase your success as a coach and your employees’ overall work performance.

Examples of workplace coaching to improve employee performance

As a workplace coach, you will have several opportunities to help improve your employees’ performance and overall job productivity. The following are real-life examples of how to implement coaching in the workplace.

Training

Training within the workplace is a great time to implement performance coaching. For example, let’s say that you want to train your customer service team on how to better handle challenging customer service calls. Rather than simply telling them what to say in this situation, you could set up a time to perform simulated customer service calls that have been challenging for your team in the past. Have one employee act as the customer and the other act as the representative. Real-life simulation of challenging situations can better equip your team to handle these instances in the future and give them valuable experience.

Problem-solving

Solving problems at work is also a great opportunity to improve employee performance through coaching. Instead of simply offering your own solution, help your employee come to a solution of their own. For example, if your employee is unable to complete the agreed-upon tasks they are assigned each day promptly, don’t simply say “manage your time better.” Rather, work with them to uncover the reasons behind why they are finding it challenging to complete their tasks and help them come up with a solution on their own. This helps your employees learn to think for themselves and improves motivation to make the appropriate changes.

Everyday coaching

Being an effective workplace coach isn’t just about helping employees solve big problems or making drastic improvements in their work. Coaching daily is an important component to the overall success of your coaching abilities. For example, when an employee comes to you with a quick question about how something should be done, don’t simply give them the answer and walk away. Take a few minutes to use this opportunity to teach them something new and further develop their problem-solving skills. The more you coach regularly, the more productive and independent your employees will be.

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