Coaching Conversation Checklist for Smart Managers

Posted on January 10, 2017

Coaching Conversations for ManagersA Coaching Conversation Checklist for Smart Managers

In spite of wide-spread coach training, many managers aren’t using coaching skills to grow and develop their people. Instead, they see themselves as problem solvers, cutting short conversations with employees by providing solutions, advice, and answers.

Yet managers who coach find that their employees are more committed, willing to put forth greater effort, and less likely to leave.

“Clearly, the benefits of building a coaching culture and increasing the effectiveness of coaching are great. There are both tangible benefits (increased employee engagement and productivity) and intangible benefits (improved culture and finding meaning and purpose in work).” ~ John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, McGraw-Hill, 2010

The authors suggest using the FUEL model outlined in their book to help create a coaching checklist:

  • • F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process, and desired outcome.
  • • U = Understand the Current State from the coachee’s point of view, and expand his awareness of the situation.
  • • E = Explore the Desired State. Help the coachee to articulate a vision of success in this scenario.
  • • L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify specific, time-bound action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results with milestones for follow-up and accountability.

Step 1: Frame the Coaching Conversation

Conversations with employees often turn into project task updates instead of furthering growth and development. A checklist helps set up a coaching dialogue. According to Zenger and Stinnett The Extraordinary Coach, there are three steps that work well for initiating a developmental dialogue.

  1. Identify the behavior or issue to discuss.
  2. Determine the purpose or outcomes of the conversation.
  3. Agree on the process for the conversation.

This sounds almost too simple to bother with, but without it employees aren’t clear about what the issues are and how they can use them to grow and develop.

Step 2: Understanding Leads to Insights

The next step in a coaching conversation is to address the “meat” of the issue. This part can be tricky because of our natural tendency to assume we understand what the issues are. We fill in the blanks and automatically judge—usually prematurely.

Instead, a manager needs to listen well and encourage the coachee to talk. Explore what the real challenge is for her.


  • • Ask open-ended, non-leading questions
  • • Act as a mirror, observe, and repeat what you hear and see
  • • Encourage the coachee to explore what the real issue or challenge is
  • • Discuss consequences in the event things don’t change


  • • Assume anything
  • • Judge, criticize, or categorize
  • • Ask for too many details or focus on other people
  • • Offer your perspective or advice right away
  • • Find an answer for the person

People won’t change until they experience a need to, and if a manager is too helpful, the coachee won’t feel enough motivation.

Step 3: Explore Desired Outcomes

Typically, managers are excellent problem-fixers and advice-givers. They want to jump in at Step 3 and often skip over Steps 1 and 2.

But that is a big trap. Instead of pouncing on the first viable solution, it’s worthwhile to explore alternatives by helping people think things through. Let the coachee do most of the talking to find out what matters most to her. By suggesting at least three alternatives, she will end up with a more effective solution. As the manager, you can negotiate and influence what the measures of success must include.

Step 4: Lay Out a Success Plan

This is the home stretch in a coaching conversation and should not be rushed or skimmed over. Your role now is that of a guide. Together you will develop and agree on an action plan with timelines, enlist support from others, and set milestones for follow-up and accountability.

Why Bother with Coaching Conversations?

Without going into all the statistical ROI studies, let’s look at the benefits of coaching as a managerial style.

  1. Coaching gives new meaning to work. When people feel that they are engaged in a useful cause and not merely performing menial tasks, they will go beyond minimal requirements.
  2. Coaching leads to more engaged and committed employees.
  3. Coaching increases productivity.
  4. Coaching refocuses people on the most important objectives.
  5. Coaching leads to a stronger culture, which has a tremendous impact on performance and productivity.
  6. Coaching strengthens the relationship between supervisor and employee.
  7. Coaching promotes heightened self-esteem and confidence among employees.
  8. Coaching encourages resilience and creative problem-solving ability.
  9. Coaching helps people take responsibility and ownership of both problems and solutions.


How to Live the Good Life: 4 Secrets Backed by Research

Posted on November 20, 2016
…understanding feelings can lead to the good life

An important adult skill to develop:  Understanding your own emotions and how they contribute to your thinking.  Our best thinking leads to our best actions, producing the connections with others that we desire.  This article gives compelling research on how simple acts like smiles, touch and laughter can add great dividends to leading a good life.

The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus

Posted on November 13, 2016


When giving trainings in Leadership Management, people often tell me that the first thing they do in the morning is to check their email. Read this HBR post on how that little habit may catapult you into a day of having difficulty focusing and thus creating the productivity you want.

Why Leadership?

Posted on October 15, 2016

autumn-tree-smWe hear so much about it … why should we study this topic?

I have been working with owners of businesses, executives in corporations, managers, young and mature leaders and, high potential talented emerging leaders for over 20 years. Having read numerous books, articles and coached individuals from different professions…I still ask this question and continue to study the topic.

But what does this concept mean and why the deep dive into training that so many companies invest in?

I believe that by studying leadership, we create ways to move into a more positive future in our work and in our personal lives.

Consider this: can you think of someone in your life who positively impacted you by perhaps seeing something in you that you never saw before in yourself; someone who helped you think about the world in a way that opened you up to greater thinking and possibilities for the future?

 This person was a leader.

Perhaps they encouraged you to manifest your talents and gifts or, inspired you to contribute to the world in a thoughtful way. This is a leadership quality, one that comes from a person having the courage to show their true character, values and strengths. When a person has this quality we trust them enough to learn from them and follow their lead. In doing so, we not only show confidence in them, but also in our own ability to learn and grow – guiding us to have more impact in our chosen professions and in our communities.

Often I hear people say they don’t want to be leaders and would rather sit back and have someone else do the heavy lifting. However, at some point in your life you may be asked to develop an idea, or to implement a project, or to change a situation.   When this happens who will you get to help you or how will you assemble a group to support you? How will you leverage your talents and abilities in working towards a gratifying goal: a needed community project, a key work task, or to step up in your family to assist with a challenge or crisis?

So I invite you to think about leadership in a different way. To think about how someday you may be called upon to make a positive impact in someone else’s life, in your family, in your work place or community.

When thinking about leadership it is often necessary to review the key leadership building blocks that can assist you in developing those mind sets and skills for professional growth with the leadership opportunities presented to you.

I invite you to think about those people in your life who positively impacted you and what you consider to be the values and strengths you saw in them. You might want to start a digital or written notebook to begin recording these insights.


Former Microsoft Employee Talks About Work Life Balance

Posted on April 19, 2016

Origami fortune teller in cupped hands concept for work life balance choices

This former employee from Microsoft gives some sobering yet essential advice on “when you know  it’s time to walk away” from a demanding job.  Read this Huffington Post article on how he found the importance of — being dedicated to your professional growth, without sacrificing your personal growth.

A Simple Breathing Meditation

Posted on April 11, 2016


Taking time in the midst of a busy work day to breath deeply has been shown to increase awareness, decrease stress and anxiety as well as enhance work performance.  To learn more read this brief “how to” article complete with a 5 minute breathing meditation instruction.

How to Be More Confident? Learn Self Compassion

Posted on April 11, 2016

how-to-be-more-confidentThis tweet from internet Hippo offers a sad but true insight: we are often tougher on ourselves than others are on us.  Kristen Neff is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and has written a book on Self-Compassion or,  learning how to treat oneself with kindness. By this she means the same kindness and care we would give to a good friend.  This article reviews Dr. Neff’s research on self-compassion. Why self-compassion for leaders in business?  The volatile, complex and uncertain global business environment of the 21st century requires wise leaders who can lead with their heart and mind. After all a leader has to develop high quality connections with employees to actively engage teams and develop thriving cultures.

An Evening Ritual That Will Make You Happier

Posted on February 14, 2016

good night ipadThe world as we know it today is complicated, busy, stimulating and filled with “breaking news.”  How to calm the brain and body and get a good nights rest?  After all, we are learning through mind/body research how important a good nights sleep is to our days of fulfilling work.  Good news: social scientists have discovered some ways to train our brains to power down at night and look forward to the new day tomorrow.  This article gives great insights and specific activities as to how to end our day celebrating what was and – start the new day with the anticipation of fun and contribution.

What Great Executives Know and Do

Posted on January 27, 2016

hole in fenceThis Harvard Business Review article closely studied the executives who succeed in top jobs and what distinguishing features set them apart and defined their success. Read about what separated the “best of the best” from everyone else and how they displayed mastery across four highly correlated dimensions. These skills are learnable and provide high impact to executive performance and to the organization.

Mindfulness: Simple Methods to Begin

Posted on January 18, 2016


The current research on leadership describes the importance of Leaders learning mindfulness methods,e.g, deep breathing, visualization, meditation, etc. – basically ways to calm your brain and open up space for thinking.  But how does one begin to do this?  This article reviews some simple ways of learning mindfulness methods to make your brain calmer and happier.  Those you lead will notice the difference…and so will you.