Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


The Leader as a Coach

Volume: August 2011

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Many leaders approach me and ask: “Doug, how can I help my team stay motivated and deliver vibrant results, while minimizing team member turnover?” Okay, they do not always use the word “vibrant,” many say “kick-butt.” My answer though, is the same: Coach your people – help them grow and learn. In the process, successful leaders accelerate their personal growth curve as they help others to develop. So how can leaders go about coaching when they have so many other demands? Answer: Integrate the follow mindsets and actions into the fiber of their work life.


  1. Coaching is constant. Realize that developing people is not an occasional or one-time event. Rather, informal coaching is an activity that powerful leaders engage in every day. If you want your team to consistently perform at a high level, make certain you observe team member behaviors and proactively provide feedback on a daily basis.

  2. Ownership. It is the coach’s responsibility to drive formal development activities. While team members certainly have a huge stake in their development, the learning process should be driven and monitored by the coach (i.e., you).  

  3. Have a plan. The creation and sharing of a formal coaching plan is a crucial step in the development process. It is a growth roadmap that serves as a compliment to the casual coaching that you offer each day. A coaching plan should contain an outline of the process, the results that are desired, a list of the team member’s strengths, and a detail of the topics that will be covered over a specified timeframe. The rollout of each coaching plan, as well as the process itself, should be conducted on a one-on-one basis.

  4. Partnership. Once a formal coaching plan has been discussed with a team member, it is important to seek their buy-in. You may ask them to demonstrate their commitment by signing the coaching plan. 

  5. Tailor. While you may possess a particular leadership style, a good coach is often a chameleon. It may be necessary for you to adjust your leadership style so that it fits seamlessly with a team member’s personality, skill level, experience, and potential. More than likely the members of your team have varied levels of the above traits. As such, their needs will call for you to adjust your approach in order to be the most effective coach for them.

  6. Time allocation. It is a brutal reality, but a coach only has so much time to offer team members. As such, it is critical that coaches “force rank” team members from most valuable to least valuable in order to clearly understand who the high performers are, as well as who possesses high potential. By allocating the lion’s share of your time to high-value categories you will be maximizing your team’s potential results. Spending a disproportionate share of your time coaching underperformers is unfair to the people who are producing, and will ultimately stunt your team’s results. Picture a basketball game. Who does the coach talk with most during the game, the people on the bench or the people scoring the points?     


Bottom Line: The prescription for the development of team members and the fine-tuning of leadership skills lies with coaching others. By helping your team members to grow, you will stay sharp and build positive energy. The results will be a team that performs at a high level, and a leader with their fingers on the pulse of their talent pool.


Until next time, be well.           


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