Some of my past bosses (for better or for worse) taught me memorable lessons on what it takes to be a great coach. Simply put, I learned that constructive criticism is neither productive nor motivating. Coaching must focus on three key points: progress, improvement and personal development. Here are 11 easy tips to follow:

1. Be a role model.

Your authenticity, vulnerability and leadership skills are what will set the tone for how you coach. Consistent feedback that is delivered during a discussion often is more effective than inconsistent feedback given after the fact.

2. Raise your emotional intelligence.

Have frequent, unstructured conversations to ask the people you are coaching how they feel and how you can support them. By visibly demonstrating empathy for the pressures and stresses they are encountering, you create a closer coaching partnership.

3Deliver critical feedback confidentially.

To show you believe in and respect your employees, address problems as situations to be improved upon with a specific action plan—not as personal flaws in their character.

4Focus on progress.

For feedback to be meaningful, it needs to be focused on the process of improving a specific situation, trait, behavior, etc. Coaching is not about judgment or criticism.

5Coach for confidence.

In addition to preparing people for new responsibilities, coaching also should build confidence. Frankly, some coaches are confidence robbers. They strip people of their confidence rather than add to it.

However, building people’s confidence is not about praising them for how smart they are. Rather, it’s key to motivate people based on what their capacities are and what they could do better—not to make them feel as if they are so smart they can do no wrong. If you just keep praising their intelligence, they will be afraid to make mistakes, reducing their willingness to take risks and tackle bigger tasks.

6Set clear and achievable goals with timelines.

Setting timelines for certain watermarks in the coaching process gives employees a boundary within which to change. If you don’t establish a timeline, things won’t get done, and the coaching will have a less tangible (and less impactful) nature to it.

7Don’t become emotionally involved.

This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to care, but try not to care more than the people you are coaching. I’m not averse to saying to those who are resistant to coaching: “I’m not sure where you’re coming from, but it looks like I’m putting more effort into our relationship than you are.”

8Don’t use coaching as a corrective tool.

Most people want less advice and more opportunity to explore their own thinking with a caring coach. When you give feedback, people will be more apt to hear what you are saying when you present it as an observation about their behavior, not a statement about their character.

9Honor their value system.

Bear in mind that you can’t motivate someone to shift behaviors if they don’t believe that shift aligns with their value system. By being attuned to your direct report’s values, dreams and career goals, you can adjust your coaching accordingly. Connecting personal values and goals to broader organizational objectives will heighten the resolve of individuals to make the desired changes.

10Focus on the big picture.

Start every coaching session with your direct report’s bigger picture. Ask the individual to go back to his or her goal as the starting point. By setting up a context where the coaching is always related to what he or she personally wants to achieve, you lower resistance and increase enthusiasm.

11Use the three approaches.

There are three approaches to how you coach in terms of circumstances. You’re either going to be directive, instructive or supportive. 

When I see people who are still new in their jobs or are shooting themselves in the foot, they need the directive approach. They need feedback right away.

The instructive approach should be targeted to people who are willing to make the changes needed but just don’t know how to do it. Your job as the coach in this context is to show them how to do whatever it is they need to learn.

The supportive approach is generally for the more seasoned individuals you manage. If your direct reports feel that you’re encouraging and supporting them, and have their best interests and goals in mind, they are much more likely to achieve positive long-term behavioral changes from the coaching.

Remember: Good coaches inspire people to have confidence in them. Great coaches inspire people to have confidence in themselves.

Roz’s book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand is available at

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Roz Usheroff

Roz Usheroff is a leadership, image and branding specialist, entertaining and educating diverse audiences across continents with her insights and vision on what it takes to achieve leadership and corporate success. Roz leads her clients to maximize on their talents, attract followers and distinguish themselves in their industry. More Articles by This Author »