A Journey by Coach

“I noticed that the people who belittled weren’t curious.” - Ted Lasso (1)

When did you learn ‘that way’ you tend to behave in each situation?

When did you form that view?

What’s your evidence for it?

I formed a view on coaching about 20 years ago, “Helping someone to bring out their best.”

Before that moment, I think I confused being a ‘boss’ with being a commander of specific actions, having the expectation that the boss knows what to do. When there is trust, I believe that a manager can coach a member of their team. However, distance from the situation can help.

I listened to “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier (2) who cautions that the ‘worst’ coach is needy and wants to be the hero, solving stuff and over-helping.

My weakness as a coach is wanting to help and give advice. That isn’t coaching, according to Stanier.

“Rapid, constant change is now the norm. Managers support and guide. They don’t instruct, they coach” (2) .

The common denominators to coaching are to:

•  ask questions instead of giving answers

• support colleagues over judging

• focus on development instead of what needs to be done

Sir John Whitmore spoke of coaching as, “Unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance.”

The part I know I must keep working on is balancing coaching with giving advice - I want to help and sometimes that experience can give a shortcut to the person being coached too.

Don’t coach or get coached?

Coaching can deprive a need or habit of asserting authority.

Is asserting authority ever good anyway?

Coaching can take a lot of my precious time!

Maybe I don’t have the time and over-estimate being any good at it too.

Lots of us do! (3)


Photo by Eileen Pan on Unsplash

Let’s let go of our needs and wants - coach (and get coached)!

To do so here are some useful tools/ check points, prior to a coaching OR any catch-up meetings with a colleague OR a member of your team OR a willing friend:

Off we go, Potential Coaches, approaching the first hurdle now, are you: -

1. Willing to ask and listen over telling and selling? Remember this?

Tell Sell
Delegate Participate

What mode are you naturally in? Which is Coaching Mode?

2. Tempted to work out a solution and get agreement on implementing your solution? Well, stop it! 🙂

3. Unleashing and releasing energy in the person you’re coaching? Maybe ask them, after the coaching session?

Back to Ted Lasso, having never played football (soccer) and not knowing anything about it puts Ted in an ideal position to coach in Non-Directive and Situational ways?


Photo by Joshua Hibbert on Unsplash

Coach is: - Coaching Styles
Putting more info in Directive Situational
Putting Less info in Laissez-faire Non-Directive
Person being coached is -> Pulling less energy out ***Pulling more energy out***

‘Where’ will you coach, with which style?

Ted Lasso tells lots of stories and puts less technical information in and encourages the player being coached to ‘pull’ energy - ideas and different thinking on what they can do afterwards.

Ted recognises his limitations in solving tactical problems anyway.

Leaders who got the senior role tend to be pretty good at solving problems, or believe that they can, it’s difficult to let go of that (see question 2 above – remember, solving stuff is not coaching).

Back to the coaching tools and achieving coaching at an organisational level…

1. The GROW model for Formal Coaching - has 4 action steps. The Coaching Habit - has 7 essential questions. Here’s a distillation of both!

GROW phase Coach questions Coach reflections
1) Goal established “What do you want to accomplish right now?”
“What’s on your mind?” Am I getting to the things that matter most?
Are we dealing with the issue and the person who is managing the fire? (Development) Or are we dealing with the fire itself? (Performance)
Are we considering Projects, People, Patterns?
“And what else?” Did I get 3-5 answers? Are we uncovering more and better options?
2) Reality Focussed “What are the key things we need to know?” Where is the focus of the response? Operational issues? Human issues? How are the issues balanced?
Are you raising the right questions?
“If you had to pick one of these…” Did you witness contemplation?
“What were you hoping for there?” Did you see a ‘light’ coming on?
“What do you really want?” Did you see a fresh perspective being taken?
3) Options Explored "If you had a magic wand, what would you do?” Do you see deeper thinking?
“What consequences of that do you see?” Are options of actions to take appearing?
4) Will do… “What will you do?”
“How can I help?” “What do you want from me?”
“If you are saying Yes to this, what are you saying No to?”
“On a scale of 1-10 how likely is it that you will own this?” 8 or higher means motivated to follow it though.
“What could be being fully committed to the idea look like?” Do you need to cycle back though the earlier phases?
“What was most useful for you?” This is giving you guidance on what to do more of next time.

2. On the Job Coaching in brief exchanges

Respond to a request for help with “What have you already thought of?” “What really matters here?”

3. Coaching as an Organisational Capability and articulating the why?

High value conversations are important – if senior leaders have approx. 100 high value conversations per year - coaching is about acquiring the skills to maximise value in those 100 conversations, these skills can significantly enhance our ability to serve clients, for example beyond an initial brief and so developing a longer-term win-win relationship.

Are you and a colleague creating space to think and “Digging the Answer out”?

Where is your organisation on the scale from know-it-all’s to “learn-it-all’s” and from “Command and Control” to “Coaching”?

The Microsoft Case study (2) provides a fascinating read, especially the transformation from precision questioning and its fear impact to a coaching orientated approach, “What are you trying to do?” “What’s Working?” “What’s not working?” “How can we help?” Part of the outcome was abandoning the performance review system, which is replaced with year-round coaching, real-time feedback on work, more focus on career development and deeper client relationships.

With enthusiasm, deep interest and a belief in the person being coached, I believe that coaching can be transformational. So much so that I’m going to take a coaching journey and formalise my learning and practise in coaching in 2022. Understanding the ‘human behind everything’ and making an adventure of looking at the world through the eyes of others can be rewarding too.

“What do you say, Coach?” – Ted Lasso

*Coach smiles and nods reassuringly, with belief*


Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

Author: Simon Walker, Director, RLS. January 2022


(1) Ted Lasso season 1, streaming on AppleTV+

(2) Michael Bungay Stanier, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever (2016)

(3) Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scholar, The Leader as a Coach, HBR, Vol 9, Issue 6, p 110-119 “Cracking the Code on Collaboration” (2019)

(4) Experiences and insight from two excellent coaches, Sarah McCloughry and Catherine Evans Joines

(5) Being a Leader in Running Fitness.

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