How to use Coaching for managing people’s behavior or performance?

Did you know that 70% of the organizations claim that they coach their employees, but only 11% of the senior leaders actively participate and only about 15% of them talk about it frequently?

Every organization faces the challenge of improving people’s behaviors or performance. Improvement in performance or behavior can have enormous business impact. Influencing people to change their thinking and behaviors requires a skill that eludes most managers. Consequently managers lose faith on their people and it leads to stressful conditions.

Getting people to bring the right kind of attitude, managing behaviors & performance is at the heart of modern management. Too often people’s attitudes & behaviors impact their performance and that of the others and as a result, the business as a whole is affected. This is one of the biggest challenges faced by managers today. Even if you could design a plan that would improve performance for individuals, making it stick in the long run can be really tricky. Old habits die hard. This makes the job of sustaining improved levels of performance very difficult.

Amongst the various techniques used by managers, there is a commonality that stands out. Managers tell their employees what needs to be done and then they try to reinforce those behaviors either by reward or by punishment. The problem is that when you tell someone what needs to be done, you share what you believe is true in the given context. Your employee may not share the same belief.

The solution lies in using Coaching as a tool. Coaching is a process to help people learn. Here, the manager assumes the role of a coach and use an Ask vs. Tell approach. Instead of telling what is right and what isn’t, you simply help the employees to learn about themselves, their behaviors and performances thereby creating a higher level of commitment to improve. The key is for managers to learn the skill of Coaching and apply it. Too often, managers use the term Coaching interchangeably with Feedback or Mentoring. They try their hand in improving the performance of their people or influence a change in their behaviors with their own perception of good coaching, while they themselves are still grappling with the idea of what effective coaching really is.


Managers while dealing with inconsistent performance or behavior issues have been using various techniques to deal with them. These techniques would involve using incentives for high performance or punitive measures for poor performance, verbal or written warnings, discussions with the person, use speeches to motivate the person, teach the person what is she doing wrong and what needs to be done. It’s not that these techniques do not work, they do sometimes. The problem occurs when they do not work – mangers often label the person as ‘Not Coach-able” and take decisions like whether or not to terminate the employee or move her to a different department.

Many a times, the person would show improvement for a while and then after some time, the performance dips once again or the old undesired behavior resurfaces. This adds to the frustration of the managers and confirms their theory that the person’s performance cannot be improved and it can even lead to some unpleasant discussion between the employee and the manager.

Bersin and Associates is one of the leading HR and learning organization who provide world class research and consulting. They came up with the below mentioned observations.

  • 70% of the organizations included in the study claimed that they coached their employees, however only 11% of Senior Leaders actively participate
  • Very few managers possess the skill to coach their employees and this presents the real challenge to effective performance management.
  • Organizations which empower managers with the skill to coach effectively deliver higher levels of productivity, employee engagement and financial performance.

Therefore it is important to understand ‘Coaching’ deeply in a managerial context and learn how to apply it to everyone’s benefit.


Coaching is a process that helps people to learn. You do not force your thoughts or beliefs on the coachee and instead ask questions to help the coachee on journey of self-discovery. There are many models of Coaching. Which model will be used also depends on the person you are dealing with and the given situation at hand. One such unique model is the WARD model. WARD is an acronym its full form is described below.

W – Where are we? ; A – Aim (What are we aiming for?); R – Roadblocks; D – Do (Take Action).

Step 1: Where are we?

It is important to understand where the employee stands not just in terms of performance but also emotionally. What limiting beliefs are stopping the employee to commit to change? The coach needs to understand the current situation, the context, the magnitude fully and gain complete awareness. Some of the questions you would need to ask are as follows:

  • What is happening now?
  • How often or when it is happening?
  • How is it affecting you?
  • Who do you think is responsible?
  • On a scale of one to ten, where do you think you are at present?
  • What progress have you made so far?
  • What factors are stopping you?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how severe / urgent / important do you believe the situation is?
  • What pain is it causing you or your colleagues?
  • What is working well for you? What would you like to continue doing?

As a coach your objective is to go beyond achieving higher performance and reach the source of people’s behavior and change their state of being. After asking the above mentioned questions you will be able to determine what level of coaching is necessary for the coachee. There are three possible levels – (1) Improve what the coachee is doing; (2) Change the way of thinking; (3) Change the state of being

Step 2: Aim – What are we aiming for?

In this step you set the clear objectives or goals that you are trying to achieve. Some of the questions that you can ask are:

  • What goals or results do you want to achieve and by when?
  • What outcomes do you want from the coaching session and by when?
  • What do you really want?
  • What would need to happen for you to walk away from this session feeling that this time was well spent?
  • What would success look like?
  • Is it positive challenging and attainable?
  • How will you measure it?
  • Can we do that in the time available?
  • What would be a milestone along the way?
  • Why are you trying to achieve this goal?
  • What would be the benefits of achieving this goal?

Step 3: Roadblocks

Here you try to determine the possible roadblocks in achieving the goals set. Again you would ask some questions such as given below:

  • What might prevent you from achieving the goals you have set?
  • What are the potential roadblocks ahead?
  • What challenges do you foresee?
  • What would happen if you did nothing?
  • What possibilities of action do you see even if they seem unrealistic at this stage?
  • What time and resource constraints do you foresee?
  • Where do you need help?
  • Are there any setbacks that you see on the way? Are you prepared for them?

You are slowly seeking out the limiting beliefs and very subtly encouraging the coachee to seek out options.

Step 4: Do – Take actions

Here you help the coachee to find options and take action. It is the coachee who has to find the options and commit to take actions herself. Some of the questions you can ask are:

  • What could you do to change the situation?
  • What could be your first step? What could be the next step?
  • What could you gain by doing that?
  • Who can possibly help you? Who else do you think might be able to help?
  • What has already worked for you? How could you do more of that?
  • What would you gain or lose by doing that?
  • If a friend were in the same situation as yourself, what advice would you give him?
  • What if time or resources were not a constraint? How would you have acted upon this situation?
  • Which options do you like the most? By when will you complete the actions?
  • Would like to choose an option to act upon?
  • What are the benefits and costs of each action?

By following this process, you help the coachee to understand the current reality, what is the desired outcome, what are possible challenges she might encounter and what possible choices for action does she have. You encourage her to follow through and choose the options that she believes will work best for her.

Way forward:

According to Bersin and Associates, senior leaders who actively coach are thrice as effective at producing business results as compared to those who do not.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) says – the vast majority of the companies say that the Return on Investment (ROI) for coaching is 86%. It also says that coaching produces:

  • 70% improvement in Work Performance
  • 57% Improved Time Management
  • 51% Improved Team Effectiveness
  • 80% Improved Self Confidence
  • 72% Improved Communication Skills

Coaching can bring fresh perspectives on personal challenges, motivated employees, enhanced decision making skills and most importantly self-belief. A greater commitment is required towards learning this vital skill.




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