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The 5 Steps of Coaching Conversations


Photo by Cory Woodward on Unsplash

Follow these coaching steps with coaching conversation questions to help employees reach their maximum potential

Coaching conversations have the power to encourage employees to deliver extraordinary results. Even if a manager has no experience with coaching, there’s a simple process to have a coaching conversation that anyone can follow in any coaching scenario.

Once an opportunity for coaching is identified, managers can use the five steps of the Coaching Conversation Model from The Coaching Clinic to help their employee determine the next steps to take. In 2018, these steps were revised to meet contemporary international standards and adapt to the increased need for coaching skills in today’s workplace. The new model helps managers promote actions and accountability within their teams, while also showing that coaching is not just a tool that managers pull off the shelf when it’s “time to coach”.

Here is a basic outline of the steps:


Step One: Establish focus

The first step of any coaching conversation is to establish the focus for that conversation. This sets the stage for coaching conversations so there is a clear outcome identified, whether the conversations is two minutes or two hours.


Questions to ask: What would you like to get out of this conversation? What’s the real issue we are trying to discuss?


Step Two: Discover possibilities

Once you’ve established the focus of your conversation, it’s time to use good discovery questioning, or powerful open-ended questions, to elicit ideas. This is the brainstorming stage of the conversation, working toward determining all the options that are available to achieve an outcome to the conversation. Spending some time in this step allows a lot of solutions and ideas to surface—exactly what is needed to generate the best ideas to reach goal.


Questions to ask: What are your ideas on how best to reach that goal? What else?


Step Three: Remove barriers

In this stage, the manager-coach’s role is to encourage the employee to determine what he or she thinks is the best next step, determine how to secure any needed resources, and understand what might get in the way. Thinking about potential roadblocks and how to clear them helps employees adapt and continue forward even in the face of challenges.


Questions to ask: What might get in the way of you accomplishing this? How could you adapt or respond?


Step Four: Acknowledge awareness

This step is about increased awareness, either on the part of the coach or the coachee. Added as a “new” step in 2018, this is the “aha” stage, a stage where, through the questioning in the previous step, the coachee has discovered options that may have never been considered before. With this new awareness, the coachee is then better positioned to determine actions to take to achieve the identified goal.


Questions to ask: How has your thinking changed as we’ve discovered new possibilities? What does this mean for you in terms of different actions you might take to achieve your goal?


Step Five: plan the action

After following the other steps, the manager-coach and employee co-create a plan of action, focusing on outcomes instead of problems. This allows both participants to double check their understanding and assumptions about what happens next and helps the employee divide projects into manageable pieces.


Say: Thanks for this conversation today. I am here to support you and look forward to seeing you achieve your goals – let’s create an action plan together to make sure each step of the process is manageable.


If you follow these simple steps, having coaching conversations with employees is a replicable, effective process, instead of something that feels like an insurmountable challenge. The benefits for the manager-coach and employee both are worth the extra time and effort to discuss options and solutions instead of giving answers to questions the employee often already has the answer to.

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Linda Dausend

Linda Dausend CPLP, is a senior consultant at FlashPoint. Linda collaborates with clients to unlock the power of great leaders within their organizations.