A Structured Format for Coaching
because they don’t
know what to say when addressing someone’s performance, espe-
cially when the performance is in need of correction. Awkward or
overly harsh coaching results in a predictably defensive response by
the person on the receiving end. Or the individual may accept the
correction but if the coaching has been perceived as a personal at-
tack, the relationship between the manager and the associate has
been damaged.
Managers who are uncomfortable with coaching often approach
a topic so carefully that their coaching is vague, tentative, and almost
apologetic. Hesitant coaching lacks power and, in the end, erodes
the credibility of the coach.
Conversations with thousands of employees and managers have
led me to one firm conclusion: Almost every leader, from presidents
to first-line supervisors, could do a better job of coaching than they
are doing currently. Their coaching needs to improve in two ways.
First, most leaders would benefit from mastering a structured format
that makes coaching easy to formulate and deliver. Second, most
leaders need to be far more active as coaches and need to make
conversations about performance a routine part of their day. The
structure needs to be easy to use and allow coaching to take very
little time.
You have more than enough to do every day. If you are going to
coach more frequently, you need a structure that will help you make
the best possible use of a brief conversation. Coaching needs to be
something you can easily squeeze into your already full day. For
example, say you are on the way to a meeting and encounter some-
one in the hallway, where a 30- to 60-second coaching interaction
gets the job done. This allows both of you to proceed on your way
with a minimum interruption in the flow of your work.
The following structure for coaching will allow you to have short
conversations that make a big difference. Hundreds of leaders have
used this structure with great success. So can you.
The format consists of four main elements:
1. Opening Statement
‘I want to talk to you about (the category of performance).’’
2. Observation
‘I’ve observed (describe the performance or behavior).’’
3. Impact
The impact is (describe the impact on the job being done).’’
4. Request
‘From now on, I’d like you to (describe how to improve per-
Here is how each element works:

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