Practical Reminders on how to have Great Coaching Conversations with your Key Players

by Dr. Nathan Baxter, Executive Leadership Coach

When was the last time you worked on improving your coaching conversation skills?  If you are like most leaders, you probably need a reminder of the importance of coaching your key players.

Imagine being able to increase the output, energy, and effectiveness of your top leaders by 30% next year through the use of coaching conversations.  What kind of growth could your company experience if this was possible?

Consider the findings of notable researcher, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, who, after studying thousands of coaching conversations between managers and their team members, concluded that it was actually possible to increase the performance of a leader without the traditional method of the use of incentives.  (see Coaching for Commitment by Kinlaw)

How? Through the use of coaching conversations. 

If you want to up your game in the coaching department, then review the practical reminders below and improve your ability to be a coaching leader:

Be Clear That They Are Clear

Ask your team member if they are clear about the following:

  • Their top three functions/responsibilities.
  • The most important expectations you have for them.
  • What needs to be done and when.

If you are relying on their job description to tell them what to do, you are in trouble!

Remember, job descriptions are stagnant; many times they are never referred to after the hiring process or, at best, during an annual review. Keep conversations fresh regarding expectations, key functions, and responsibilities. Also, be sure to share your answers to the same questions with the person you are coaching towards greater effectiveness.

Compliment Before Correcting

Everyone needs correcting on occasion but everyone needs sincere compliments on a regular basis. Managing a team is difficult. Leadership is challenging.  So don’t forget to compliment the good they are doing.

One of my favorite exercises in helping teams improve is having them share the top three compliments they have received regarding their current assignment. Then I ask them if they regularly get enough affirmation; 90% share that most of the time they feel greatly under-appreciated.

Giving a sincere compliment costs you nothing more than a few minutes reflecting on the qualities or actions that you admire. “Thank you” goes a long way.

Connect the Dots

If you want to watch your key leaders excel, remind them often that what they do matters. Give them specific examples of their leadership strategically helps advance the mission of the organization. We all need to be needed and we want to know that our work week is actually contributing to the mission and bottom line of the organization.


Have you ever thought about taking ten minutes in the morning to think through the coaching conversations you plan to have with your key players

  • What do they really need to hear?
  • Where do they need to grow as a leader?
  • What impresses you most about them?
  • What is the best way to correct them in an encouraging way?

Key players are key. Therefore, view them as one of the most strategic resources to invest in. Be consistent and intentional with your coaching conversations.

Leaders who develop their coaching conversation skills enjoy the rewards of watching their key players continually excel in their effectiveness. This little investment generates a tremendous payoff over time.


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