Every business wants to maximize results.

We want employees to take ownership and accountability for their results, and increase both the quality and quantity of their performance.

Many factors influence performance, but there is one management skill that stands out above all others in developing and engaging employees at all levels: performance coaching.

In fact, manager’s inability to coach has been identified as the #1 problem facing business today in a comprehensive study conducted by Bersin by Deloitte that was designed to uncover what works in today’s best organizations.

That same research found that senior leaders who coach and hold others accountable for coaching are three times more effective at producing improved business and talent results than those who do not.

Yet only 11% of senior leaders regularly coached their employees!

With such a huge potential upside, why do so many organizations fail to take advantage of this exceptionally effective management approach?

We have found it can be boiled down to three primary impediments:

1. Ignorance of what coaching is and how effective it can be
2. It is antithetical to traditions of command, control and problem-solving
3. It is challenging to adopt new, unfamiliar behaviors

Each of these challenges can be overcome with focused effort and support from top management. In fact, if you want to create a sustainable culture of coaching, it is absolutely necessary to start with top leaders.


The behavior of top leaders always sets the tone for what is both expected and tolerated as acceptable management behavior.

Gaining Buy-In to Performance Coaching Effectiveness
It is highly likely that senior leaders are not skilled at performance coaching. After all, performance coaching is not taught in most business schools, and it is a widely misunderstood skill. Ask most senior leaders if they coach and they will say yes, but what they are really doing is mentoring and giving advice. Mentoring and sharing your wisdom and experience is a wonderful and useful approach to leadership, but it is not coaching. More importantly, mentoring is seldom as effective as coaching. That’s why we begin our Coach2Lead leadership development program with a module that lays out both the business and scientific case in detail as to why performance coaching is so much more effective than mentoring. You can access the full Case for Coaching here, but we all have experienced why coaching is so effective.

Think back to a time when you found your own answer to a problem you were facing, when you had that sudden “aha!” moment of realization. You probably put your realization into action right away. Now think back to the last time someone offered you their advice, especially if it was unsolicited. The chances are great that you ignored the advice and never put it into action. That is the crucial difference of performance coaching: when you coach someone to their own “aha” moment, they are much more likely to take action and make progress than if you simply tell them what to do.

Empowering Solutions Instead of Solving Problems
Once leaders understand how and why coaching is better at motivating change, they still need to overcome ingrained thinking and adopt a new mindset. One critical change is to focus on finding solutions, rather than solving problems. Another is to empower their employees to find their own answers, rather than try to control the situation by dictating their own approach. We call this getting over the coaching hurdle.

Most leaders were trained to solve problems, to have the best answer themselves, and to be in control. Most organizations have a hierarchy in place that supports this mindset. Our Coach2Lead program addresses these challenges in several ways. We teach the cornerstone skills of listening and questioning, as well as the 4-step process for coaching people to find their own solution. We also build in lots of practice: during the program, between learning sessions with coaching peers, and on the job with employees. This blended learning approach has a sudden pay-off, the “aha!” moment when the leader realizes that their coachee really does have better answers inside themselves because they just came up with something better than the leader had in mind.

I Wish I’d Learned This 20 Years Ago
When leaders do get over that coaching hurdle, they seldom want to go back to their old ways of managing and leading. They commonly admit that performance coaching is the most impactful management skill they have ever learned. They also see that coaching is the best way to develop their people and the easiest way to achieve consistent higher performance. In short, they experience what the research has shown: leaders who coach and develop their people, and who hold their people accountable for coaching and developing their people, generate exceptional business and talent results.

Coaching as a leadership skill is only going to grow in importance. The global economy and its new generation of workers demand a new approach to leadership, one that performance coaching is uniquely positioned to provide. For more on that, read our blog post about why performance coaching is the leadership approach that works so well with the millennial generation of workers.