So, Say You Want to Offer Someone Some Coaching


With the publication of my new book, Be Real last week I thought I’d try something new: a video version of Reading for Leading.  It’s one of my absolute favorite ideas – with credit to my friends at PMP in Bingham Farms – on how to coach your kids, boss, team members, even your spouse!  Check it out. And let me know what you think! If for some blasted reason the video won’t work for you, there’s text below to help you lead with your best self.

For more tips on leadership and coaching, check out my new book, Be Real: Inspiring Stories For Leading At Home And Work.

You wanna be a great coach here’s the first and most important tip.  Now that’s a coach on a tennis court, a coach with a fellow employee, a coach with your boss, or more likely a coach of somebody on your team who you’re trying to influence or perhaps one of your children.

Now, we begin with a distinction.  Some coaching is good coaching and some coaching is bad coaching.  What’s bad coaching? It’s when they don’t listen to it as coaching. They hear it as a harangue, they hear it as advice, they hear it as second=guessing.  That’s not what you want.  What you want is to have your advice heard as constructive coaching. So, how do you do that?  Very simply.  I’m the coach, I ask you “Are you open to some coaching?”  Now you might be more comfortable with a different formulation. You might ask, “Are you open to some advice?”  “Can I share something I’ve seen?” Or, “Are you interested in hearing something, cuz I think I can offer you something that’s useful for you at work (or with your friends or at school)?”

Three possibilities exist now having asked that question.  The first option is the person says, “No.” In which case I walk away.  I’ve gained credibility, because I’ve taken them at their word.  They’re not interested?  Okay, no problem.  Now, if they say “Yes,” I plunge ahead with the coaching.

More likely they say something like, “Yeah…okay…I guess so… Sure…What?”  In that case, I suggest you ask again, in a non-judgmental, non-probing, non-pushing way. So you say, “You know, it’s okay; it’s just a thought I had to offer; I don’t need to give it to you.” Or, “Are you sure? Maybe now isn’t a good time.”   Or some other expression that gives them a chance to say, “you know, not now.”  Chances are at some point they’ll ask for it.  And you’ve lost nothing – lost nothing – if they don’t ask for it.  But you’ve primed the pump. If they say yes they’re interested, you have their permission and attention.  If they come back later – even better!  They’ve chosen to come to hear your advice.

I’ve learned a lot about coaching share more in my book Everyday Leadership and in my new book Be Real: Inspiring Stories for Leading at Home and Work. Check them out to help you lead with your best self.


  • Thanks for “serving up” some good advice ….and the video worked fine for me. An intriguing new twist to see you in RFL.

    I think the hardest part is remembering to ask that opening question to see if my colleague/my husband/my friend is open to coaching — then and there. And then I suppose I have to develop the self control to close my mouth until they are ready. I will work on remembering to ask it before I blather on and on. Thanks.

  • I like how specific you are with the phrases. Here’s what you say.

    It’s also good to remember that the coaching could go two ways if we don’t pull rank. I might think I know this person’s need, and discover that I have more to learn from them than they do from me.

  • Like Meryl (above) I found the specific phrasing to be helpful. I will be more successful coaching others -in various situations- using this method. Thanks for the tip!

    Oh, and I did enjoy the video, although it wouldn’t let me post a comment (I was signed in under my account/channel). At any rate, way to mix it up!

  • It’s a good idea to be specific and do a little market research to find if your insights will be received. That part of it I like. Maybe I’m more pushy than you about wanting to share. I tend to applaud whatever good I can find in what they’ve presented and then do one of those “Yes, and…” thingies (instead of “Yes, but…” which sort of implies I can do it better than you).

    When I celebrate what they’ve done, then show appreciation and add to it, I’m always tentative about it (the way females tend to communicate). Like, “I’m not sure I’m clear on what you’re getting at. Are you saying…” and then I re-phrase it in ways I think are more clear. Either they take it or leave it and either way is fine with me. I’m perfectly willing to admit that they no doubt know their subject better than I; it’s just that I have opinions on how to present information and maybe we can collaborate…?

    Another way to build on what they’ve said is to affirm that what they said is good and it reminds you or made you think that (whatever). Like you found their efforts so inspiring, you just couldn’t resist sharing the effect of their work on you.

    I know lots of people younger than me like videos. To me, it’s just another talking head with a backdrop (tennis court) and a prop (oh! and the shorts interest) that takes longer than scanning the written word. Probably a generational difference.

    In the classes I teach, I find images convey thoughts very well. I can’t use images via this medium but if I had some clip art available and I were trying to convey your concept in print media, I’d put up an image of a supportive coach with adoring and appreciative mentee, images of sports coaches, images of people accepting the coaching gratefully and also images of people pushing it away. In your video, the shorts and backdrop and tennis racket say “I’m a coach” nonverbally. But I’m pretty sure it’s not tennis that you’re coaching most people in. How to build credibility as a management coach or convey the essence of a management coach via video?

    I don’t know. I’m better at questions than at answers.

  • Hi Dan,

    a while since I’ve commented but felt particularly compelled on this one. In terms of ‘perfect’ coaching in a way that will make the person coached feel most comfortable about receiving coaching, this is absolutely bang on for maximum results and I looove the way you’ve presented it – especially in your shorts on the tennis court! It certainly communicates respect and shows the ability to lead and ‘coach’ without need for histrionics, arm waving, and some of those classic bad habits of times gone by where a boss needed to work up a sweat in delivering ‘harsh truths’.

    To put a different slant on it, I also see the possibility to teach the ‘student’ that some of the best life lessons won’t always be delivered to them when ‘they are ready’. Your approach is certainly catering for this and allowing someone the time to be prepared and come forth when mentally open. I look back on my life and know that some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned weren’t necessarily when I was calm and ready and a ‘blank book’ ready to be written. Sometimes they did come via someone being emotional, angry, not necessarily placing the advice out there in a nicely presented manner. And how much better for it I am that even if I didn’t necessarily feel like I was in ‘the right place at the right time’ and I may have even communicated that, that later on, the truth of whatever message was delivered, sunk home.

    As my own maturity in this area has developed and continues to do so, the more able I am to learn lessons and be coached like this, the greater a ‘learner’ I am.

    Therefore, the point I am getting to is that sometimes, I think some coaching is fine to be delivered even deliberately so, even in ‘difficult times’ when the person you are coaching hasn’t necessarily been primed or given time to receive it. This is in order that they even learn to develop their ability to be coached outside the ideal environment and surely that is one of the best lessons of all that we can teach and learn. Of course, you could then recap later with that person to cover off what you spoke about and even talk about the fact that you knew it wasn’t an ideal time to deliver that message but in your care for them, you are helping them develop the ability to learn in any situation… but it was a lesson at that time that they just needed to hear then and there.

    Of course one of the other ways I believe is good to ‘set up’ an environment for coaching is in your scheduled catch ups you have with your key people – at least once a week. The time is set and it’s very clear that there may be some coaching during that time. Having these catchups scheduled makes it clear that there is an understanding to ‘be prepared’ for feedback, of both kinds of course and should take away from feelings of awkwardness or ‘are you ready’ type of thoughts as a coach.

    Again, love the video message – so much more alive.

    Daniel Burns
    Align Technology

  • I ask that you not use my name. Instead, please use ‘Long-time Learning Leader’.

    Your ‘red flags’ and your suggestions on coaching are on point. I have used a similar coaching approach with my staff and with colleagues over a long period of time with positive results. Depending on the situation, I often will say to my staff that “I’m just making a suggestion, and I will respect your decision on or your solution to (fill in the blank).” This approach has allowed me to provide input for their consideration as they deem appropriate to the situation. This approach has allowed an open discussion about the pros and cons of alternative approaches to addressing issues. And with only very rare exceptions, I have not overturned or changed a decision by one of my staff. I also have used this approach effectively with co-workers at my same level and with comparable leadership and management responsibilities.
    Long-time Learning Leader

  • Dan,

    You should definitely continue to work in video format. Not only do you have a strong camera presence, but through A/V your audience gets a chance to enjoy your even tone, steady fluency, helpful manual expressions, and (perhaps most importantly) see your face. No matter how great your writing is (and it usually is great, even when it illuminates burrs that I simply must exasperate over in filing) any writing is as flat as the page. Readers will constantly fail to read the proper tone. I’ve experimented with placing tone into text from a young age and I still wonder it it’s truly possible. You come fairly close with your use of bold, underline, and italicization, but nothing could bring the artist across better than a more immersive medium.

    I’m hoping to obtain “Be Real” through some outlet, very soon.

    — Gabriel Arthur Petrie

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