When to coach (and when not to)?

It’s great when participants on Zoomly’s ‘How to coach your people’ workshop start to see the difference they can make when they add a coaching approach to their toolkit. They experience the power of switching from being in ‘tell’ mode all the time to ‘ask’ mode. Indeed they can get a bit evangelical and want to adopt coaching as their default approach. However there will be times when coaching isn’t the way to go, and a different kind of conversation is required.


When to coach When not to
When one of your team… When one of your team…

  1. Needs to step up and take more responsibility
  2. Is about to participate in a training programme
  3. Needs to weigh up the pros and cons of their suggestion – it’s good, but they need to think things through
  4. Is clearly getting the hang of a task yet still seems to depend on your supervision
  5. Wants to discuss how they’re performing and how they can develop
  6. Seems somewhat overwhelmed and unsure what to do next
  7. Appears to lack confidence, yet you believe them to be highly capable
  8. Has just returned from a training course, full of enthusiasm and ideas

  1. Is being shown how to do something for the first time – they would benefit from a more instructive ‘how to’ approach
  2. Doesn’t deliver what you’ve both agreed they will – they first need some clear feedback
  3. Turns up late day after day – time to remind them of some basic team ground-rules
  4. Lacks focus and tends to prioritise less important tasks – they may need help to see the bigger picture and prioritise
  5. Delivers work that is below the required standard – as well as feedback, they need examples
  6. Has got the hang of something and is doing it well without you – they need autonomy and praise
  7. Is a new joiner and is breaking unwritten rules – they need a buddy or mentor to guide them
  8. Behaves inappropriately towards a colleague – they need to know it will not be tolerated


Do you have any more examples, or questions about when is/isn’t the right time to coach your team members? Feel free to get in touch.

You may also find this blog post useful: Ask a coach: I’m a manager, and now I’m being told to coach – just when am I supposed to find the time?


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.

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