Excelling as a Leader-Coach

How to create a team that functions like a well-oiled machine by growing your people through coaching


“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others,” Former CEO and Chairman of General Electric (GE).

Your coaching skill makes or breaks your leadership

Wherever you may be in your leadership journey, your success is dependent on the level of growth of your people. One of the avenues to grow your people is coaching.

As a certified coach, I coached leaders for years. As a trainer, I facilitated many workshops designed to empower leaders to become effective coaches. From my own experience as a leader, coach, and someone who coaches leaders to become great internal coaches, I can tell you that you cannot successfully lead in the 21st-century work and marketplace without developing and refining your coaching skill.

I coached executives in Alexandria, VA

By the way, I was at Embassy Suites Alexandria Hotel this past week for a coaching assignment. Over a dozen of us coaches teamed up that afternoon to coach over 60 executives from one of the major US government agencies. Participants had been in an executive leadership cohort program, and it was their final and graduation day.

Each coach took a couple of participants and engaged with them in coaching conversations based on their leadership philosophy. Click here if you’re interested to learn more about leadership philosophy and download my leadership philosophy for FREE. You can use mine as a sample to draft yours.

The coachee, not the coach, is the SUPERSTAR

In this blog, let me share with you three tips that enable you to leverage coaching as you grow your people.

However, first things first. Coaching has been misunderstood. Many leaders took the mantle of being the coach of their team members, which is noble! But they’re unable to switch their hat from a leader to a coach when they do the coaching. They assume that they’re the superstars. They focus on themselves…

Remember, as a coach, you’re not there to:

  • Show off your knowledge and experience (there is a place for that),
  • Lecture them to death (no need to do this anywhere),
  • Direct them in the direction you want them to go without fully understanding their desired outcome. That is called manipulation…


Coaching ain’t mentoring

There is a huge difference between coaching and mentoring. Discussing this is beyond the scope of this blog. But you should be very aware when you cross the delicate line between the two, which I’ll talk about more soon.

Inside look of this beautiful and grand Hotel. There were a couple of rooms we used to provide one-on-one coaching…

One key difference between the two is coaching focuses more on the coachees. They must learn from within. They must own the process and the outcome of each coaching session. Your job as a leader-coach is asking thoughtful questions that enable your coachees to:

  1. Reflect,
  2. Gain clarity, and
  3. Move forward with a plan of action they themselves come up with (maybe with nominal support from you if that is necessary).


Anyways, let me quickly share with you three things you can implement right away to become a better leader by leveraging coaching to grow your people holistically:

1. It isn’t about you, make it about THEM. The focus of coaching is the coachee. You’re not playing consultant, an expert in the field. You’re there to enable your coachee to:

  • Think for themselves,
  • Believe in themselves, and
  • Solve their own problems or meet their own needs with no or little assistance from you.


Sometimes, leaders fail to coach properly because ego comes in the way. They feel important as they play the coaching role.

Even if you are experienced, senior, and more knowledgeable than the person you’re coaching, put that hat aside when you coach.

When you coach your people have a mindset that allows you to learn more about:

  • Who they’re,
  • Their framework of thinking,
  • The challenges they’re facing, and
  • How they intend to fix their problems and challenges.


The more you treat them as the superstars of the occasion and understand them, the more you can help them:

  • Gain clarity,
  • Make progress, and
  • Take action that improves their well-being, relationships, and performance.


2. Be alert when you switch your hat from coaching to mentoring. Lots of good-intentioned leader-coaches cross the delicate line frequently without even knowing it. Some coaches, out of care, switch their hats and dive into consulting and mentoring never returning to coaching before they run out of time.

The opposite side of the Hotel

I won’t be discussing the similarities and differences between the two here. What I want you to be mindful of is that even if you’re clear about what differentiates coaching from mentoring, unless you are intentional, you may easily switch your hat unconsciously.

Otherwise, sometimes, you may need to mentor for a moment, especially if your coachees demand it. But you must do this intentionally and with fiduciary responsibilities…

There have been some occasions where I was specifically asked, “I know you’re trying to help me figure it out by myself. But please tell me what you would do in my place?” Or “Tell me how you handled or improved this situation from your own personal experience.”

Coaching comes with a time constraint and a specific goal. I cannot miss these two milestones. Thus, when I feel I’m out of time, I give them the option to reach out after the session for further chat.

On rare occasions, I may quickly answer their mentoring questions and get back to coaching as fast as possible.

What I’m saying is that even if you need to switch your hat once in a while, be conscious and intentional and know how to handle it properly.

Of course, you may sometimes face a coachee who doesn’t know the topic you’re covering, or they’ve not done their homework before the session, or you can clearly see that they’ve misunderstandings…

In such rare instances, you should help them be aware of their lack of knowledge or misunderstanding without hurting their feelings. Direct them to self-discovery to improve in those areas they need awareness and clarity.

Remember, you being a coach doesn’t mean that you have to be passive and just keep asking all the time. You should interject to share a quick story or give a good example or case study too if it benefits them to gain a better understanding and clarity. However, be mindful not to resort to lecturing…

3. Ask thoughtful questions. You need to prepare some thoughtful questions ahead even if you will be asking follow-up questions on the fly. You need to listen at a deeper level. Pay attention to not just what they’re saying verbally but also what they are experiencing by observing their:

  • Tone of voice,
  • Facial expressions, and
  • Non-verbals.


The more you listen, the more you can ask probing questions that give your coachee the opportunity to gain clarity and move forward to solve their problems and/or take action to advance their mission/agenda. However, make sure to avoid the following types of questions:

  • Close-ended questions like Yes/No.
  • Cornering questions like WHY?
  • Sarcastic or condescending questions…


If you would like us to empower your leaders to excel in their coaching skills, reach out via [email protected]