Your Coaching Journey as a Leader

Your Coaching Journey as a Leader

Before we focus on Coaching, I want to clarify the differences between being a mentor, sponsor and coach. When exploring differences with respect to words or languages, I always like to start with the actual definitions.


Have you ever experienced the power of Coaching?
If so, how has Coaching supported your development?
What has Coaching done to support you in unique ways?
How has Coaching differed from other previous leadership development experiences?


In articles I’ve previously written, I have shared my personal journey around Coaching, professional developmental and growth. Coaching has been an important part of my career and has supported me in unimaginable ways as I advanced up the career ladder. For me, Coaching has opened me up to different perspectives and ways to consider new possibilities in the moments of opportunity or complexity. Additionally, Coaching has allowed me to discover and explore with the support of a guide or navigator.
Before we focus on Coaching, I want to clarify the differences between being a mentor, sponsor and coach. When exploring differences with respect to words or languages, I always like to start with the actual definitions.

According to …

  • Mentor (noun): a wise and trusted counselor or teacher; an influential senior supporter
  • Sponsor (noun): a person who vouches or is responsible for a person; a person who makes a pledge or promise on behalf of another.
  • Coach (noun): NOTHING comes up in this particular part of speech (noun) for “Coach” that describes a person …. What?!?!? It describes a Coach as a stagecoach or a athletic coach and while we can make the analogies for how this correlates we let us dig deeper to understand the full spectrum of what a Coach is all about.

Can you start to see the differences based on the definitions? I hope so, as there are very unique roles the mentor, sponsor, and Coach play. Let's keep going.

When I change the parameters a bit and ask Google “what is the role of a Coach”, the focus and role of the Coach opens up even more. According to, “Coaches offer their clients a supportive and motivating environment to explore what they want in life and how they might achieve their aspirations and fulfill their needs. The coach's key role is often assisting the client to maintain the motivation and commitment needed to achieve their goals.”

Ah. Now, we are onto something. I bolded the key words above because Coaching is about a safe, motivating and goal-oriented environment. While a mentor may provide advice, and a sponsor may vouch for you and/or be your advocate, a Coach supports a person by allowing that person to explore, discover, and expand their own bandwidth on their terms. A Coach is a partner, partial stakeholder, and definitely a navigator for the person they are coaching. Coaches don’t have the answers, but rather, allow a person to self-discover to find the answers for themselves. A Coach supports a person that wishes to explore new doors previously closed, pave new routes for personal growth, and illuminates areas within their lives that may currently be dark. The Coaching journey always has objectives with deliverables that ensure goals are measurable and accomplishable, and pushes a person’s boundaries and limits. Growth can be uncomfortable, and that’s the power of having a Coach to lean on. You are not alone as you explore “you”.

I always recommend people have mentors, sponsors, and Coaches in their corner. All three types of people are valuable in their own way. As a leader, your role is to Coach. While you can serve as a mentor, and certainly a sponsor too, there’s nothing quite like being a great Coach.
Let me share with you the five key benefits that support why Coaching rocks!


  1. Drives your own improvement around skill sets and behaviors needed for your personal grow
  2. Establishes a confidential and safe space for you to deeply and explore yourself
  3. Creates achievable goals by maximizing your superpowers (or key strengths)
  4. Builds personal awareness while exploring what makes you successful
  5. Increases your overall engagement levels and connection to your passions, values and goals

You now have a framework around the benefits of Coaching, so let’s press on.

You are a ‘kick-ass’ boss! You are doing a great job moving your business forward. Now comes the fun part, developing your team. Wait … What, to be a great leader, you need to be good at driving a business and growing your team? Yep, that’s what I’ve been saying! Believe it or not, great leaders need to do both. While advancing through my career I learned my behaviors and actions as a leader mattered as much as the business results I delivered. I loved to grow and develop the talent and people both on my team and within the organizations I served. One of the most rewarding parts of my job was watching my team flourish, grow, and deliver great business results.

One of the most important things you do as a leader of people is hold frequent coaching conversations, with your direct reports. I did this religiously and took this part of my role very seriously. I never “winged” it. I prepared for these important discussions. These meetings show your people that you care and you are invested in them. Again, you, as a boss, are only ever as strong as your team. Investing in your team is a #1 priority.

I want to share some of the components or preparations I use to get ready for a coaching conversation.

  1. Be intentional about the time you set aside to meet with individuals on your team.
  2. Plan ahead for a safe environment to have open dialogue.
  3. Start with the development conversations first. Chances are you will uncover the everyday work, deliverables, to-dos, and more when discussing someone’s development first.
  4. Lastly, leave your own baggage for a different meeting. This meeting is not about you, it’s about the person sitting in front of you whether physically or virtually.

To take this a bit further, and provide some additional tips, the following outlines five stages for having effective coaching conversations. I suggest you write these down, take some notes, and do a little bit of homework before starting your own coaching conversations.

  1. Find a safe place to have an open dialogue and conduct your conversation
    • Ensure you find a quiet place to sit, talk, and reflect during this growth and development conversation.
    • Create an agenda for your meeting by asking the person you are Coaching what's on their list of topics to discuss.
    • This meeting is focused on their growth and development plan, which is very different from a recap or to-do conversation. Begin with their growth plan and, if time, discuss and support their work and to-do list. Chances are their growth plan conversation will support their to-do list work as well.
    • Be ready to remain judgment free.
    • Ask questions vs giving answers.
    •Remember, growth for an individual is on their terms; you are a navigator and supporting their journey not yours.
    • Start the conversation by asking, “Tell me something good happening right now.”
    • Follow-up by asking, “What’s one thing you wish you could change right now?”

  2. Ask, listen, and really hear
    • Ask open questions; start with ‘What’ and ‘How’ – Starting with a “do” or “are” allows you to have a conversation, not answer with a yes or no.
    • If meeting in your office, clear your desk, calendar, phone, and focus on the person you are talking to, so you are not distracted from hearing what they have to say. Ideally sit next to the person not across the desk.
    • Take notes. These notes are important actions, development and growth ideas or plans for the individual and how you will support them.
    • Use reflective listening to support mutual understanding; track together as the conversation progresses.

  3. Dig deeper, share openly, and provide feedback
    • Feedback is clear, actionable and provides someone with thoughts to consider for their future development or awareness.
    • Simply saying you are “great” or “bad” without providing the Why’s, How’s, and What’s doesn’t allow them to clearly understand the behavior or skill sets they use that allowed them to shine or learn how to advance. Use examples citing specific behaviors and skills you have seen in action to help them grow. Try this as an example, "When I observed you doing X, I noticed you shined because of X." Or, "When I observed you doing X, I noticed we have work to do together around X to support your growth and leadership development."
    • Feedback highlights positive things to continue doing, as well as opportunities to consider doing things from a different approach.
    • Consider how your feedback provides support around their growth, development, and progress.
    • Feedback should always be given with positive intention even when the feedback might be tough to hear or tough to deliver.

  4. Check back, be a partner
    • Being a leader means taking care of business. As a leader people are your business they should never feel alone.
    • Check back with your people on their terms. Ask for clear actions, next steps, and ways to support their development.

  5. Discuss next steps by recapping what you heard
    • At the end of the meeting recap what you heard, and who is responsible for what tasks and other things you discussed.
    • Confirm your recap with your people.
    • Ensure each deliverable has key actions with timelines for completion.
    • If a project, process, or initiative doesn’t have a clear timeline for completion, create small action items together to ensure progress is happening, and will keep you both on track.


My hope is that these five steps and sub-steps, provide additional ideas and actions for your coaching conversations. You cannot drive business successfully if your team isn’t engaged. According to one of Gallup's polls, 58% of people leave a job because of their boss. It’s your job as a leader to help your team determine a meeting cadence, that ensures engagement and supports their development and growth. As the individuals on your team grow, so too will the strength of your aggregate team.

Developing your team is the most important role you play as a leader. There’s no set schedule for how often you coach someone. But, meeting zero times with individuals on your team is never an option.
You have a very important responsibility of both driving your business and building, growing, and developing your people. But most importantly, you have the power and responsibility to lead your team to greatness!
I thought I’d leave you with a few resources and tools to support you investing in your people. Books include:

  • The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins
  • Helping People Change by Boyatzis, Smith and Van Oosten
  • Tough Talk by Becky Dannenfelser and Andrea Hopke
  • The Weekly Coaching Conversation by Brian Souza

    Find templates and tools with to support your weekly coaching conversations. (available shortly)

submitted by Josh Saterman