How to Coach Your Team to High Performance

Posted 05.03.2022

I love it when I learn from the people I’m coaching. Fortunately, that happens a lot including as recently as a few weeks ago when I was talking with Rishi, a country manager on a leadership team I’m coaching.

In a prep conversation for an upcoming team coaching session, I asked Rishi what’s been working lately with the team he leads. Among other things, he mentioned that he’s been giving his team the latitude to make their own decisions and then own those decisions. He’s shifting his culture from the top-down approach he inherited by giving his people the freedom to decide. Not surprisingly, they’re responding to that and are assuming more agency and accountability.

Impressed by his clarity and the results he’s getting, I asked Rishi what he’s been specifically doing to encourage that high performance culture. He answered that he’s been doing a lot more mentoring and coaching in the last year. Being a coach myself, I, of course, wanted to hear more about how he’s been doing that so I asked him to unpack his coaching approach.

It’s a simple but highly effective process that any leader can and should use to coach their team to high performance. Here’s how Rishi does it:

  1. Establish ground rules and goals: Rishi begins each coaching conversation by setting the parameters for what’s in and out of scope and what the goal of the conversation is.
  2. Get personal: He takes time to check in with how his team member is doing personally and how life and work are going for them.
  3. Ask questions that open up thinking: Then, he gets to the coaching by asking questions that open up creative thinking and help his team member develop insights about the problems they’re trying to solve and the goal they want to accomplish. One of Rishi’s favorite questions (and one of mine, too) is “What would you do if you had no constraints?”
  4. Encourage action and ownership: Another question that he regularly asks is, “What do you want to try out?” I love that question for a couple of reasons. One is that it encourages action. Another is that the way Rishi asks the question (broad and open ended) encourages ownership on the part of his team member.
  5. Set short term goals: Rishi wraps up his coaching sessions by ensuring his team member has a clear picture of what they want to do and accomplish over the next two weeks that will get them closer to their bigger goal. By doing this, he is totally leveraging the principle that small steps taken consistently over time lead to big results.
  6. Follow up: Then, and this is key, Rishi follows up with his team member a couple of weeks later with another coaching conversation. He begins the meeting with a review of what was accomplished over the past two weeks that should be celebrated.
  7. Rinse, repeat and look ahead: And he wraps up the conversation by repeating steps 3, 4 and 5 from this list. The consistency of his process drives the process that leads to high performance.

Clearly, I really admire the way that Rishi coaches his team to high performance. He’s developed a process for himself that models many of the best practices of effective coaching. If you like what you’ve read here and want to go deeper on some of the things that Rishi is doing, sign up for and take my free online mini-course, How to Get and Be a Great Peer Coach. The peer coaching techniques I share in the course also apply to coaching your team.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.