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Coaching is increasingly being used by people in senior positions in organisations, to support their personal and professional development. Particularly for board members and senior executives, telling people what to do is a much less effective way of getting co-operation and commitment than asking people ‘what do you feel is the best way to tackle this?’ The use of a coaching style by the Chairman to communicate with board members and senior staff can support effective communication, learning and development. The services of a skilled and experienced external coach can bring useful structure to the thinking of board members and senior staff. Whether the coach is internal or external, it is essential to agree groundrules, particularly around confidentiality.

What happens during coaching?

Self awareness is an essential starting point for the improvement of performance in any role, and a skilled coach will use a combination of gentle support and constructive challenge to increase the self awareness of their coachee, and help them to take responsibility for their learning and skills development. Skilful coaching can inspire people to really want to solve problems and find solutions. Really skilled leaders often use self-coaching, to challenge themselves to reflect on their own performance, learn from experience, and change their behaviours to get better results.

Effective coaches have the knowledge, skills and techniques to provide a structured way of helping their coachee to learn, without the need to direct them. They may or may not have experience in the job role of the coachee (eg) as a board member. Some research has suggested that it may actually be an advantage for them to be skilled as a coach and a high achiever, but with no experience in the functional area – they may find it easier to focus on the coachee, and to challenge them to find their own solutions.

Creating rapport is essential for the coaching relationship to be productive. It is important that the coach has excellent communication skills, and the ability to focus entirely on the coachee, building trust through openness and real listening. The effective use of questioning can really help people to think more and think differently about issues.  There are many different ways of phrasing useful questions in coaching. All have their place, but the coach should be aware of the type of question they are using and how helpful it is to the discussion. Good questions open up possibilities for people.

Sir John Whitmore’s book, Coaching for Performance: GROWing People, Performance and Purpose, 2002 offers the GROW Model as a starting point for the structure of a coaching conversation:

  • Goal – What is the issue on which you want to work?  What is your goal related to this issue?  What is the time frame?  What intermediate steps can you identify, with their time frames?
  • Reality – What is the present situation in more detail? What action steps have you taken on it so far? What stopped you from doing more? What obstacles will need to be overcome on the way?
  • Options – What are all the different ways in which you could approach this issue? What else could you do? What would you do if you had more time, or a larger budget? 
  • Will – Which options do you choose? To what extent do these meet all your objectives? What level of commitment do you have to taking these agreed actions? What could you do to raise your commitment level? Is there anything else you want to talk about?

Further Information

Is this an area of concern for you? Contact Leading Governance for more help.