Friday, May 29, 2009

How Leaders Coach for eXtraordinary Results

The process of coaching for eXtraordinary results has six steps. They are illustrated in the eXpansive Leadership Method (XLM) seen below. Let’s see how you can use these steps to coach your direct reports.


1. Know thyself & others.

The first step to a productive conversation with a high performer, especially if they want to be promoted, is to prepare for the meeting. Answer these questions to understand the person prior to your meeting:

a. What does this individual’s past performance appraisals teach you?

b. What are the performance standards for new positions that might become open?

c. Who can give you an accurate assessment of their people, organizational, and technical skills?

d. What are this person's behavioral strengths and weaknesses?

During my coaching assignments, I require the leader (i.e., coachee) complete the XLM 360 assessment ( ). I also conduct one-on-one interviews with the person’s boss, direct reports, and peers. All of this is designed to provide an accurate assessment of the coachee’s current skills and developmental needs.

2. Engage others.

Begin your conversation by pointing out the value they bring to the organization. Identify specific scenarios when they exceeded expectations. Then, transition to questions about their hopes and dreams for their future. Engage them by asking what they want to achieve over the next few years, why they want to achieve these goals, and what skills they believe they need to achieve these goals?

The intent here is to enter into a dialogue about their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and aspirations. They should do 80% of the talking during this phase of the discussion.

3. Clarify expectations.

Explain that you are very interested in their growth and development. Let them know that you want to see them advance in the organization. Clarify the different career paths available in your organization, as well as the behavioral skills needed in the various positions. Contrast their present skills with those needed to fill positions they aspire to. Discuss the amount of time and effort necessary to develop those skills.

4. Inspire creativity & change.

Invite them to create a development plan designed to fill the gap between where they are today and the skills they need for tomorrow. Ask them to take a few days to brainstorm a number of possible actions that will serve as the beginning of a career development plan. Volunteer to help them with their plan and to mentor them. In addition, encourage them to get input from those who completed their 360 assessment.

5. Manage operations & plans.

Gain agreement from them to implement a step-by-step plan to develop the skills needed for advancement. The nature and extent of the plan depends on the goals and the difficulty of the skills to be developed.

In their book The Leadership Machine, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger summarize the data they have collected on 53,000 people from more than 140 companies worldwide. (1) They point out that there are four types of experiences that contribute to development. In order of importance, these include:

a. Key jobs. 75 to 90% of what is learned in the work environment is learned on the job. Therefore, the best way to develop key skills is to take a job that requires the coachee to use these skills. The jobs that tend to matter most are those that include starting something from nothing, fixing an area that is broken, moving from line (e.g., branch manager) to staff (e.g., headquarters human resources), managing a major change in scope or scale of the job, and taking on a major projects.

b. Important people. Those individuals who have a variety of people to learn from, learn the most. People who challenge one's thinking provide the best development. Good bosses can serve as great models, while bad bosses teach what not to do.

c. Hardships. Although you may not want to plan for hardship, you and the people you coach are guaranteed to experience it. The research tells us that the most successful leaders not only experience tough times, they learn from them.

d. Courses. Being able to take a class that is directly linked to performance on the job is critical. It provides the self-efficacy that people need in order to perform.

The coachee’s development plan should be put together with these four types of experiences in mind. The eight elements of an effective plan should include the following:

  • S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives
  • List of benefits of achieving the goal to the coachee and organization
  • Possible obstacles that must be overcome and their solutions
  • Action steps to improve performance
  • How to measure the actions step
  • Partner to work with on that specific action step
  • Dates to review specific milestones and progress
  • Signature line for each coach and direct report

6. Execute with passion and courage.

Unlike a counseling session, you probably will not need to access your commanding style to “encourage" them to be involved in creating and executing an improvement plan. That's because you should be coaching a motivated, high achiever.

How surprised will you be when your direct reports achieve eXtraordinary results because of your eXceptional coaching? Let me know which steps you use and how they work for you.

Keep eXpanding,


1. Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger; The Leadership Machine, Lominger Ltd., Inc. Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2002.

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