Coaching people in different roles

Coaching my boss

Although coaching will often be used between you and people who report into you, it can be appropriate and successful when used up the line. Your manager may not be aware of what they are asking you to complete, may not be aware of their impact on you and may not be clear on their goals for you. In all of these instances, coaching might be useful.

Possible motivation for coaching

  • To maximise the success of the relationship
  • To ensure that you are managed appropriately
  • To provide important feed forward (up the line)
  • To help achieve your goals
  • To raise the awareness of your manager


  • How might your manager respond to this approach, if it is different from your usual relationship?
  • What is the specific topic you feel might benefit from coaching? Is it appropriate?
  • Formal or informal? Often, with your line manager, your coaching can be informal and conversational – a few questions well thought out.
  • Be very specific in your own mind about what you want to coach them on and why. Make sure it’s appropriate.
  • Use a few well-thought-out questions rather than a formal coaching session.
  • Sometimes the best use of coaching with this group of people is to ask a question that encourages awareness and consideration, such as, ‘Where should this task sit within my priorities? What is likely to be the impact of that for you?’
  • Agree how feedback can be given and received between you both.

For more information on how to interact with your boss, see Managing Upwards

Coaching high performers

You may need to give coaching to high performers for one of several reasons:

  • To get the very best from a good performer
  • To avoid them coasting or doing just enough
  • To maximise and retain their motivation to continue to achieve
  • To focus them on a specific aspect of their performance which can be improved.


  • Understanding, and helping them to understand, their motivation is useful here.
  • Observe them, to help you understand what elements of their performance they can easily improve on.
  • Be careful to balance positive and developmental feedback. You don’t want to demotivate them by suddenly focusing on lots of things they could do to improve!
  • Take time to find out what’s in it for them.
  • Understand their values and beliefs, especially beliefs about things they could improve.
  • Help them to set clear stretch targets and goals, and make these goals compelling.
  • Encourage self-generated feedback through asking them regular open questions about what worked, what didn’t work and what they will do differently.

Remedial coaching

Remedial coaching may sometimes be necessary

  • To improve performance to acceptable levels or better
  • To avoid resorting to a formal disciplinary process
  • To focus on one specific element that is impacting negatively on performance


  • Is coaching appropriate?
  • Beware of the carrot-and-stick approach. It generally encourages only minimal compliance to avoid the sanction of the stick or receive the reward of the carrot. Help them to think about what they can and will do.
  • Spend time on diagnosis first and check this out with the coachee too.
  • Before coaching to close a performance gap, gain agreement on the required level of performance and then on the current level of performance before coaching.
  • Focus on the other person taking responsibility. Rather than imposing one, help them come up with a plan – if they come up with it, they are more likely to own it.
  • Get clear on their action plan and signpost what will happen if they achieve it and what will happen if they do not.

Coaching a new starter

Possible motivation for coaching a new starter:

  • To help get clarity around personal priorities, specific goals and development needs
  • To get a clear action plan for their success
  • To proactively develop a successful relationship between you and them. What are their needs? How will the relationship operate?
  • To reduce the time taken for them to get effective
  • To understand what their perceived barriers to success might be and to plan to address them.


  • Be careful what you coach on. Remember, new starters might need instruction and knowledge more than coaching.
  • Set expectations and boundaries. If they are new to your style, signpost the different ways you plan to help and support them.
  • With someone new, you may not have developed enough rapport and trust in the early stages of the relationship to address the issues. Don’t assume that you have rapport and trust.
  • Focus first on establishing rapport and building trust. Don’t move too quickly with your coaching.
  • Be clear on ground rules and the coachee’s needs.
  • Help the coachee see when you are coaching and when you are helping them in a different way. Maintain clear boundaries.
  • Motivation is often already high with a new starter. Focus on their specific needs to help them to become effective.

Peer coaching

Possible motivation for coaching:

  • To help ensure clarity of responsibilities
  • To maximise effective team-working
  • To help overcome interdepartmental blockages and barriers
  • To agree joint goals and action plans.


  • What is your relationship like now? Does the necessary trust and rapport exist for coaching?
  • What are the boundaries for your coaching?
  • Formal or informal? Informal often works best here.
  • What are the benefits of working together? Be clear on them.
  • Get clear about what success will look like, both in terms of the outcome and the relationship.
  • Focus on ensuring rapport and trust are in place.
  • Agree on how feedback will be received and given.
  • Agree on how and when you will check on progress.