#19 What’s Coaching About#2

by Steven Cerri on November 27, 2006

What’s A Coach To Do? (Part 2)

”Getting down to business”

Good evening!

Last week I wrote about coaching and what some coaches provide and how and why it doesn’t work. Now lets clear the air, and start by asking the question, “What should a coach provide and how should they provide it?” Let’s ask, “What’s a really good coach to do?”

I’ll begin by talking about the different types of coaching as follows:

There is what I call tactical coaching. Tactical coaching provides the person being coached with information and processes about how to perform a specific task or a specific project.

Tactical coaching is about “SHOW ME HOW TO…”. For example, tactical coaching may take the form of: “Show me how to develop a budget”, or “Show me how to develop a project schedule”, or “Show me how to make a major presentation and influence my audience.” It is coaching that demonstrates and coaches a person to “do” a specific task or project. It can last for one coaching session or it can go on for the duration of the project or task.

There is what I call strategic coaching. Strategic coaching provides the person being coached not so much with information and processes about how to perform a specific task or a specific project, but rather “How To Think”. This coaching process doesn’t focus on how to do something specifically, but rather on how have the capability to think about, analyze and be capable of performing a task or project as it might come up in the future.

Strategic coaching teaches a person “HOW TO THINK ABOUT…”. This is also the type of coaching that is performed when coaching high level executives. It is the type of coaching that prepares the client for future life questions and actions. This type of coaching tends to last longer and to continue for some period of time. This is the coaching that prepares the client to handle whatever life throws at him or her.

If you’re a manager and you want to coach one of your direct reports or if you’re a direct report and you want your manager to coach you, the first step is to decide what type of coaching is to be done. Is it tactical or strategic coaching? The answer to this question will dictate the structure of the interaction.

The reason the answer to this question is so important is because tactical coaching will require a type of communication that will be relatively directive, precise, and specific. In tactical coaching the coach will emphasize unambiguous behavior. It’s all about outcome and actions. The behaviors, the activities, the actions, the outcomes, will be clear, precise, and it won’t matter who is looking at the behaviors, we will all be able to agree, “They are either there or not”.

On the other hand, with strategic coaching the communication is less about action and behavior, and much more about thinking, decision-making, judgment, and foresight. In strategic thinking there is a lot of self-reflection that must be performed by the coach. The coach must literally allow the person being coached to “see inside the mind” of the coach.

It is also important for the coach to be able to assess when the coach must be silent and to decide that enough information has been presented, and it’s now time for the person being coached to move forward on their own … for a while. Then the coach once again communicates with the person being coached to take them to the next level of thinking, decision-making, and judgment. In this way the coach is preparing the person to think on their own when the need arises.

These two forms of coaching actually are at the foundation of all good coaching. It doesn’t matter if the coach is providing coaching on a project, a crisis, a interpersonal interaction, life-decisions, or general management processes, one of these two coaching processes will be the necessary path to successful coaching.

Finally, in both cases, going back into past issues is of no real benefit. Digging into childhood memories, or past business ventures offers no real clues about what to do in the future. In all good coaching, point to what you want. Point to the desired outcome. Point to the future.

What about the person to be coached?

In order for there to be good and successful coaching, what must the person being coached bring to the table?

The answer is that for good coaching to take place, the person who wants coaching must bring two things to the coaching experience:

First is a real desire to have something different.

If the person isn’t in pain or doesn’t really, really want the positive change they’ll get in their life or their career, then forget it. The person being coached has to want it for whatever reason is important to them.

Second is that there has to be a strong consequence for being successful (or not being successful) in the coaching process.

These two items may seem closely linked and they are. But I like to separate them because they are separated by time. If the person being coached has no significant consequence from successful coaching, either positive or negative, then the results will be in question.

These then are some of the important issues to consider if you are a manager and you want to coach your direct reports, or if you are a direct report and you want to be coached.

And the final word is this:

Managers, not every direct report will benefit from coaching. So pick carefully the direct reports you want to coach.


Direct reports and managers, not every one who is above you, or can do something you can’t yet, is qualified to be your coach. So pick carefully the people you want to coach you.

Be well

Steven Cerri

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