Coaching A Direct Report? A Challenge For Today’s Leader

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Coaching A Direct Report? A Challenge For Today’s Leader


Coaching a direct report… ummm. Is this a great idea for today’s leader? The short answer is not always.  A leader should be having a regular conversation to help develop their direct report in line with business needs and the employee’s talent and desires career-wise.

Within these conversations, great leaders are aware of bias and projection from both sides. There are also factors such as level of trust in the relationship and the ability to perceive emerging needs and wants both of the company and of the individual.


What Are Your Coaching Options

I’m becoming more of a fan of pincer coaching for developing your future talent/ high performers quickly.  Here the leader does some of the coaching and an external does the rest.  A sort of 30% / 70% in terms of effort or balance.

An approach that works for the rest of your staff is having another internal leader coach your direct reports. The benefits are they know the business and people they should be connecting to; also, of any impending opportunities.  Plus, it gives the direct report the option to say things they wouldn’t say to the boss for fear of how it might impact their career.  In some cases, direct reports would say the leader is the problem, and so coaching becomes painful as they are having a conversation trying not to say what they want to say.

Ultimately the advantage of an external coach is in helping individuals empower themselves, increase their self-awareness, gain clarity, fresh perspective and move into action that delivers results rather than activities that take them nowhere.  External coaches are a new pair of eyes. There is no agenda or past to navigate, no fear of reprisals if they speak their mind.  Plus, we have practised our questioning and listening skills to a point where we often discover blocks faster.


Are your coaching skills at the right level?


And here is a key decision point for a leader; any skills require practice be able to do it quicker or better.   A conversation I have with leaders is around the decision about the level of complexity they want to be able to coach.  Small, simple problems require a basic skill in coaching. More significant or complex issues or ones that ask a person to transform rather than change – that requires greater skill.

If those aren’t the conversations you want to have, be honest. Then find your direct report someone (internal or external) who enjoys those conversations and has these skills.  A leader isn’t all things to all people, they have clarity about their strengths and they know others who can do what they can’t.  It’s about knowing your value and where you add value.

I remember years ago someone saying, “oh yes coaching is dead easy, you just ask questions and that’s it, nothing to it” and I’m thinking, yes you ask questions but it’s like great surfers don’t try to ride every wave.

You need to know which bit of the content is the pivot point to question or you can go all around the houses on some merry dog dance and then ‘Oh dear the time is up’.  They leave no further forward and the coach is feeling great because they asked lots of questions.

If anything, coaching is about listening. When I’m teaching leaders coaching skills, we break listening down into its many components and by the time we finished they’re going “well that’s a lot to do”.   And it is, and it takes practice and it’s not every conversation requires that level of listening and attention.


So should you coach your direct reports?

  • Yes, if there is trust between you.


  • Yes, if your skills are up to it; or you want to get your skills up to it. After all, masters are such because they practiced, but when they first began, they had the desire, enthusiasm and the self-awareness they were no good but getting better.


  • No, if in practicing your skills you think you could quickly and seriously disengage and demoralise the person.


  • No, if it’s outside the boundaries of which you’re comfortable discussing


  • No, if you suspect you are part of the problem.



The rewards for the direct report are obvious if they have good coaching by the right person.  The knock-on impact for the business is an engaged, committed, and performing employee.

Inadequate or poor coaching is worse than ineffective, it’s like a disease rotting slowly from the inside. Conversely, good coaching can be effective in bringing growth spurts and significant shifts and these can far outweigh any investment in both time and money.



About blue pea POD

Time is a precious commodity, and you don’t want to waste it or any other resources trialling various programmes to see what might have content and insights that work for you.

Leadership can feel like a lonely role especially in times of high change and uncertainty, and it’s good to have a sounding board and someone with experience of leadership and business.

Maybe there are challenges you want to resolve and goals you want to achieve right now?

Our VIP ½ day or 1-day coaching and mentoring package are designed to give you the confidence, clarity and action plan you need to get the desired results you want.

Spend ½ – 1 day with Ruth (either in person or on the phone) and move from chaos to clarity.  To discover if this is the right investment for you at this moment in your leadership journey contact us and we’ll arrange a conversation.

2019-01-22T17:36:19+00:00By |Coaching, Growth, Podcast|
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