5 ways to coach employees

Coaching employees is the act of helping people to solve their own problems. It allows employees to develop their own critical thinking and reflect personally and professionally, rather than telling them what to do. It’s also the best way for leaders to develop their talent pipeline and increase the effort that their employees put in, significantly reducing the likelihood their employees will quit.

At Bright Horizons, we’re very proud to provide Executive Coaching to our employees and to also up-skill our leaders to become coaches. Here are a few of our top coaching skills that can be deployed seamlessly into daily interactions.

Ask Powerful Questions

Powerful questions help employees to develop their critical thinking and challenge themselves. Questions should be forward-looking, as well as short and open-ended to give the employee opportunity to describe. Our favourites include: What’s working well? What would you like to change? What’s next? What else should be explored?

Encourage Employees to Explore Options

When employees come to you for advice, resist telling them what to do. Instead, ask them to come up with options. Allow time for them to describe options, and only then ask them if they would like to hear thoughts from you. Let them make the final choice about what to do. When employees choose the response, they are much more committed to it.


Listening is much more powerful than speaking. Make sure you truly understand what your employee is saying and listen for any repeated words, values and motivations. Reflect back with these words “It sounds like this is a focus for you” and “I am hearing some frustrations about this issue.” This makes it clear that you really understand each other and moves the conversation to a very positive dialogue.

Be Aware of Employees Looking for Advice

Employees looking for advice suggests that there’s become a dependent relationship between the two of you. This can easily happen when there’s a tight deadline or significant pressure. Use this as a sign to take a step back and transition into a less directive leadership style. Your employees typically can and do have all the answers – especially as they’re often much closer to the project. Not only will this help them to grow, but will ultimately take the pressure off you too.

Follow Up

Every coaching session generates important goals and actions, but these can all be lost if there’s not a follow up. Asking questions such as “When can we accomplish this by?” encourages employees to set goals and targets, and to feel in control of solving their challenges and celebrating their accomplishments.  At the end of every session, agree the actions that each of you will take and set a date for the next session.

Employee coaching can be a difficult if you’re a leader who is new to coaching and a natural a problem solver. But with just five simple skills, coaching can become the most natural and valuable approach for your people.