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Coaching Language Example and Analysis

Listen to the coaching language in just one side — the manager’s — of a check-in conversation:


Since your weekly summaries were late last month and this month, what can you change in your planning to ensure they’re always on time? How about putting a reminder two days ahead on your calendar? Adhering to deadlines keeps the entire reporting process running smoothly. No one else will be delayed when your summaries are on time.


What’s behind the words?

Here’s the coaching language behind the words that manager used:


Highlight the action desired more than the problems experienced.

The team member knows their summaries were late. There’s no point in playing a blame game by stating the obvious: “Your summaries were late last month and this month.” Move on to what to do to fix the problem.


Use Since as a lead-in to combine what happened with next steps.

The word Since works effectively as a starter in lots of situations. For example, you can use what we call the Since and Benefit Formula to forestall defensive attitudes. The point behind this kind of construction is how the team member hears what you’re saying.


Ask “what” and “how” questions.

Open-ended questions are useful in lots of business conversations, not just those addressing performance. Get the other person talking. Listen instead of preaching. Encourage a dialogue.


Provide specific examples.

The specific advice of putting a reminder on the calendar two days ahead encourages the team member to think about solutions. If they don’t feel that suggestion fits, at least the specific idea is more likely to generate a response. People react to specifics.


Connect behavior to benefits.

The benefit here is helping the process run smoothly and preventing others from being delayed. Sometimes you can connect a benefit for the person, maybe reducing stress or improving time management.



More important than dissecting what’s behind a coaching language is the impact of a coaching language. What’s the likely outcome?


  • Team members understand exactly what to do to improve their performance and act on that understanding.

  • They feel like their managers care about their success.

  • They’re motivated to do better.


This is the perfect recipe for keeping and developing good talent — all because of a smart coaching language!

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